LOS ANGELES – Another Black Friday is upon us – that notorious time of the year when retailers make grand promises of great buys to lure shoppers into their stores to launch yet another raucous Christmas buying season. Already news reports around the nation are showing footage of gleeful shoppers tented outside big box chain stores ready to be among the first inside for those super-duper holiday deals the day after Thanksgiving.
Some shoppers, however, refuse to get caught up in the madness.
Tyree Boyd-Pates, an Africana Studies professor at Cal State Dominguez Hills, said he’ll bypass the Walmarts, Best Buys and Targets this holiday season to do a little “conscious spending” and exclusively patronize smaller, local and black-owned retailers as Shades of Africa in Long Beach; Cultural Interiors West on Pico Boulevard, Eso Won Bookstore on Degnan Boulevard, or the Green Grotto Juice Bar.
“There are a myriad of approaches that people are taking toward Black Friday in light of the increasing controversies of police brutality on African American lives,” said Boyd-Pates, a columnist for Huffington Post Black Voices where he recently compiled a list of black-owned Southland businesses where African Americans can opt to shop as part of a larger organizing movement now trending on Twitter as #BlackDollarsMatter.
“There has been a vocalizing effort for black people to come together and show they’re unified in relationship to their dollars and cents,” he added. “And with that, African Americans are beginning to recognize once again this is collateral politically. So we are using our agency to make sure our voices are heard with our dollars and cents as well as the pickets and the marches.”
The black consumer is indeed an economic force to be reckoned with. The nation’s 43 million African Americans are the country’s second largest racial minority group, according to The Nielsen Company, wielding $1.1 trillion dollars of annual buying power.
That said, while a dollar circulates in Asian communities for about a month before leaving, in Jewish communities for approximately 20 days and in white communities for 17 days, a dollar stays within the black community for only six hours, writes Nicole Kenney, NAACP Economic Program Specialist, for FinancialJuneteenth.com.
While the reasons for this are varied, one thing is certain: for social justice initiatives to work – be it police reformation, a $15 minimum wage, gentrification, the school to prison pipeline, homelessness – it has to be paired with some good old-fashioned wallet action.
“The foundation of any social movement must be about economic justice – because without economic justice, all we have is a lot of uproar and no systemic change,” said Rev. Mark Whitlock, executive director of the USC Cecil Murray Center for Community Engagement.
“And we know as you deal with social justice and civic engagement, it often deals with public policy and public policy always proceeds economic development,” he added. “Without the proper public policy, not only do we lose the voice of government – which is the largest funding agency in the United States – but we also lose the opportunity to have companies, who tend to pivot based on public policy, get involved in that change.”
Brother Tony Muhammad, Student West Coast Regional Representative of the Nation of Islam, said to effectively wield black economic power, black consumers must be reoriented and re-educated.
“What we have to do is change the habit of our people,” said Muhammad, who is helping to spearhead the Southland’s boycott of Christmas shopping from Nov. 26th through New Year’s Day as part of a national economic embargo announced last month by Minister Louis Farrakhan.
“It has to be a movement. And in that movement, the right kind of noise, in the right kind of places, have to happen,” he added. “We saw with the athletes at the University of Missouri, when they said, ‘We ain’t gon’ play,’ and the powers-that-be realized they’d lose $35 million, they didn’t care nothin’ about the students’ causes, they saw they were going to lose $35 million.
“So we can begin to redirect how our people spend money, and do what the Koreans have done, and the Chinese have done. Where’s Africatown? They’ve got Koreatown and Chinatown. We need ours. That’s part of our end game.”
But with loved ones clamoring for the latest iPhone, name-brand gizmo and heavily marketed gadget, how can consumer behavior be changed during the most bustling retail season of the year? Conscious spending comes with a conscious mind shift, said Los Angeles financial planner Melanie Perry.
“Being able to recognize that you don’t have to buy into the name brand, but the local brand: your friend, your family member, or co-worker who may be developing an entrepreneurial business and support them,” said Perry, whose book series, “The Adventures of Zeallionaire Kids,” teaches children about investments and financial literacy.
“Saying you’re going to support that local business owner, that local female business owner, or a friend who doesn’t necessarily have to be local, that is a way to at least begin this process, and others will watch you,” Perry added. “Their kids will watch you. Family members, your friends – and that begins to spread.”
Ciji McBride, an independent beauty consultant for Mary Kay, said supporting black businesses also has an overt spinoff effect.
“When you support me, you support my healthcare, me keeping a roof over my head, me being able to buy groceries, put gas in my car, and you support me being able to train other consultants I may be working with so they can have their own businesses,” McBride said. “So If I’m successful, then I can attract other women to the business who might also become successful, too.”
Chef Tony Stemly, a Baldwin Vista resident and Le Cordon Bleu trained cook, agreed, adding that a collective use of resource, networking and “not selling out to others” will help strengthen black businesses and black communities financially.
“We can start being a little selfish with what we have,” Stemly said. “We always like to include everyone except our own into our ideas and then once we start doing that, the power gets away from us.”
Carol Shaw, owner of the elite clothier of CJ’s Elegance on Slauson Avenue, adds that supporting black businesses can mean more than ethnic pride and off-the-shelve savings.
“Small businesses hold communities together; we provide stability to local homeowners because there are businesses in the community worth having,” said Shaw, who also supports local charities and provides opportunities to the owners of Bonnie B Bakery, York & Orleans, Wings & Greens – and a men’s haberdashery on the way.
It all seems to make sense to longtime Compton resident Lena Cole Dennis, who said she’ll be power shopping on Small Business Saturday at Zambezi’s in Leimert Park, the Museum of African American Art in the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Mall and CJ’s Elegance on Slauson Avenue, stopping at Simply Wholesome on Overhill Drive, and then heading to L&L Consignment and Zhara’s Books N Things in Inglewood.
“I think we owe it, just like we owe 10 percent to church on Sundays for our tithes,” Dennis said. “If we won’t support black businesses, who will?