Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee is known for its live music, great food and all-night parties. In the heart of Beale Street is the SugaShack, a hot spot for live entertainment and food. The Suga Shack began as a Friday and Saturday night club in a Memphis café in 2014. By 2018, the SugaShack had outgrown hosting weekend concerts, so veteran Memphis entertainer and SugaShack owner Larry Springfield leased a long-vacant building on Beale. Springfield opened the soul food and soul music club to highlight Memphis’ authentic soul music, not just blues.
The COVID-19 pandemic silenced live music and public dining across the world, and the SugaShack was no exception; in fact, as a small business, the SugaShack was hit exceptionally hard. When doors slowly opened to music and dining, the SugaShack was ready, however, the return has been slow, as tourists travel cautiously. The SugaShack needed some help, or the soul music venue would be singing the blues, and a one more venue for entertainers to showcase their talents would be lost.
Thanks to a grant from Cummins Advocating for Racial Equity (CARE), the music keeps playing, and the SugaShack continues to provide live performances and Southern cookin’ in the heart of Memphis.
In just one year, $21 million has been invested into communities to address economic empowerment, criminal justice reform, police reform and social justice; this includes $3.75 million in grants and forgivable loans given directly to over 300 Black-owned businesses. Thirty-five partners have helped deploy these needed resources over five states. Additionally, there have been eight law and policy changes, as a result of the 16 advocacy efforts CARE has participated in. Finally, the CARE initiative has assembled an army of employee volunteers across 33 locations to drive a sustainable impact in dismantling institutional racism and creating system equity.
“We are proud of the accomplishments and strides CARE has made in its first year, but this is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Fernando Herndon, Executive Director, External Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives. “CARE was created as Cummins’ action to undo systemic discrimination against the Black community in the U.S., and by focusing our efforts and resources in police reform, criminal justice reform, economic empowerment and social justice reform, we believe Cummins’ CARE initiative will have a real and lasting impact in creating racial equity.”
- Cummins committed $250,000 towards an Indianapolis Urban League initiative to invest in Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs, in partnership with Eli Lili and Company
- Cummins committed $500,000 to Coalition to Back Black Businesses, providing grants and technical assistance to Black-owned enterprises
- Cummins Vice President and Assistant General Counsel, John Gaidoo co-led the legal Structural Reform Team that was charged by the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee to produce and release a report entitled, Police Reform: Equal Treatment of Black Americans. The report makes recommendations on the most critical police reforms needed
- Cummins partnered with television and radio station WFYI (NPR) to expand local coverage of criminal justice
- Cummins committed $30,000 to Juvenile Intervention and Faith-based Follow-up (JIFF), a non-profit that provides mentoring resources for juveniles in Memphis, Tennessee
- Cummins awarded $26,000 in grants to Black entrepreneurs through sponsoring the Nashville Entrepreneur Center Pitch Competition Black Founders Edition
- Cummins led and/or influenced eight policy changes: two use of force protocols, two training and certification, one duty to intervene, one General Orders Board and one to the use of body cameras
The Metropolitan Economic Development Association (Minneapolis, Minnesota), River City Capital Investment (Memphis, Tennessee), Local Initiatives Support Corporation in partnership with the Indy Black Chamber of Commerce (Indianapolis, Indiana), and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, with the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce (Columbus, Indiana) disbursed $3 million to Black-owned businesses in their respective communities, to aid those businesses disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
After an explosive launch, the inaugural year of the CARE initiative has been a success and should be celebrated, but there is still much work to be done. CARE will continue to focus in U.S. cities where Cummins has a large presence, and will use data and impact assessment tools to target systems and projects yielding the greatest impact in achieving equity for the Black community. Currently, the workstream leaders are evaluating the impact of their efforts and planning their next phase in dismantling systemic racism.
Working in Detroit and its surrounding communities to help close the gap in access to resources for many Black-owned businesses.
Social Justice Reform
Addressing food deserts and food insecurity in Indianapolis, Indiana; Jamestown, New York; Charleston, South Carolina; Nashville, Tennessee; and Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Criminal Justice Reform
Partnering with The Bail Project to support to the work being accomplished toward eliminating cash bail via grant funding and advocacy.
Promoting use of mental health resources to reduce the likelihood of escalation to violence in police interactions.
As a company, Cummins has a long history of fighting for social justice dating back to endorsing the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Despite legislation providing equal access, attitudes and policies undermining equal access are at the root of the racial gaps that plague the U.S. In addition to CARE being another opportunity for the company to extend its values outside of Cummins, this is the largest effort to combat racism.