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A discussion with the founders of Green Book of Tampa Bay

Megan Holmes

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The St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce presents: Coronavirus Impact Insights. Click the play arrow above to watch the full video. 

On this episode, Hillary Van Dyke and Joshua Bean, co-founders of Green Book of Tampa Bay join Chris Steinocher, CEO of the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce, and Joe Hamilton, publisher of the St. Pete Catalyst.

First, Steinocher explains the Phase Two reopening requirements. In Phase Two, crowds of 50 are allowed to gather, bars are allowed to open at 50 percent capacity, and restaurants and gyms can operate at full capacity. St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman has said he will not be limiting any of the reopening plans outlined in Governor Ron DeSantis’ order, and ended the temporary suspension of City-issued extended hours permits for the sale of alcohol.

While reopening continues, the number of new COVID-19 cases is continuing to rise, along with the percent of positive tests. June 3 brought 40 new cases, while June 4 brought 59 new cases and 4.5 percent positive tests for Pinellas County. Numbers released for June 5 show 81 new cases in Pinellas County.

Green Book of Tampa Bay is an online directory of black-owned businesses. Both educators, Van Dyke and Bean met while working at Azalea Middle School, a predominantly black school on the west side of St. Petersburg.

“Working with young people, you get a pulse on what’s happening in the community,” Bean said. They were also inspired by rapper activist Killer Mike and his Netflix show Trigger Warning. In episode one, called “Living Black,” Killer Mike tries to support himself and live off of only black-owned businesses in Atlanta. From brushing his teeth to taking a bus, to finding a hotel to sleep in at night, Killer Mike documents his struggles.

That led Van Dyke and Bean to focus on avenues to bolster economic vitality in the black community.

With that in mind, Green Book of Tampa Bay was launched, some 15 months ago. Van Dyke and Bean wanted a place where people could easily find black-owned businesses and be intentional about spending their money there. A nod to Negro Motorist Green Book, Green Book of Tampa Bay features black-owned businesses, nonprofits, cultural sites and attractions.

Over the last few months, however, Green Book of Tampa Bay got a major facelift, thanks to One Community’s #InThisTogether initiative, where one of the goals was to create a local black-owned business directory. The site now functions similar to Yelp, or Trip Advisor, with listings that can be added or claimed by the public.

But Van Dyke and Bean are very aware of why Green Book of Tampa Bay has suddenly garnered the spotlight, nearly a year after its debut.

“The reason that the Green Book is so popular right now is very depressing,” Van Dyke said. “We want to be excited about the fact that last week we had 500 followers and today we have like 2,500 followers on Instagram. That’s crazy, especially over the course of a week. But we also understand that the impetus for this interest in supporting black-owned business was people watching George Floyd’s murder.

“We want to make sure we’re using this time to help people create the habit of intentionally supporting black-owned businesses, so that when this news cycle dies down, the interest is still there in helping everybody in your community do better.”

As for the future, Van Dyke and Bean are planning to take Green Book of Tampa Bay statewide, as Green Book of Florida. They’ve added resources for small businesses, and plan to add a job board feature in the near future. Van Dyke says visions beyond that are still under wraps.

To read more about Green Book of Tampa Bay, read previous coverage from the St. Pete Catalyst here.

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1 Comment
here we go

1 Comment

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    Veatrice Farrell

    June 5, 2020 at 5:01 pm

    Hi Joe!I didn’t know you were interviewing them, I would have given you a shout out also! Here’s your shoutout….Hey Joe!

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