You’ve seen all you needed to see. You’ve heard all the speeches. You’ve read, liked, and shared all the statuses on Facebook. You’ve double-tapped every meme on your Instagram feed. You’ve liked and retweeted every tweet known to man (and woman). And now you ask yourself THE QUESTION…
“What can I do to contribute to the cause of Black economic empowerment?”
I thought you’d NEVER ask. Please, excuse me. I wasn’t exactly prepared for this moment to come so soon…
*projector screen drops with the introductory PowerPoint slide already displayed, podium slides in from nowhere*
Black economic empowerment is a process; nothing will happen overnight. It will take a sustained effort involving Black people everywhere working independently and collectively to achieve a common goal of ever-improving self-sustainability. Your cog in this machine is just as important as the next cog. When one bogs down, the entire machine suffers. Let’s look into ways to help keep our machine of empowerment well-oiled and running efficiently.
I can think of five ways to bring your thoughts and dreams of contribution to reality. I’ll list them out for you here:
1: Be willing to relearn EVERYTHING you were ever taught about Black history.
It’s a well-known fact that winners and conquerors write history. It’s nearly impossible to find a World War II history class in the United States, or anywhere else in the world, taught from the perspective of German Nazis, Italian Fascists, or Japanese Imperialists. the same can be said for Black history.
For 99.9% of us, we’re taught that we didn’t come onto the scene of world history until our transportation to the Americas via the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Any history of Africa before that centers around Egyptian history, and even that history is subject to the efforts of Eurocentric science and religion to separate it from the rest of Africa. History of Blacks, during and after slavery, is usually glossed over, with the goal of showing that America did everything it could to help Black people progress. We’re given a few examples of “important Black people” in American history. So much is purposefully left out of our textbooks that we find out, after our own research, that the truth is FAR MUCH WORSE than we could ever imagine.
It is paramount that you begin to ask questions and research what you see, hear, and read. Much of it will be hard to accept. The best thing you can do is keep your mind open and remain inquisitive. I GUARANTEE YOU that you’ll learn something new EVERY DAY.
2: Support Black-owned businesses and other endeavors, or start your own business and fill a void in the Black community.
The overall goal of Black economic empowerment is to create, sustain, and grow businesses in our community that pool wealth and resources in ways we can use to our advantage. It only makes sense that we support Black-owned businesses and aid in that growth. Business creates business; if a business is making money, it can expand, create new jobs, and continue its cycle of growth. But, as with any business, it takes customers and money to facilitate this.
That’s where you and I come in.
Every dollar we spend in our community deals a blow to our economic subjugation. The influx of money, when spent correctly, can lead to more ownership of property and businesses. This helps to slow down crime and gentrification, among other scourges in our communities. We have to understand that racism and economics in America are connected, and that our communities are, by and large, living proof of that connection.
Find a Black-owned business in your community to frequent. It doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing transition. You can start with where you buy your hair care products, or where you get your car fixed. It doesn’t matter where you start; it only matters that you START. You can also start your own business, using your talent to help create wealth and ownership for yourself and your family while also helping your community become a little more self-sufficient. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.
If every other race of people can come into our communities and create wealth for themselves, why can’t we create it for ourselves?
3: Learn, practice, and teach (if you’re qualified) financial literacy.
Financial literacy is the [insert Holy Text here] to survival in a society built on the execution of capitalism. Unfortunately, this language isn’t taught in our schools, and we don’t tend to learn or understand it until we’re nostril-deep in debt and sinking.
It takes discipline to get out of debt. Budgeting and prioritizing your money is the simplest, most effective way to achieve financial freedom, but it takes time. One of the best ways to stave off debt in the long term is to invest in the stock market. In many cases, for less than the price you pay for that cup of coffee, that new pair of shoes, or that brand new smartphone, you can buy stock (ownership) in the company or companies you shop with. Stocks tend to rise over time, and that $5, $10, $20, or more you spent in buying that stock will appreciate (gain value). Sustained investing over decades can turn “hundredaires” into millionaires! When it comes to investing in the stock market, I use Robinhood and Acorns. They’re both smartphone apps that make investing easy, and don’t require hundreds of dollars to begin investing.
And just so we’re clear, that’s free advertising right there, ha ha…
4: Encourage and empower adults in your community to help make an impact with you, by themselves, or with others, in positive ways.
It’s NEVER TOO LATE to become a leader. It doesn’t take a person with some inborn quality or genetic blessing. All it takes is a person willing to pave the way, to sacrifice time and energy, to be passionate in his/her belief, and to be patient.
When dealing with adults, you’re dealing with creatures of habit. By the time we graduate high school, our minds are all but set. Our beliefs are about as concrete as concrete can get. You’ll have to show patience when chiseling away at the walls of defense, and you’ll have to continue to shore up your own defenses to guard against the attacks of those who oppose your ideas. It’s to be expected; we’ve come this far believing what we believe, and understanding what we understand, so why change?
Everyone is different, and you must approach them accordingly. Some people need to see the importance of Black Economic Empowerment through the lens of logic, and others through faith. Some may need to experience the importance by having to suffer through the lack of it. Some have already experienced the feeling of helplessness and are more than ready to make change. Whatever their position, be understanding. Don’t argue, and don’t take rejection personal. You aren’t the only one who sees the need to change.
5: Encourage and empower our youth through positive community-building and motivational activities.
The most effective way of achieving Black economic empowerment AND sustaining it over generations is to impress upon and educate our youth on its importance. We must surround our children both inside and outside of the home with images and messages of positivity and encouragement. We must create and involve them in activities that champion our culture, illuminate our history, and engender teamwork and leadership. It’s important that they understand critical thinking and it’s necessity to our progress.
We’re capable of producing successful children just as well as any other group of people, and dare I say more so, based on our history of continuous oppression in its various forms.
We must return to the village mentality of raising and looking after children, where any child in your neighborhood is your child, meaning that anyone can help in their disciplining. It’s up to us to emphasize the importance of having both mothers and fathers in the home. Each perspective is key to raising well-rounded children. Our children are a reflection of us, and we owe it to them AND to ourselves to properly equip them for a future where we can safely assume no one will help us.
There are a million other ways to address Black economic development. I encourage you to find ways and come up with ideas that work for you. Ask questions, seek answers, learn truth, and ask more questions.
Be as hungry for knowledge as a fire is for oxygen, and you’ll never be extinguished…