As we continue celebrating Black History Month, 21 News is shining a light on Black owned businesses in the valley.

Black owned businesses are a vital part of the local economy and even more significant to people in the community.

Owner of Youngstown Flea, Derrick McDowell says cultural expression and representation are some of the pillars of Black American empowerment.

"We want folks to know that we enjoy our culture of being Black. And represented through business is important because of that economic turn that we need to make in a city like Youngstown," McDowell said. 

More than 40% of Youngstown's population is Black and despite that number, Black business owners still face moments of despair.

Whether it's unequal access to capitol or internal conflict stemming from societal perceptions, overcoming those issues is the process to progress.

According to a Pew Research Center study nearly 39% of Black adults say having Black owned businesses in their neighborhoods is a helpful strategy toward equality. 

"It's important to feel seen. It's important that people know and car about all aspects and members of its community and the only way forward is together," McDowell said.

Black American success has greatly advanced throughout history, and McDowell tells 21 News, supporting todays owners will create more opportunity for the next generation.

"There are next generation youths coming up in this community who need evidence to the contrary. Evidence that says 'We do believe in you and you can go on to d great things'," McDowell said.