Columbia celebrates anniversary of Sharp End dedication

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COLUMBIA - The Sharp End Heritage Committee members gathered and celebrated the anniversary of the historic Sharp End dedication on Thursday.

Sharp End was the black-owned business center in Columbia in early 1960s, and it was located between Fifth and Sixth Streets on Walnut. The Sharp End Heritage Committee unveiled an historic marker last year to mark and recognize the contributions of historic black entrepreneurs.

"It is important for the people who organized the dedication and who put together the event to dedicate the marker to remember this, to bring it back to the community consciousness and provide a point of reference for younger generations," Columbia Civic Relations Officer Toni Messina said.

Messina said most of that area was leveled, and a lot of that memory went underground during Urban renewals in 1960s. It was still part of the lives and part of the people who had experienced, but there were some generations knew nothing about this historic district.

"There were a number of businesses that ranged all the way from a restaurant, to barbershop, to pool halls, liquor stores, camp companies," Jim Whitt, the Sharp End Heritage Committee Chair, said.

Whitt also has a contract with the City of Columbia to develop minority and women-owned businesses.

"There's been a lot of hard feelings in this community for a long time over what happened in the Sharp End. And I think it's a part of moving forward and looking at the renewed emphasis to grow minority businesses within our community," Whitt said.

Whitt also said Columbia has some minority businesses that need to grow, and he tries to build relationships with larger companies and keep working within the community.

"I do hear from black business owners that would like to start a business located here [Sharp End]. Right now there's not a whole lot of space around here. It's pretty much being used and fully utilized, but if that would happen, I think it would be significant for our community," Whitt said.

Lloyd Henry, the owner of Black Daddy's BBQ, said the Sharp End is a special area, and it should be remembered and celebrated.

"I do expect that there will be more African-American-owned businesses. I've talked to young African-Americans all the time. Their aspirations and their plans are to work for corporate America or other businesses, and then at some point, own their own [business]. I hope that's the case, I do think that will happen," Henry said.