Filed Under:  Business, News, OpEd

The hard truth – A matter of life or death

11th March 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Min. J. Kojo Livingston
Contributing Writer

I am a passionate supporter of Black businesses.

I have launched two campaigns to promote Black support of Black businesses. The Black-on-Black Spending campaign focuses on getting Black folks to spend half of their ridiculously disposable holiday dollars with Black businesses. The Black Friday campaign encourages Black people to spend some of the first money from each paycheck with a Black business.

I have done brochures, leaflets, speeches and media appearances promoting this concept. With great regularity I pass miles of other businesses to get to a Black business that has or does what I need or want. With pride I pay more for these goods than I would at Wal-Mart because I know that my dollars are strengthening my community.

However…
…I must admit that I get both angry and discouraged when I see how many of our businesses operate. It’s an extension of the feeling I get when I am at a white-owned store and have to deal with a stupid-acting Black service person.

Black businesses, it’s time to up our game. In this economy the stakes are higher than ever. It’s literally a matter of life or death. Black people, we have to master being better at doing business in general. Our very survival may soon depend on it. As it stands, too many of us are too damned sloppy at handling the economic establishments that could provide jobs and economic stability for our communities.

If a vita were done for many Black businesses it might read something like this:
HOURS OF OPERATION -
Open: When we feel like it.
Close: (see Open)
Holidays: (see Open)
Phone: Doesn’t matter, we don’t answer that thang anyway.
FACILITY –
Cleanliness: A little dirt don’t hurt nobody.
Organization: Yo mama’s house is probably messy too.
Restrooms: They supposed to smell like that.
General Appearance: We ain’t tryin’ to be Buckingham Palace.
SERVICE -
Speed: Oh, you WILL wait.
Quality: Depends on how we feel.
Featured Products: We out of that today. Tomorrow too.
Smiles/Friendliness: Out yo damn mind! We don’t get paid enuff for that.
Problem Solving: It ain’t MY problem, besides we too busy for y’all customers.
Dispute Resolution: It’s your fault. YOU wrong. You always wrong!
ADMINISTRATION/MANAGEMENT –
Bookkeeping: Ain’t got the time.
Marketing: Ain’t got the money, besides you reading this, ain’t you?
Staff Development: They know what they job is.

We could go on, but you get the idea. In business and economics we tend to not be at our best. The coming times will demand more and better of us.

As people worry and complain about an unstable economy, the most logical thing for Black people to do would be to vigorously engage in an aggressive program of self-sufficiency. Other groups are. A large part of our strategy must include our business sector, which by definition already practices a level of self-reliance. These bold souls have stepped off the plantation to provide jobs/income for themselves and could be a tremendous resource.

You have to know that if this economy crashes it is likely to fall on us first and worst. Take the horrendous mix of angry-racist media and angry—racist politicians, plus angry-racist cops, angry-racist gun fanatics. Now add the crippling, penetrating messages of angry, self-hating Black entertainers and a greedy-racist system rushing toward real fascist-totalitarianism. Then mix in an economy that is being manipulated to create a state of general desperation. Not a pretty sight.

It is scary to think about what position we could find ourselves in if we continue to depend on other ethnic groups to feed, house and employ us. You’d think that Black businesses would lead the way in this movement and that Black churches would be pushing the idea. You’d be wrong on both counts. You’d think that all of our business sectors would be doing three major things: 1) upping their individual games to lure more business and better compete with other groups; 2) uniting with other Blacks in the same professions to do collective purchasing and other collaboration that could ensure their common survival, and 3) aggressively reaching out to the Black community to offer services, support positive causes and solicit business/support.

Yes, I know the average Black business is preoccupied with survival. Problem is, in this environment survival almost requires expansion. You can’t survive just trying to get by. This is the time to take risks, to bring out the bold ideas. There are hundreds of low-budget and no-cost ways to expand your business. For example, most Black businesses do not have a website, social media account or a Paypal account. What the hell?! These are free or cheap. They only cost time to implement and some kid you know can handle all of these. You can be literally making money from across the city or across the globe while you sleep.

This is the perfect time for Black businesses to earn the respect and support of our people.

If it is true that in every crisis there is both danger and opportunity, then we should allow the potential danger of this season to motivate us to use our creativity to turn this into an opportunity for real Liberation. Why?

Because we have the Ability and we have the Responsibility to Restore True Liberation to our people…
…and That’s the Hard Truth!

This article originally published in the March 11, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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