By James Clingman
Yes, I said, “Reclaiming,” which obviously means doing it again. There was a time in this nation when Black people did all the things we are discussing today pertaining to economic empowerment, business development, and business support. As we approach Black History Month, please take some time to learn more about Black Business History; you will be pleasantly and proudly surprised at what you find.
So why the emphasis on reclaiming what we had prior to the mid-1960s? Just take a look at the latest projections of Black income in this country – $1 trillion annually! Is that enough reason to get back to basic economic empowerment via the dollars that make their way through our pockets and purses? Although it is called Black buying “power,” we must understand that it is only power for those with whom we spend it. Thus, we must get back to spending more of our dollars with our own businesses, just as other groups shamelessly and unapologetically do every day.
Whenever this topic comes up Black folks seem to have some uneasiness about it. Some of us think it won’t go over well with other groups, that they will think we are being unfair and discriminatory. I have never heard the brothers and sisters from India called unfair because they set up and support their grocery stores, restaurants, hotels, shopping centers, and anything else they may need. Nor have I ever heard anyone accuse the Chinese people of discriminating by carving out China Towns in major cities, eating at their own restaurants and hiring their own family members and others who look like them.
So what’s up with us? One trillion dollars and still complaining about what we don’t have instead of using what we do have, collectively, to build up and sustain our own neighborhoods makes no sense. As Bishop Luke Edwards (Founder of R.E.A.C.H. in Alabama) told me one day, “Jim, Black dollars don’t make no sense.”
As I stated in my previous article, Bob Law, nationally recognized radio personality, along with Norman Bond, president of the National Association of Market Developers in Philadelphia, are heading up a movement to reclaim Black dollars while at the same time increasing the viability of conscious Black radio stations. Sara Lomax Reese, president and general manager of WURD radio station in Philadelphia, one of the best Black owned media outlets in the country, will also work on this very important issue.
It is my sincere hope and prayer that Black people will finally and for all time stop playing into the hype of what our so-called spending power is, move from the demand side to the supply side of the economic equation by supporting and growing our own businesses, and initiate movements – sustained movements – that bring to bear our collective economic leverage toward the overall goal of empowerment and the respect that comes with doing so.
It is incumbent upon the persons negatively affected by a system to stand up and do something to ameliorate their situation, first, by looking inward and utilizing their own resources to help themselves. Then they must reach out to others and form strategic and symbiotic relationships that translate into for real benefits.
We can ill afford to continue to be the economic fodder and the profit margins of everyone else’s business while neglecting to support our own. We cannot continue to boycott our own businesses by refocusing to support them with our “spending power,” thus, lessening their recognition, respect, and leverage in the marketplace. As large as the Black consumer base is, it is shameful and downright stupid for Black people to be in the economic position we are in today. That situation will only change when we change. When we change our buying habits and our mindset when it comes to supporting our brothers and sisters, and when we start refusing to hand our dollars over to other businesses without some kind of reciprocity.
Reclaiming Black Dollars is not just a saying; it is an economic principle that must be adhered to by Black people. Part of that principle will be implemented during Black History Month when $1 million will be spent at Black businesses in the Philadelphia market, the starting point for the movement to reclaim our dollars, our economic foundation, our self-respect, and that of other businesses that rely on our consumption of their products and services. Tune in to The WURD 900 AM (www.900amwurd.com) in Philly for information on how we can turn Black spending into real power via the Million Dollar Black Buying Power Campaign.
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.