After a construction site was set on fire during riots in Minneapolis over the police killing of George Floyd, protesters gather on the site as they watched the fire on May 27, 2020. (Chris Juhn/Zenger News Service)
After a construction site was set on fire during riots in Minneapolis over the police killing of George Floyd, protesters gather on the site as they watched the fire on May 27, 2020. (Chris Juhn/Zenger News Service)

The article I wrote for ​the ​June 10, 2020​, edition of The Washington Informer​​ received positive comments.​ The ​feedback​ ​that​ the article ​elicited, ​along with ​the ​​nationwide ​protest stemming from the tragic death of George Floyd, another African American male ​fallen to police brutality ​revealed that ​I am not alone when I said, “I’m fed up with ​being fed up.” Apparently, the nation and many parts of the world are fed up with the senseless taking of lives of Black men in America.

​Here are a few of the responses to the article:

– I’ll confirm that lower spending was not in my future plans, ​but ​it is in progress. Effective March 20th, as the pandemic surged, I changed my annual withdrawals from 4.2% to 2.2% of my assets with no negative impact to my standard of living. What that clearly suggests is that the rest of my spending was discretionary. ​With your​ recent article,​​ I’m in total agreement and will incorporate an additional level of “sheltering in place” to my daily spending​. We all know that it is, and always will be, about the almighty dollar. So if we spend $1.3 trillion annually, it means African Americans ALONE spend over $3,561,000,000/day. That’s ​$​3.6 billion (with a ‘b’) seven days a week, 365 days a year. How impactful are WE? The original coronavirus economic rescue bill intended to provide financial aid to small businesses​,​ large businesses​,​ and ALL affected citizens was a record $2 trillion. Need I say more?​ Yes, I plan to ​participate in the July 7 Blackout Day​ but will stretch my personal Blackout Day to Blackout Year in many areas of my spending.​

– I ​have ​noticed significant savings during this pandemic crisis and have made the decision to continue monitoring my spending more closely once restrictions are lifted.​ Your article on remaining sheltered in place is timely and the thought of less movement helps me to remain focused and vigilant.​

​- A good idea. We ​are going to work very hard to see what​​ we can do​ to conserve​ and spend less. ​Thank you for your article.

– You are 100% correct that ​as ​​B​lack​s, we​ need to understand the economic buying power we have. If we just held back a little​,​ that would have a massive impact on society and allow us to have more power and control over resources​ and our lives​.​ I am forwarding this article over to my boys!​

– I enjoyed reading your article and I agree with your proposal. ​However,​ ​I wonder whether most of us can afford to adhere to ​what you proposed​ under the current circumstances.​ ​The​ African American​ ​community has faced consistent racism in all forms​ — ​segregation in public places,​ ​disenfranchisement​ ​from the economic/political life,​ ​access to meaningful health care,​ ​education,​ ​etc.​ ​These issues,​ ​combined with the current worst economic crisis since the Depression with a leadership in the ​White ​House​ with no empathy,​ ​morality,​ and a sense of justice,​ ​systemic abuse of the rights of minority groups is at its highest.​ ​Currently,​ ​there is no central ​government​ leadership to speak to the truth​ of​ ​the pain and the rage in our community.​ ​The person sitting at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue believes in violence and he is aided and abetted by ​the Attorney General​ ​​and the Republican Senate.​ ​Thus,​ ​justice and accountability does not exist.​ ​The only salvation is ​to turn out and vote ​on November 3rd ​in numbers never seen before​ to ​take back the White House and Senate.

– I concur 100%. This whole mess has a powerful economic base. How do you propose we go about ​implementing what you proposed in your article?

The question from the reader who asked, “How do you propose we go about ​implementing what you proposed in your article?​” led to research looking for what might be proposed or actually done by others out of a sense of being fed up and frustrated. This research connected to a movement called Blackout Day 2020 that’s trending on social media called for by rapper and actor T.I., writer and civil rights activist Shaun King and others. This economic boycott movement is a call to action encouraging people to support one day of solidarity in America when not one Black person in America spends a dollar. This includes​ Africans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and Hispanics — ALL people of color. They are calling the July 7 economic boycott #BLACKOUTDAY2020.

Further research revealed that ​the Facebook group #BlackoutDay2020 was created on May 8 as a way to both support ​Black business and also protest racial inequities. The group’s membership swelled after ​George ​Floyd’s death, gaining more than 850,000 members.

​Social media information showed that the innovative and transcendent hip-hop artist Calvin Martyr​, a moderator of the Facebook group​, focuses on​ the​ Blackout Day in a slightly different manner. Martyr wants the day ​to be ​when ​supporters commit to not spending, but provides a caveat: ​”If​ a dollar​ must be spent,​ only spend it with a Black business, ​which includes banks, grocery stores, gas stations, hair salons and all forms of commerce.​”

Martyr want​s​ ​the ​Black​ consumer, with its $1.2 trillion spending power, to use this power​ ​to force more efforts to stop police brutality and institutional racism in the U.S.​ The​ mission ​of Martyr’s movement ​is to create an international community of economic solidarity and national consciousness unified around our common experience and ancestry as Emancipated Peoples of America.​ He further states that a tool ​is being developed ​for ​African Americans and their supporters​ to be able to shop anywhere in the country with ​Black businesses.

In addition to Blackout Day, The Shelter-In-Place Economic Reduction (SIPER) will join with others to its request that ​African Americans make a personal commitment to wisely extend the shelter-in-place economic boycott from July 7 through the remainder of the year and beyond (#BLACKOUTDAY2020ANDBEYOND).

It is evident from the limited research conducted for this article that what African Americans face in this country must change. The change will either come through the implementation of well-thought-out strategies that are for the common good of our fine nation and the entire world, or the change will come through continued destruction of property and loss of valuable lives that, in the long run, benefit nothing.

The superintendent of the Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland wrote on a blog entry, “We must work harder to achieve a better, more equitable and just society for our children, for our families and for ourselves. We cannot stand idly by while members of our communities suffer injustices and live in fear. If we are all in this together, we must all take responsibility and do our part.” I concur!

Robert Louis Shepard is founder and principal of The Shepard Institute LLC in Rockville, Maryland.

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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