Tonight, we begin a series of profiles of infuential people here and across the country as we honor Black History.

As our nation continues to reckon with racial disparities, more emphasis has been given to supporting businesses owned by African-Americans.

Alex Stokes of our sister station in Cleveland brings us the story of LaRese Purnell.

15 floors above downtown Cleveland, Larese Purnell never forgets where he came from.

“Single mother, three children, hard worker…We experienced living in homeless shelters, standing in soup lines, serving at soup lines even when we were getting food from soup lines.”

That spirit of giving no matter the circumstances and a push for education are the lessons his mother instilled in Purnell and his siblings.

“We all are college graduates, we all hold master’s degrees, so that was very big to her and she wouldn’t allow us to settle for less,” says Purnell.

As an adult, Larese started teaching financial literacy in cities across the country – noticing entrepreneurs facing certain financial challenges.

It sparked a mission and when he returned to home he spend every Saturday, all day, walking into Cleveland’s Black-owned businesses, finding a common theme.

During NBA All-Star weekend The Real Black Friday will host their Black Biz Expo featuring 108 black businesses here at Tower City.

This 15th floor office in the North Point Tower is a physical manifestation of Purnell’s rise, but his dreams for both the Black community and Cleveland as a whole are much higher.

“I look for us not to just rise but to be a standard that other cities around the country will not forget.”