MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - In the spirit of black history month, Alabama State University held a special forum at The National Center for the Study of Civil Rights and African-American Culture.
Organizers created the event to discuss the economic situation in Montgomery's African-American community.
"We see buildings now that used to be jammed full on Saturdays and weekends standing empty with grass all around them, and all the windows broken out," said panelist Charles Varner.
Passionate about the past and looking toward the future, panelists at Alabama State University tackled the topic of economic growth.
"We have businesses that open that can't stay open, because they can't compete," explained Beatrice Forniss of ADECA.
With a changing economy, a lack of funding, and the edge they need, black business owners say it's hard to get by.
"It's very important to me," said Dee Parks, owner of Parks Pharmacy Compounding.
Parks started her business two and a half years ago. She says improving education and providing positive role models is important.
"If we want to see a change in the young people, we're going to have to give them something more than what the drug dealers have been offering or what the rappers have been offering," Parks said.
Panelists agree and say entrepreneurship is the name of the game.
"We're not trying to train people to seek jobs, we're trying to train people to make jobs," said Harold Boone, Vice President of the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce.
with some help from programs like the west Fairview initiative, local business leaders hope communities can come back from the brink bring in business.
"That'd be an area that has predominantly African American businesses, and it's an opportunity for them to grow," said attorney Robert E. L. Gilpin.
Positive growth with the support of fellow entrepreneurs.
"If we're out before them enough, they can dream and be able to touch their dreams a lot closer," Parks said.