The Carrboro Town Council recently approved the installation of a historical marker that will honor Manley McCauley, a Black man who was lynched a few miles west of Chapel Hill in 1898.

At a BIPOC Business Roundtable discussion hosted by the Carrboro Department of Economic Development Tuesday afternoon, several business owners questioned the town’s focus on memorializing victims of 100-year-old racist attacks instead of prioritizing the needs of its existing minority-led businesses.

“We’re going to put up a monument to celebrate, or to memorialize, people that were lynched, but people are still getting lynched,” said Soteria Shepperson, who co-owns Carrboro coffee shop Present Day on Main. 

Present Day has been closed since a white woman allegedly committed a racial assault against one of the shop’s customers in early April.

“It’d almost be better if I got shot, because then the town would love to come and memorialize me,” Shepperson said.

The alleged assailant has been charged with misdemeanor assault and is currently undergoing a criminal court case.

Shepperson previously told the News & Observer that Present Day will remain closed until the town council comes to a resolution that protects Black and brown people. Shepperson and her wife and business partner, Sophie Suberman, have spent the past several months meeting with town leaders and police officers to formulate solutions. The town is still in the process of addressing Shepperson and Suberman’s concerns, but has tossed around the idea of implementing a grant or racial equity funding to support and protect BIPOC-owned businesses like Present Day.

During the meeting, Shepperson seemed frustrated that the town hasn’t responded more swiftly to the alleged assault.

“It’s like, these Black Lives Matter signs—as much as white people care about the climate, you’re killing trees with these signs that don’t mean nothing,” Shepperson said. 

Allanah Hines, who works as the Coordinator of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Carrboro’s Weaver Street Market, echoed Shepperson’s demand that the town work harder—and faster—to make its minority residents feel safe.

“To say you’re doing it slowly—I can’t live slowly,” Hines said. “As a black woman, I cannot live slowly. As someone that works in a grocery store, that just saw news of somebody shooting up a grocery store … I cannot live slowly.”

Hines added that BIPOC business owners should receive compensation for the time and energy that they contribute toward the town’s diversity and inclusion efforts.

“In order to be involved with this work, there should be payment,” Hines said. “There is an emotional toll that comes with presenting yourself, being vulnerable, and saying that we need this.”

Hines said she requested that a number of her coworkers join her at the meeting because the burden of attending shouldn’t fall solely on her as a “black person from a white company.”

Makeda Ma’at, who helms the local food justice organization Grow To Life, added that BIPOC roundtables should be scheduled at a time more convenient to business owners.

“It’s four o’clock on a Tuesday,” she said. “I can think of at least three Black-owned businesses in Carrboro that are still in business hours.”

And beyond hosting roundtable discussions, Ma’at said, it would be helpful for the town to hold training sessions or conferences focused on building BIPOC businesses. 

“We don’t have the same playing field as other people,”  Ma’at said. “Sometimes we don’t need a hand-out—we need a hand up.”

Hines, Suberman, and a number of other attendees suggested that the town support its BIPOC businesses by creating a resource library that provides a “lending closet” of town resources—orange cones marked with a “Town of Carrboro” seal would improve security for special events, for instance—and also fosters a business-to-business exchange of goods, services, and expertise.

But first, attendees said, Carrborro needs to show that it values minority owners by ensuring that they feel safe in their own businesses. If the town doesn’t act soon, it could be facing a “mass exodus of Black and brown people,” according to Hines.

“Before we can lend resources, we have to make sure that we’re actually creating a safe space for everybody in the community to exist,” Hines said. “Otherwise, it is the onus of the town to say, ‘We don’t care.’”

Support independent local journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle. 

Follow Staff Writer Lena Geller on Twitter or send an email to