In a time of financial anguish for many, some Black Americans have decided to take things into their own hands. Rapper David Banner, for instance, wants African-Americans to get financially literate and start making money work for them. In the same vein, Wells Fargo has partnered with the NAACP to build a financial literacy program. Not content to sit around and wait for the economy to get better, African-Americans are figuring out how to earn and build wealth the way the white community has for years. And the start of that wealth, for many, is in business.
Owing to the fact that a vital small business sector is one of the cornerstones of a community’s financial health, Black Americans are paying increasing attention to small businesses within their community. In Detroit, for instance, the Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce (MBCC) is looking to unite Black-owned businesses in order to strengthen them all. For those not in the know, the power Black businesses wield is already significant, and getting more so. This, from the Detroit Free Press:
There are 79,000 black-owned businesses in Michigan, 32,000 in Detroit, all among 1.9 million black-owned businesses counted nationwide in the U.S. Census Bureau's most recent Survey of Business Owners, done in 2007. The numbers were up 60.5% from 2000. Black businesses employ more than 900,000 people and earn about $137.5 billion in revenue, the survey found.
The MBCC hopes to cultivate affiliate organizations in dozens of cities throughout the United States, thus creating a nationwide alliance to benefit Blacks everywhere.
Also hoping to embolden Black businesses is Maggie Anderson, though she’s taking a different route than the MBCC. Anderson is getting micro. Rather than focusing on how businesses can work together to prosper, Anderson is doing the simple thing Americans do daily: simply being a customer.
After a successful career in consulting found Anderson and her husband living in a mostly white enclave of Chicago, Anderson started to feel a nagging sensation that she’d abandoned the Black community that sustained her for so many years. That’s when she decided to try and spend a year shopping at only Black businesses. Difficult? Indeed. But Anderson also found it rewarding enough to write a book about it, Our Black Year.
“I would say it's the Black community's problem that we don't have as many businesses as we have,” Anderson told Mother Jones. “The main message that I want to get out with Our Black Year is that we have to be more accountable. This economic problem is something that should be of concern for all Americans, but the problem is our problem. And it happened, I daresay, mostly because we abandoned our businesses. But I think all Americans should feel ashamed to know that there used to be 6,400 black-owned grocery stores, representing that melting pot or patchwork that is America, and now there are only three. Until equality is reflected in the economy, America hasn't reached its ideal.”
You may not know it, but you vote every day with your dollars for which businesses you want to succeed and which ones you care about less. Maybe keep that in mind the next time you duck into a local coffee shop for a quick cup of brew.
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