Celebrating Small Business Month with Two Black-Women Owned Businesses that Nurture Brooklynites
By Fern Gillespie
In recognition of May’s Small Business Month, Our Time Press reached out to two veteran Black women-owned businesses who nurture Black Brooklynites in health and death–The P.E.A.C.E. Health Center and Sealy Cuyler Funeral Home.
When Dr. Shadidi Kinsey studied for her career as a licensed acupuncturist during the 1980s, the holistic practice wasn’t recognized by mainstream medicine. Today, the P.E.A.C.E. Health Center, she co-founded in Bedford Stuyvesant, offers acupuncture, message therapy and holistic services. It has a roster that includes all age groups, from children to seniors—even physician referrals.
The 2020 Annual Business Survey from the US Census estimated that almost 30-percent of Black-owned businesses were in health care and social assistance. But, for Dr. Kinsey, building the holistic practice, dedicated to the Black community was not easy. “We are celebrating 33 years of struggle, service and healing to our community,” she told Our Time Press.
Dr. Kinsey, the first African- American to be licensed by New York State to practice acupuncture, studied acupuncture at the Harlem Institute of Acupuncture, the Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine of New York City and became a certified doctor of acupuncture at the International Institute of Acupuncture and Traditional Medicine in Canada.
“Now I have medical practitioners advising for acupuncture,” she said. “Acupuncture is a non-toxic natural way of healing. The body’s own energy is doing the healing, we’re just directing that energy.” She has clients that use acupuncture for allergies, migraine headaches and arthritis pain. “I’ve worked with organizations dealing with alcoholism, substance abuse and AIDS. Acupuncture is used in hospitals for patients that are receiving chemotherapy and radiation. It helps with the side effects of the medications.”
The P.E.A.C.E. Health Center is a frontline advocate for holistic health in Brooklyn’s Black communities. “Black people are under the system of medical apartheid from the holocaust of enslavement to present day,” she said. “Acupuncture heals on different levels. Not only the physical but the spiritual and the emotional. The stress affects our well-being and our health.”
According to the National Funeral Directors & Morticians Association there approximately 3,300 Black licensed morticians and funeral directors in the U.S., and about 2,000 Black-owned funeral homes and services. Sealy Cuyler Funeral Home, founded in 2006 in Brooklyn by Maria K. Sealy and Renaye Brown Cuyler, is the only funeral home in New York state built from the ground up by two women of color.
“When we decided to go into business, we purchased the land and built the facility, because we wanted to have the independence and largesse to fashion this funeral business for us,” said Cuyler, a practicing attorney and licensed funeral director, told Our Time Press. “Most of the women in the funeral field come into the business through family-owned businesses.”
“Both of us come from entrepreneurial backgrounds. Sealy grew up in the Bahamas where her grandmother owned a biking store. She had entered the funeral business long before I did in the 1980s in Miami where she was trained in a mortuary school,” said Cuyler. “My Grandfather, George E.B. Tabb, was the first African American to own his own funeral service in Williamsburg Virginia in 1926. I’ve been an entrepreneur since 1986 with my law firm.”
Since opening 17 years ago, Sealy Cuyler Funeral Home has garnered a reputation for superior quality with personal touches in funeral planning, burial and cremation services. The client base includes Prospect Park Bedford Stuyvesant, East Flatbush, other NYC boroughs and around New York State.
“Sealy is highly skilled in cosmetic work and she creates a life like appearance of the love ones,” said Cuyler. “We try to be compassionate and caring. I consider people’s finances and making sure we help them stay within their budget and provide quality service as well as compassionate service.”
New York City Mayor Eric Adams and New York City Small Business Services Commissioner Kevin D. Kim kicked off “Small Business Month” by announcing that the NYC Business Express Service Team (BEST) initiative has helped save New York City small businesses more than $22 million by avoiding fines and violations. Since the free program’s launch, NYC BEST has assisted more than 2,200 diverse businesses across the five boroughs by providing small businesses with one-on-one expert support to help business owners not only resolve or avoid fines and violations, but also save time and money navigating city government rules and regulations, as well as expedite permit and licensing processes.
“New York City is where dreams are made, and we want every small business to get their slice of that dream,” said Mayor Adams