ATLANTA — It was in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s death that Atlanta native, Ryan Wilson, came up with the idea of opening a gathering spot to build community connections. 

It was forced to shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic like many other businesses across the nation, but its doors are now reopening in the wake of another crisis. 

“This moment is one of those moments that we can make a meaningful difference,” Wilson told 11Alive’s Elwyn Lopez. 

The Gathering Spot is, in Wilson’s words, “a business that is centered around people, around bringing people together.”

That’s what he told a group of protesters fighting against racial injustice on Saturday in front of Atlanta’s historic Big Bethel AME Church.

During this time, Wilson’s business is open to continue to create meaningful introductions which lead to impactful discussions. His focus is turning toward black-owned businesses in Atlanta. 

“We’ve created funds, we’ve connected people and overall tried to keep folks encouraged during this time,” he added.

It’s all happening during a time where this global pandemic has affected black Americans the most. 

“Black folks have been disproportionately impacted in every way you can think of related to the virus. In health disparities, in businesses that are impacted, it’s on folks that are essential workers,” Wilson said. 

He added that a lack of access to capital is also contributing to the struggles black-owned businesses are seeing.

“Black-owned businesses are simply not in the position to weather this storm the same way as their counterparts are,” he said. 

The first line of defense, he says, is for allies and supporters to become clients and customers. But to make a lasting impact, partnerships with both public and private entities is crucial. 

“If we want the city to win in the long term, we got to think about the systemic issues we need to change and address that really will allow us long term to win here,” Wilson said. 

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