Buying Black Power

Paper. Dough. Scrilla. Cheddar. Bread. Benjamins. Coins.

Just as Black folks nickname their loved ones, over the years, they have found many creative ways to express their affection for money. While financial compensation is valued across many cultures, it is of particular significance to Africans. And rightfully so! Having endured hard, harsh, unpaid labor for approximately 400 years, most Black people are chasing the bag.

However, this is far from a new pursuit. In a global society that has believed primarily in taking from and seldomly giving to Africa, Black people around the world have used their time and talents to fund their own needs.

In the United States, Black businesses sprouted up by the thousands after the liberation of enslaved populations in 1865. Running barber shops, hair salons, funeral parlors, insurance companies, banks, restaurants, record stores and newspapers were among the many modalities that Black people used to support themselves and their families during the height of racial segregation of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Of equal importance, though, is how Black people also supported each other in these times. By Black people spending money in stores owned and operated by other Black people, they established a strong economic foundation for self-sufficient communities. They did not have to look for handouts from white people because they met each other’s financial needs. This is the power in buying Black.

According to a 2021 report by the University of Georgia, between 2019 and 2020, “The buying power of African Americans rose to $1.6 trillion, or 9 % of the nation’s total buying power.”

Also based on the study, in 2020, the 10 states with the larg­est African American markets are Texas ($149 billion), New York ($141 billion), Georgia ($118 billion), Califor­nia ($118 billion), Florida ($116 billion), Maryland ($86 billion), North Carolina ($75 billion), Virginia ($67 billion), Il­linois ($63 billion) and New Jersey ($57 billion).[1]

What would happen if Black people took that money and spent it in Black communities? There have been countless “#buy Black” campaigns within the last 10 years in response to police shootings or accusations of discrimination by CEO’s of popular businesses such as Walmart, Target, Papa Johns and Starbucks. But what if buying Black did not come at the cost of Black lives or racial degradation? What if it was regarded as more than just a trending topic? What if it was more than a push to build black capital? If it was, instead, a call to support business that encouraged a communal socialist economic infrastructure rather than a capitalist one.  How would the material conditions of our communities change? Simply put, it's not enough just to buy Black, rather we need to buy Black Power, buying from each other and selling to everyone.

Universal Negro Improvement Association founder and African hero  Marcus Garvey said, “A race that is solely dependent upon another for its economic existence sooner or later dies.” Buying Black was the major strategy of self-determination that Garvey urged. He understood and taught the power of economics as a major part of his platform in the early 1920s, yet his message has not changed over 100 years later. The African People's Socialist Party is continuing in his footprint with Black Star Industries led by Deputy Chair Ona Zene' Yeshitela, who has been creating black businesses that fund our revolutionary work while being on trend.  DeColonaise Hair and Body is just one example, funding the work of the African National Women's Organization. 

Buying Black Power is more relevant now than ever. It is the way African people  can protect our own interests, declare and accomplish our own goals, and rise above the capitalist system that has always exploited people of color. It is more than a hashtag or a catchy, alliterative phrase. Buying Black Power  is the basis of the economic self-determination.


[1] “Consumer buying power is more diverse than ever” by J. Nerritt Melancon, University of Georgia, Aug. 11, 2021

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