I get it . . .
If “it” refers to the overarching need to invest in our communities so as to strengthen and unify our people, then I, indeed, get it.
As a matter of fact, my getting “it” can be traced to my upbringing which was steeped in time-worn adages passed along by my elders like —“Where and when we enter, we must bring others along with us.” and “Nobody is going to save us but us!” For this reason, I should not have been surprised when a local genealogist whose services I had retained to research one branch of my family lineage recently presented me with a newspaper ad placed in the Colored Tennessean by Rev. Pharro Benson, on October 14, 1865—just six months after the Civil War had ended. Pharro Benson, it turns out, was my great-great uncle who lived in Nashville, Tenn., where he was a boot and shoe maker as well as a minister. In his ad, the Rev. Benson urged his “colored” friends to “patronage” (sic) their own people. Quite frankly, I was blown away to learn that 152 years ago, family members, several generations preceding me were espousing the same principles that we have been advocating in The New Orleans Tribune, The BlackBook, Welcome and “right on time!”
Actually, those commitments to support Black businesses and institutions, build our own neighborhoods and protect them from interlopers, to lead ourselves and act in our own self-interests as we work for economic empowerment and justice are the “it” that has propelled all of us here at McKenna Publishing for 32 years.
I guess I could surmise from this discovery, as revealed in my forebearer’s ad, that it’s in my DNA . . . that I come from a long line of those who have always been conscious of our plight as a people, those who were aware way back then what it would take for us to remove ourselves from the column of the perpetually oppressed. How proud I am that 152 years ago many of our people determined and self-reliant that they were, though newly escaped from the cruelties and indignities of bondage, knew and acted upon what it would take to become truly free.
Which brings us to today. For this edition of The BlackBook, we have chosen the theme: “Saving Ourselves: Black Dollars Matter.” The solution to many of the problems that Black people were faced with and one that Rev. Benson was pushing to the forefront of an agenda for Black empowerment back in the 19th century is the very same solution that we as publishers and advertisers in the New Orleans BlackBook advance today.
Events dominating headlines on the national front have for the past several months been cause for pause, deep reflection and quite frankly, angst. In many corners of our community, wary citizens check out the perverted happenings and the incendiary, racist pronouncements emanating from the highest offices of the land with weariness and, in some corners, fear. In the face of one-step-forward, two steps back conundrum, we as a people seem always to be constrained in our quest for justice and equity. Yes, we, too, are sick and tired of being sick and tired. History should have taught us that the jubilation we enjoyed during President Barack Obama’s election and subsequent tenure would be short-lived and fraught with a rise in White conservatism and hatred harkening back to the Reconstruction era, after the Civil War.
Still, there is another reality. Black buying power is projected to reach $1.2 trillion this year and $1.4 trillion by 2020, according to a report from the University of Georgia’s Selig Center for Economic Growth. That is 275 percent more than 1990, when black buying power was $320 billion. In other words, we have the power and the numbers—about 1.2 trillion numbers to be exact—to make the difference we desire to see in our world. The way in which we spend our money ultimately defines our communities; and we can either enrich and empower ourselves or we can continue to enrich and empower others. The choice is ours.
The truth is we have always had the blueprint in one form or the other—from the 152-year-old ad placed by my great-great uncle to the seven principles of Nguzo Saba, those seven
tenets many of us don’t bother to reflect upon except once a year at Kwanzaa. They inspire me always when it comes to corralling and using our enormous economic muscle, so much so that we have printed them in this edition of The BlackBook as our section dividers.
You know them too: Umoja (Unity); Kujichagulia (Self-Determination); Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility); Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics); Nia (Purpose); Kuumba (Creativity); and Imani (Faith).
Those principles are indeed about Saving Ourselves, which we must resolve to do or we are doomed. While a dollar circulates in Asian communities for 20 days and in Jewish communities for 17 days, it lasts a fleeting six hours in Black neighborhoods before we begin to hemorrhage green to our own detriment.
So, what to do about it? Where do we go from here? We, at McKenna Publishing, believe the answer is obvious. We must open businesses in our neighborhoods, then deliberately and unapologetically spend our money with Black-owned businesses when and wherever possible. We must provide resources to institutions and organizations that serve our communities. And we must demand accountability and responsibility from those businesses—both Black and otherwise owned—that enjoy our patronage. We must create and nurture an environment in which Black businesses thrive because when Black businesses prosper, Black communities flourish. And finally, we should join with other like-minded groups and organizations in our community, putting aside negative comments, petty jealousies and differences while working for the greater good of our people. There is power in unity.
Not sure how to start? Afraid your effort won’t make a difference? Well, I can think of $1.2 trillion reasons it will.
Be strong, stay the course, don’t give up, resist, have faith in ourselves and others of us.
We urge you to pick up and use your BlackBook every day; we also encourage you to keep your iphones with the BlackBook app close at hand or visit www.theneworleansblackbook.com. And last but not lease, educate your family members and friends of the value of supporting their own. Remind them of this important truth—the change we are looking for is in our pockets.