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Economic Activism: The Most Viable Long Term Strategy [Part1]

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To state the painfully obvious, innocent Black people are being murdered by police on a consistent basis. The Prison Industrial Complex continues to close in on us. Our school systems are deplorable.  Many of us don’t have access to healthy food options. Our neighborhoods are being gentrified. And no one is being held accountable.

Economic Activism

In response, we are using various forms of social and political activism including marching, demonstrating and protesting. While these are good and necessary strategies in the short-term, as a long-term solution, we need to incorporate economic activism on a continuous basis.

Economic Activism

This is essentially the act of using your money, wealth or economic power to influence the changes that you want to see and that align with your political or social values.

Ways to practice Economic Activism

1) Boycott

Boycotts can be an effective way to bring awareness to an issue and publicly express dissatisfaction, anger and frustration. They have a long history of contributing to social change.

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Campaigns like #NotOneDime were launched in the aftermath of the Ferguson non-indictment decision. This campaign calls for the cease of spending on all non-essential shopping from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday unless the spending is done at a Black owned business. They also have a clearly outlined “List of Demands for Corporations.”

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However, for a boycott related to Black dollars to be successful, alternative product and institutional options are necessary. If consumers are being told not to buy items at one place, they should be informed of where else they can find said items. Another  key to an effective boycott is concentrated focus and persistence. We can’t boycott for a few days or weeks, only to go right back and shop at the same place later.  The Montgomery Bus Boycott lasted lasted 381 days! That’s the type of dedication needed to create a change.

Its important to realize that, in terms of products to choose from, we have more options than we may realize. There are a multitude of Black owned companies that offer quality products and services. However, we need to expand the variety of products that we offer. There needs to be Black owned companies that can meet the demand we create in sectors like electronics, house hold appliances and furniture to name a few.

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2) Practice Group Economics

a) Support Black Owned Businesses

From the 1880’s into the 1960’s, a majority of American states enforced segregation through “Jim Crow” laws. Black people were prevented from patronizing white businesses and establishments. This forced us to create our own businesses and trade with each other. The Black dollar circulated within the community several times over before leaving, bringing rise to hundreds of successful Black businesses.

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Due to racism and resentment, businesses in thriving communities were literally burned to the ground. After de-segregation, Black businesses started losing their customer base to white businesses outside the community.

In his book, “Powernomics,” Dr. Claude Anderson states “Black people have enriched every group, except themselves.” Based on the responses and messages that ShoppeBlack has received, its clear that people want to support Black businesses. It’s not as hard as you may think. If its a matter of location, start with an online business. After some research and staying connected to ShoppeBlack, you’ll find out about some that are close to you depending on where you live. There are at least a dozen of other websites and apps that have been developed over the past couple of years that can direct you to Black owned businesses as well. Check them out.

b) Support Black Owned Banks

According to Federal Reserve data, although 13.2% of the U.S. population is African-American, less than half of 1% of U.S. banks are Black owned. The banks that do exist have been struggling due to the 2008 financial crisis and a lack of support from the Black community.

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15 Black Entrepreneurs Made a Huge Deposit in Washington, DC’s Industrial Bank. S/O to our boy Cortni Grange, Founder of FLYE for participating in that effort.

These banks play an important role in revitalizing communities that other financial institutions ignore. They provide services that allow many to avoid predatory payday loan establishments and check cashing places. They also provide needed home and business loans as well as lines of credit that are not readily available to a lot of Black business and home owners. The importance of supporting the existing Black banks cannot be expressed enough. The good news is many of us are starting to get it and thousands of accounts are now being opened across the country due in large part to the movement pioneered by rapper and activist, Killer Mike.

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Citizens Trust Bank Next Generation Advisory Board

3) Form or Join Investment Groups.

Investment groups (not to be confused with investment clubs) are a great way to pool resources in order to:

a) Purchase income producing assets (residential or commercial). One of the surest ways to accumulate wealth is to invest in rental properties: houses, apartment buildings, office complexes, etc.

b) Purchase shares or equity interest in corporations or other businesses. Money raised can also be invested in the creation or expansion of businesses in sectors where Black people are underrepresented but consume the most e.g  textiles, footwear, watches, household appliances, toys, and electronic equipment.

c) Invest in projects like films, plays, arts instutions or the formation of media companies where we can control the images and the messages we send and receive.

4) Think Globally

While building a strong economic structure in the U.S. , Black businesses and consumers should also consider forming relationships with entrepreneurs and consumers on the Continent, the Caribbean, Europe, Canada, Brazil and other parts of South America. All of these regions have a high population of Black people. Pan-Africanist concepts and practices are critical now more than ever. It seems as if our predecessors, without the use of social media, the internet, and less resources, were organizing more – Pan African Congresses, convenings and dialouges – than we’re doing today. It’s high time that we defer back to the groundwork that’s already been laid for us by W.E.B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey and Kwame Nkrumah.

Ghanaian entrepreneur and investor Sangu Delle
Ghanaian entrepreneur and investor Sangu Delle

This is group economics on an international level and opens up a market of a billion people. There are thousands upon thousands of quality products made abroad. We highlighted some of them in this previous post.

In 2010, President Obama announced the National Export Initiative in his State of the Union address to renew and revitalize efforts to promote American exports abroad.

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70 percent of the world’s purchasing power is located outside the U.S and less than one percent of America’s 30 million companies export. That’s unfortunate because if there’s one thing the U.S. has, its the reputation that the products from here are of quality and excellent customer service. U.S. products are in high demand overseas.

Visit www.export.gov for information on the opportunities in overseas markets, federal resources, and upcoming trade events.

 5) Control the Distribution Channel

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A distribution channel is a network of individuals and organizations involved in getting a product or service from the producer to the customer. It can include manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, retailers, and even the internet. 

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The beauty supply industry is one of many where Black people are almost non-existent in all parts of the supply chain other than as retailers and consumers.

The book “On My Own: Korean Businesses and Race Relations in America”, describes the explosion of the wig business in South Korea in the 1960s and explains how this is instrumental in the Korean domination of the Black hair supply industry.

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In 1965, the Korean Wig merchants joined together and convinced the Korean government to ban the export of the raw hair, giving Koreans control over the manufacturing extensions and human hair wigs. Between 1965 and 1978, the YH Trade wig manufacturing company exported $100 million worth of wigs. The wigs did especially well with Black consumers. Now Koreans control the market and Black entrepreneurs are being shut out in order to protect the monopoly.

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We need to become the manufacturers and distributors of the products that we use the most.

In Part 2 we’ll discuss the issues that these different forms of economic activism need to address.

Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson

 

 

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