By James Clingman
“Being poor doesn’t always mean being without resources. Anacostia is one of the poorest neighborhoods in Washington, D.C., yet the total income of all its households is $370 million per year. Most of this money quickly departs in the hands of landlords, business owners, and bankers who live in more upscale parts of town…. The principal affliction of poor communities in the United States is not the absence of money, but its systematic exit.”
–Michael Shuman, Going Local – Creating Self-Reliant Communities in a Global Age
Last week, in Part 1, I discussed the social/political/economic problems inherent in Washington D.C. and their implications for Black folks. We also took a peek at some of the ironies thereof. Now let’s look at some solutions in hope of Washingtonians being willing to implement them.
The dearth of sit-down restaurants near Howard University’s campus make it virtually impossible for students to buy moderately priced nutritious meals off campus. I am told that 40,000 Deltas recently came to town to celebrate their 100th anniversary; surely other sororities, fraternities, and alumni come each year, and someone makes a lot of money selling food to them. Wouldn’t it be great if Black groups would pool some of their money and invest in a couple of restaurants on Georgia Avenue and other nearby locations? They would have nice places to eat when they return to their alma mater, and make money at the same time by supporting their own businesses.
How about someone starting a business comprising students and a private security company to escort students to and from the metro stop on 7th Street near Florida Avenue and various locations in the “hood,” where they inevitably have to frequent from time to time? This would help prevent harassment, assaults, and even another robbery or murder? Students would pay an annual fee for the service and, voila! we have a viable Black-owned company doing good and doing well at the same time.
Here’s another one. Black folks in D.C. drink a lot of bottled water. There is a Black-owned and operated water bottling company in Forestville, Md., Curtis Bottling Company, whose brand is Blue Delta Water. This company should be swamped with orders by residents of the Chocolate City. But noooo, they are too busy spending their dollars on water from other companies. Blue Delta Water should be available at D.C.-area colleges, public schools, churches, Black events, especially all of our marches, and at athletic events. Guess what would happen if that came to fruition; jobs, jobs, jobs, as some of our leaders are always espousing but never offering ways to create. It’s not difficult to solve some of our problems; we simply lack the will to sacrifice for our collective success.
D.C. is the site of the founding chapter of the Collective Empowerment Group (CEG), formerly known as the Collective Banking Group (CBG), a group of churches that were sick and tired of banks mistreating them. They grew from about a dozen churches to what is now 150-plus churches comprising more than 100,000 members, with several chapters across the nation, including one here in Cincinnati. The CEG is an excellent mechanism for Black folks to leverage benefits not only from banks but from other businesses. It operates just like an affinity group or a collective purchasing group. Headquartered in D.C., the CEG could help lead Black church members to a higher level of respect and reciprocity in the marketplace. Why aren’t all Black churches involved with the CEG?
One of the most obvious and easiest businesses to support is a tax preparation business, and guess what, there is a national Black-owned tax business called Compro Tax. Founded some 30 years ago by Jackie Mayfield and located in Beaumont, Texas, Compro Tax Service has 250 offices throughout the United States. To my knowledge and according to their website, there is not one Compro tax office in Washington, D.C.; the closest one is located in Baltimore. C’mon, Chocolate City; what’s up with y’all? There are hundreds of thousands of you who pay to get your tax returns completed. Who are you paying to do that? It’s surely not Compro Tax, but it should be.
For you entrepreneurially inclined brothers and sisters, Compro Tax will set you up in the tax services business, assist you with finding an office (you can even have a mobile office if you prefer), set up your computer system, and provide you with start-up and continuous training in the business. A turnkey business. What are you waiting for Chocolate City residents?
There are several more examples I could offer to transform D.C. from simply being a money pit for politicians and lobbyists into a safer and economically stable place for Black folks to live, work, and learn. The hard part is to get us to move forward with more than mere words and marches, and do the “practical” things that MLK described in his famous speeches we so love to quote.
“Where da money at?” It’s in your pockets, Chocolate City. Make your dollars make sense.
Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati and can be reached through his Web site, blackonomics.com.