NEARLY 99 years since that fateful razing of ‘Black Wall Street’, so coined for its closed market system in which black merchants often served by black suppliers, sold to black consumers and where every dollar spent in that community circulated the black economy nearly thirty times as business thrived.
And nationally renowned as a historical entrepreneurial centre built by a talented African American community who were shut out of the mainstream economy in Tulsa, Oklahoma, America in 1921.
Yes, it was an economy born of necessity but what lessons have we learnt today?
We can certainly shape our future by turning a perceived disadvantage into an advantage.
Is history repeating itself here in the UK as far as discrimination is concerned – the very thing that undermines economic equality. Can you imagine what Tulsa would be like today if it survived and flourished at the rate it started back then?
It’s very easy to get weighed down mentally with the atrocities and injustices we as black people have endured throughout our history but, whilst we cannot change the past, we can certainly shape our future by turning a perceived disadvantage into an advantage.
Just as the controversial statutes are falling all around us, so must the antiquated symbols, emblems and attitudes that do not represent the country we live in today, and definitely not the one we are building for tomorrow.
So, if we are segregated so to speak due to our colour, financial status, or ethnicity – use it to your advantage!
We know the colour of money does not matter but, for some of our counterparts, the colour of the money-maker does.
The spending power of black consumers is worth £300bn per year in the UK as reported in 2016 and in the US African American market, 1.2 trillion annually.
It’s clear how much the consumer industry can impact society but also the dire need to build the economy as a whole by becoming more inclusive, as diversity fuels growth.
On that note, did you know that JN bank UK launched in the UK June 2020? So, for all those black business-owners out there, watch this space!
On June 20, Donald Trump held a pitiful ‘Make America Great Again’ rally near the site in Tulsa where vigilantes killed hundreds of black people to suppress black wealth.
Here in the UK on the July 7 there is a movement planned when black people and non-black POC have committed to only spend money at black-owned businesses – to celebrate black wealth.
Although I’m not certain we yet have the infrastructure to sustain this campaign, I think it is a good cause – but at the same time question why we haven’t been doing this all along?
My point is, regardless of who we are, when people gain a strong foothold in a community or industry, they have the power to effect meaningful change.
As an entrepreneur myself, I have experienced the challenges of overcoming adversity, objections, and stigma but that didn’t stop me from pursuing my goal to become successful.
I had my ups and downs and there were times when yes, I hesitated, especially when I started the Baton Awards, with the sole purpose of putting women from diverse racial groups on the map.
I had so much lip-service and false promises from the big British’ corporations. In the end I decided to fund the awards myself – a decision I have never regretted.
I think as black people we need more than just a determination to fight back with our hands and voices. We need to be more financially robust and confident.
Protesting, whilst it gets our voices heard, is effective but only the start.
As Marcus Garvey once said: “A race that is solely dependent upon another for its economic existence sooner or later dies.”
For a number of years now I have been proud to support my own community by sponsoring a black child through university.
The biggest joy for me is when I see that young adult grow up to realise their full potential and succeed in life. It’s a small thing but it’s the small things that make big impacts on another’s life.
We need to support each other through education, business, and especially black organisations.
If I can do it, believe me, we can all do it! We need to think as a collective. Support each other through education, business, and especially black organisations out there that strive to strengthen our community.
Protesting, whilst it gets our voices heard, is effective but only the start. We need to manage the prejudices amongst ourselves; stop harbouring the mental slavery of distrust, and start collaborating mentally and financially.
I recently stumbled across a GoFundMe page, building-the-black-wall-street-UK.
Whilst it’s relatively new, its motive is a step in the right direction. If every black person, including celebrities, donated the minimum of £5 to an organisation that purely supports black businesses … I’ll let you work out the maths!
As my mum used to say: “Many a mickle makes a muckle.” And remember the ‘Pardna’ system, set up by our ancestors to help low-income earners save, buy houses, and generally survive as banks were hesitant to provide financial services such as loans, credit or savings accounts to black people or anyone on low-income with no assets to use as collateral, as well as the substantial costs involved by banks in managing such accounts.
We need to manage the prejudices amongst ourselves; stop harbouring the mental slavery of distrust, and start collaborating mentally and financially.
Well, we know it worked because many are still doing it today. But, the Government cast doubt on this micro-finance system and associated it with the pyramid system that recruits members via a promise of payments or services for enrolling others into the scheme.
We need to be more pro-active and consistent with our minds and hands, think of the bigger picture and not allow institutions to dictate our narrative.
Remember the Montgomery Bus Boycott, arising out of Rosa Parks’ stance to preserve her dignity and not give up her seat on the bus for a white man?
The boycott from the black community to refrain from using the buses went on for over a year and proved extremely effective, in causing serious economic distress. It involved sacrifices, some huge, some small but all worthy.
Yes, those days are truly over but the struggle for economic empowerment which is a fundamental key to success goes on.
And, the reason why we as a black community cannot be racists is simply because we don’t have the power or economics!
Its only by directly empowering black-owned businesses and grassroots projects here in the UK that we will gain equal power and voice that will create a sustainable and self-sufficient ecosystem to support and enrich the lives and wellbeing of our community. It takes great confidence.
Look at the Jewish community. They are renowned for working together to create wealth. Apparently, their money passes through over 30 hands within the community (compared to 2 within the black community) before it goes outside. That’s why they are so successful and their advantage in economic status persists to this day, but their methods can be applied to individuals and groups from any background.
Having said that, I fear that if we neglect these economic opportunities to have multi-generational wealth then we have lost our fight, we have lost our way, and most of all our dignity.
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