Editor’s note: Shannon Baylor-Henderson is the Chief Content Officer of Content Commanders, a full-scale content strategy & storytelling company that helps people add more power, personality & perspective to their digital, print & social content. Hailing from the nation’s capital, Shannon leads Content Commanders from Elizabeth City, where she lives with her husband and children.
ELIZABETH CITY – In 2020, Americans were faced with being required to be brutally honest about their perspectives and acceptance of the systemic racism that permeates our culture. Police brutality, biased politicians, a troublesome economy, and a disease that has traumatically taken over 250,000 lives in less than a year has proven that the American system is not only flawed but its flaws often detrimentally affect those lesser privileged and more melanated.
Nonetheless, Americans, especially African-Americans, have navigated their way through the American Dream despite the difficulties and injustices that come along with the pursuit. This is especially true for Jimmy Dillahunt, Jr., a co-owner of a small construction firm in Raleigh.
Dillahunt, Jr., co-owns and operates CADET Construction Company (“CADET”), a service- disabled veteran-owned company which has done business in North Carolina for the past seven years. His background includes 36 years of experience in the construction industry and cross-state projects in Virginia and South Carolina. For Dillahunt, Jr., doing business in the construction industry has been a major part of his life. He prides himself off of being a persistent business owner, who has created jobs for 25 employees and has built a company that has earned over $40 million since its inception. However, despite the great accomplishments that he has made, the hardest part isn’t the construction labor itself. It’s being a Black-owned business in this specific industry.
A ‘brutal’ business
“Everyone knows, or can suspect that the construction industry is brutal. The tough working conditions, hazards and demands aren’t for the faint of heart. But running this type of business in a space where you’re often overlooked, underpaid and disregarded is probably harder,” Dillahunt, Jr. says. “Sometimes it seems like it’s easier to construct a building on the moon than it is to win a fair-priced contract and actually get paid for it.”
Dillahunt, Jr. certainly isn’t the first and only to feel snubbed by an industry that he’s dedicated so much of his life to. While almost every business industry in America has instances of racial discrimination, which affect Blacks from building wealth and long-term self-sufficiency, the construction industry has seen some of the most challenging effects of subdued racism. From small towns to major metropolitan areas and residential to commercial and…