Entrepreneurs - Think About Community Investment
The megaphone is set to high and many people, myself included, have been speaking out about ownership, an important key to the success of black folks. Equally relevant is the need for black businesses in the very neighborhoods we are desperately trying to escape. Take a walk or drive through some of the most economically depressed areas and you will inevitably see a significant number of people of color. And, although the neighborhood may be impoverished that does not necessarily mean there aren't viable businesses that are making money. You still find rental properties, gas stations, convenience stores, restaurants, beauty suppliers and others servicing that community. However, it is a rarity for those business owners to live in that neighborhood or look like the clientele they serve. These businesses are usually family run. Therefore job opportunities are limited, if present at all, and the profits generated will be spent elsewhere. Having an understanding of this matters because the dollars that we spend in these establishments do not circulate within our communities. We need to be more intentional as consumers, in regards to where we spend our money.
Why is Community so Important?
I have written once or twice about the TV show The Jeffersons. What I loved about the show was the fact that a black family - even with all the outrageous antics - was depicted as stable, loving and prosperous. However, it did little to reinforce the importance of community. The rise of the Jeffersons to "a deluxe apartment" was told in snippets over the years. From sharecropper (George's father) in Alabama to a derelict section of Harlem and then a middle-class neighborhood. It was from there that The Jeffersons moved to the east side of Manhatten. The greater their success, the further away The Jeffersons were from people of color. Success or "making it" was synonymous with getting out.
Today, if we were to survey folks living in some impoverished areas, I believe a large number of individuals would express the desire to get away from the neighborhood, at least in its current condition as the embodiment of struggling, crime, and lack of opportunity. But, new challenges can arise when we move away from our communities. We lose the connection to those that understand us best. The importance of our shared history, empathy for those still struggling and personal relationships are also often lost when we move away. There is another factor at work, the re-identification of self to more closely aligned to the new environment and people. In other words, we can lose touch, not just with others, but also ourselves. However, this does not have to be an either-or proposition. You can be successful and still make a positive impact in your community.
The story of Ermias Asghedom, a.k.a. Nipsey Hussle is unique among most young men regarding his commitment to his neighborhood, and it is refreshing to see. Ermias is a rapper, record label owner, and the community business owner of The Marathon Clothing, whose flagship store is located in Crenshaw, California. Looking at Ermias today, by all accounts he is successful. He proudly recalls the days spent in his community and a time when black business owners were present in the area. Ermias, along with his brother (and business partner) are doing more than reminiscing about the past; they are invested in their community and increasing the profile of black ownership in Crenshaw. Looking for more inspirational stories check out the blog for BlackBusiness.org
You Can Make a Difference
Okay, family, you may not be ready to open your business just yet, but certainly, you and I can support local black-owned businesses as well as those on the internet. Check out Support Black Owned (SBO) a self-described, free Black and African American owned business directory and blog filled with thousands of Black, Moorish, and African American owned businesses, and members spread all over the world. Sites like BlackBusiness and SBO are sharing our stories and highlighting businesses so that we can engage with each other. And, I believe the message of connection is catching on, but until it takes root in our collective consciousness and our communities establish significantly more black businesses, I will continue to speak on it.