A new Cleveland retail development named after Madam C.J. Walker — America’s first Black woman self-made millionaire — is underway.
According to News5Cleveland, the development will be located in the Hough district of the city. A portion of the space will be specifically dedicated to Black entrepreneurs in the hopes that it will entice Black businesses to grow in the area.
Kareem Abdus-Salaam of Structures Unlimited, the Maryland-based developer of the retail space, said that he modeled the development after Madam C.J. Walker, herself, and the philosophy she had throughout her life.
“She [Walker] made sure that dollar turned over in the community four to five times before it left,” he said to News5Cleveland. “Not so much a nostalgic but a way to show folks we, too, can do this renaissance again to really turn that money in our community again in modern times because we have much more money. And in terms of GDP, we should be able to do that faster and quicker to revitalize our communities instead of waiting for handouts to come from the government.”
Abdus-Salaam further confirmed that the legacy of Madam C.J. Walker will be honored with a mural featuring her contributions to history. Moreover, other prominent Black Cleveland icons will also be honored in the development, though it’s not immediately clear which icons will get the honor, and how they will be honored.
In addition to Black-owned businesses, the development will feature a community center, banking space, and a healthy grocery store.
Born Sarah Breedlove as the first in her family to be born free, Madam CJ Walker is best known for developing a line of Black hair care products that continue to be in use today. Her “Walker system” of hot combs, lotions, and scalp prep focused on the women who used them, which quickly earned her a loyal following. But she also donated extensively to charity and Black causes, and funded scholarships for women at Tuskegee Institute in addition to donating to the NAACP, the Black YMCA, and dozens of other organizations.