Q&A: Black downtown business owners weigh in on protests in San Antonio

Uchennaya Ogba, Christian Reed-Ogba have unique perspective of Saturday’s protests

Uchennaya Ogba and Christian Reed-Ogba are the husband-and-wife founders of EHCÜ Public Relations.
Uchennaya Ogba and Christian Reed-Ogba are the husband-and-wife founders of EHCÜ Public Relations. (CARLOS JAVIER SANCHEZ/San Antonio Business Journal)

SAN ANTONIOEditor’s note: This story was published through a partnership between the San Antonio Business Journal and KSAT.

Uchennaya Ogba and Christian Reed-Ogba, the husband-and-wife founders of EHCÜ Public Relations, had a unique perspective — geographically and emotionally — from which to observe Saturday's protests in San Antonio following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.

The Ogbas are leaders in the small business community and particularly in the downtown area and among black-owned businesses. As such, they have a special appreciation of both the social and economic impact of the protests took place throughout the country. And having moved their office to Broadway Street near the intersection with East Houston Street, they positioned themselves along the path many protesters walked. From their office, they offered respite to some in the afternoon.

Unfortunately, their business was also in a high-risk area as some of the demonstrations turned destructive Saturday evening.

The San Antonio Business Journal spoke with the couple Sunday afternoon while they were in their office preparing for another potential evening of unrest and helping as some of the other businesses in the building they occupy were recovering from the previous night’s damage — sweeping glass and boarding up windows, many of which were broken.

SABJ: How is your business’s space?

Uchennaya Ogba: Our space is fine, safe. We don't have any damage to our front-facing windows, although some of our neighbors didn't fair as well as we did.

SABJ: What kinds of damage did other neighbors incur?

Christian Reed-Ogba: Everyone on the Houston side of our building suffered broken windows and shattered windows and glass. Three businesses were looted. … We see graffiti. We see scratches. And it’s just tragic for these business owners.

SABJ: You guys are advocates of downtown. You live on the east side [of downtown], and you moved your business offices to the 100 block of Broadway Street. At the same time, you’re leaders and you’re role models in the black business community. So given both of those passions exist within you simultaneously, what are you feeling [Sunday] following all that’s transpired nationally and locally in the last week?

Reed-Ogba: We don’t feel like our communities are coming together the way we’ve come together for our communities. We’ve been advocates for downtown living for a number of years — downtown live, work, play; downtown Tuesdays. So we’ve really been advocates for people experiencing the urban lifestyle. And now, as black business owners in the downtown area — and there’s not a lot of us; I know we’re the only ones in this building that we’re in — we haven’t really seen a lot of support from the communities that we helped to build, in my opinion, outside of today. As you know, we’ve been suffering from a pandemic, so not a lot of the businesses have been carrying their normal hours. But to see such a force today in showing up to protect the windows, I expected to see a few more lights last night to watch the crowd and to be present for what the protest stood for. We were the only office that was open last night to give relief to people that were walking around in the heat — it was very hot — to have a meeting space for our friends and our networks. And people came by, and we showed some support. But no other businesses were open, and no other businesses were supporting the cause. And that’s kind of disheartening.

Read more on the conversation at the San Antonio Business Journal