As most of us know, February has been designated as Black History Month. When you hear the term “Black History” who do you think of? Does your mind automatically race to Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks or Malcom X? Does your mind race towards slavery? If it does you are not alone. Why is it that when we speak of black history our minds automatically run towards the heroes of our pasts? I think it’s time to create and promote new historical black figures. We can do this by starting to recognize the talents of the figures in our own communities.
One of the ways we can make and influence black history is by supporting black businesses. Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), a Kwanzaa principle speaks of maintaining our own stores, shops and other businesses and profiting from them together. According to the Nielsen Company, African Americans have a collective buying power of $1.1 trillion.
We usually link Black History month to things like civil rights, slavery, sports and/or entertainment but with this spending power we can make history in the business arena. With the spending power of a small country, and using those resources within, we can rebuild our communities without reliance on outside entities. With $1 trillion in spending we can create schools, hospitals and/or provide jobs. Instead of reinvesting in our own communities we tend to spend our resources elsewhere. This is rather unfortunate.
I’m reminded of Black Wall Street/ Little Africa in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In the 1900’s African Americans pooled their resources together to create one of (if not the most) affluent African American community the United States has ever seen. The area was said contain over 600 businesses. “Among these were 21 churches, 21 restaurants, 30 grocery stores and two movie theaters, plus a hospital, a bank, a post office, libraries, schools, law offices, a half dozen private airplanes and even a bus system.”[i]
Watch this to learn what happened to Black Wallstreet
Although we may face obstacles, the obstacles we face do not come close to the obstacles our ancestors had to overcome. If our ancestors could create an affluent community in the 1900’s what is stopping us from doing it in 2015 and beyond? Maybe we only care to review history and not re-create it.
Now I understand creating a black utopia will seem outrageous but it wasn’t outrageous for our ancestors. My expectation isn’t that this will happen overnight either. My expectation is that we can at least move towards Ujamaa by starting to support black businesses. You can by downloading the Around The Way App here: http://aroundthewayapp.com/. Around the Way is an application that uses your GPS to locate the nearest black-owned business- similar to Yelp. We may not be able to make black history over night but we can start with a few baby steps.
[i] “Black Wall Street.” Black Wall Street. The Black Holocaust Society, n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2015. http://www.blackwallstreet.freeservers.com/The%20Story.htm