This past week I was at a hunger symposium with a bunch of famous do-gooders. The keynote speaker referenced a commonly known (and empirically verified) phenomenon: poor people are the most religious among us, on average. Strange because I was always taught in church that God is the author of blessing (material blessing- don’t get deep and throw up inner peace etc.). Further, if God has the power to bless and serves as arbiter of the flow of blessings, logically God would choose first to bless those most pleasing to God. So then, why are the poor- the most religious- the least “blessed” in this life?
In the past 18 months I’ve encountered four perfect women, such as I’d never encountered before. Strange because perfection is not possible with respect to humanity. Yet perfection can exist within the context of imperfection. Surrounded by their human imperfections, these four women possessed perfection to an extreme degree. May I tell you about them?
When you see advertisements for cars or beer, they often feature some sexy model in the frame with very little information about the substance. Presidential candidates are marketed in much the same way. We are told much about nothing- their favorite foods, what questionable things they did when they were teenagers, their thoughts on certain biblical teachings (without any thought to their practice of faith) and various philosophical questions and hypotheticals that have absolutely nothing to do with the office of president.
I have a friend who happens to be white. I love him, with extreme sincerity. He’s been there for me so many times. I admire his maturity, his brilliance and above all, the sincere love we have. I must say that I also value him deeply because he is white. I must confess, I don’t have many white friends and in this world many would take that to mean I’m a racist. Thing is, between East Cleveland and the east side of ATL, there wasn’t much opportunity growing up to befriend others of a lighter hue.
During a 1966 speech in Berkeley, Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael) said:
“Several people have been upset because we’ve said that integration was irrelevant when initiated by blacks, and that in fact it was an insidious subterfuge for the maintenance of white supremacy. In the past six years or so, this country has been feeding us a “thalidomide drug of integration,” and some negroes have been walking down a dream street talking about sitting next to white people. That does not begin to solve the problem. We didn’t go to Mississippi to sit next to Ross Barnett (former governor of Mississippi), we did not go to sit next to Jim Clark (sheriff of Selma, Alabama), we went to get them out of our way. People ought to understand that; we were never fighting for the right to integrate, we were fighting against white supremacy.”
Buying Black – The Ebony Experiment
By JAMES CLINGMAN JR.
JAMES CLINGMAN JR.
John and Maggie Anderson, who live in Oak Park, Ill., embarked on a year-long initiative to make all of their purchases from Black owned businesses. This couple should be commended for such an effort and the sacrifices they are making to conduct their “Ebony Experiment.” The Andersons are doing what Marcus Garvey and others espoused; they are showing what can—and should—be done by conscious committed Black people all over this country.
As usual, the detractors are calling the Ebony Experiment “racist and divisive.” I wonder what these same folks call Black people who have for years supported White owned businesses. No one ever complains about the China Towns, Greek Towns, and Jewish enclaves that promote and, provide mutual support to their businesses and consumers. I have never heard anyone call these people “racists” and “separatists” nor have I ever read where anyone ever responded to these ethnic economic enclaves by saying they would only buy from White owned businesses.
In fact, we celebrate their “entrepreneurial spirit” and characterize them as “educated and informed consumers,” “self-supporting” and “hardworking” citizens. Now that the Andersons have started their quest to spend as much of their money with Black owned businesses, some are characterizing them as villains and racists rather than forward-thinking concerned individuals who are trying to empower not only Black people but this country as well. Black folks did not invent nor do we practice racism; we only react to it. For this effort to be characterized as racist is short-sighted, ignorant, incendiary, and disingenuous.
It is a shame that this couple would have to endure any negativity for doing what is right; but it comes with the territory. Because $850 billion moves through Black consumers’ hands each year, more than 90 percent of that amount going to businesses owned and controlled by others, it is no surprise that turning a significant portion of that money inward to Black businesses is frightening to the establishment. Because Black people have been looked upon, and in many cases conducted ourselves as mere consumers rather than producers, any effort put forth since 1964 (Integration) has been squelched. But whose fault is that?
If we would take more control of our dollars, it would not matter who said what about our efforts to leverage our collective income into real wealth in our communities. As I noted in my interview with Ted Gregory, writer for the Chicago Tribune, regarding the Ebony Experiment, this is not the first effort of its kind, but it is unique in its experimental aspects. It could also be unique in its sacrificial aspects, in that the Anderson family has to drive long distances to make many of their purchases from Black businesses.
Prior to integration, we did exactly what we are trying to get back to today. There were Black cooperative buying programs, Buy Black Campaigns, Double-Duty Dollar campaigns, and other initiatives that brought Black consumers and business owners together in support of one another. Maggie Anderson, who hails from Liberty City (Miami, Fla.), an all Black community in 1950’s, which thrived on mutual business support among Black people, is now doing her best to revive the economic spirit of her childhood community.” According to the Tribune article, among the responses received by the Andersons was an anonymous letter mailed to their home accusing them of “unabashed, virulent racism.” The writer stated, “Because of you, we will totally avoid Black suppliers. Because of you, we will dodge every which way to avoid hiring Black employees.”
With all of the hurdles and obstacles they face, this paragon of a Black couple has made a commitment and is following through on that commitment, which is commendable, especially when it comes to doing something positive for Black people. Drop them a line or an e-mail and tell them you appreciate what they are doing, and then get involved by starting your own Black buying “experiment” in your city.
Black owned businesses will be discovered by other consumers, minds will be changed about buying Black, and consciousness will be raised among Black consumers. John Anderson said: “Focusing the estimated $850 billion annual Black buying power on Black businesses strengthens those businesses and creates more businesses, more jobs and stronger families, schools and neighborhoods…When a thriving African-American or urban community is realized, certainly as a society as a whole, we all win.”
James E. Clingman is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people.
I know why Dr. King was killed. I’m absolutely convinced that Dr. King wasn’t killed because he cared about sitting at integrated lunch counters. Indeed, at the time of his death he was obsessed with owning the diner. The night before he died, Dr. King gave a great speech at Mason Temple, Church of God in Christ. We often remember this speech for its ending. King talks about having gone to the “mountaintop.” Frankly, I couldn’t care less about the mountaintop. What’s important in that speech is the message of economic empowerment and a new activism- the power of economic withdrawal- that scared the hell out of America.
Having gone to Memphis to support striking sanitation workers, King reasoned that rather than pleading with the city of Memphis to treat black sanitation workers fairly, it would be much more efficient to force Coca-Cola or Wonder Bread to plead the cause of the sanitation workers at city hall. King advised his audience not to buy those products in Memphis. By doing so, those companies would be put under so much pressure that they would be willing to adopt the agenda of the black community as their own.
I’m certain that many people in the audience were doubtful that they were powerful enough to bring large corporations like Coca-Cola to their knees. Perhaps for this very reason, King brought to their attention that while they were a poor people individually, collectively they possessed more wealth than all other nations of the world, save nine. The objective, King reasoned, was to pool that wealth together. King gave practical steps. He urged his audience to withdraw their money from the white-owned banks and deposit it in black-owned institutions. King admonished the withdrawal of economic support from companies that did not support the agenda of the black community.
Both interesting and sad to me is that in the same speech, King admonished his listeners to withdraw their money from white-owned insurance companies and to switch to insurance companies owned by blacks. I was informed this week by a friend that at that time, 1968, there were seven insurance companies in Memphis that were black-owned. Today, in 2012, there are none. From here I think the rest of this blog post is fairly obvious so I won’t insult your intelligence or waste your time. Let’s just say that the agenda King put forth that night is still the right one.
I called my dad and informed him that I was ready to end my life. This was not the first time I’d considered this course of action. This was, however, the first time I was bold enough to seek my father’s permission. I felt ready to do it a few times before but the thought of what pain that would cause my parents always stopped me. This time, however, I figured that perhaps if I just prepped them in advance, they would be okay with it (or at least prepared for it). My calculations were wrong. My father promptly informed that no parent would ever be okay with their child committing suicide. From time to time I hear of friends and others who are considering it. I understand completely.
She said to him, “shut yo @#$ up and come the f#*k on!” This wasn’t a scene I observed between two, grown friends at a subway station. Rather, this was a young mother screaming at her son; her son who looked to be no more than four years old. It’s a scene I’ve witnessed many times over in different cities and in various contexts. The basic themes are the same, however: a young single mother is trying to raise a child with whom they are, in truth, angry with.
How can one raise and love a child with whom they are angry? I’m not sure it’s possible. Yet this is precisely what I see over and over. Most view these scenes and automatically demonize these single mothers and their disposition toward their young, innocent children. I, however, see something very different below the surface. At the very core there are broken, unfulfilled dreams. At the very heart of the issue is a life- that of the mother- which has been radically altered and the anger they carry when confronted with the reality that all the responsibility has fallen upon them while the other responsible party is out on Friday night. Further, given that the man responsible for the child’s life didn’t want to be involved daily, it’s highly unlikely that another man not responsible for it would like to be. In the end there is a child they are left to raise, goals and dreams now unreachable (or deeply complicated) and constant attempts to persuade themselves that the love they have for that child is sufficient to justify all other disappointments.
Very seldom will a single mother open up about their true feelings and disappointments with their situation. Every now and then I come across one who, just for a moment, will let down their guard and candidly speak. They will tell me about the career path they wish they could pursue but can’t. They will tell me about the trips they can’t take, the life they can’t live and the hardships they face. Without failure, when those mothers slip into such candor, they immediately catch themselves and revert to their role as a mother. After opening up about how they are not living the life they’d hoped for, they immediately respond with something along the lines of, “oh, but I love my son.” Funny thing is, no one asked. No one questioned their love for their children. So why do they throw it out? I have to believe it is born of guilt and fear. Guilty that they honestly don’t truly want the life they have and fearful that such an admission must mean that they don’t love their child. Therefore, to assuage their conscience they routinely revert to declaring their love for their child whenever confronted with their distaste for their life.
I would submit that honesty is liberating. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with admitting you aren’t living the life you originally wanted. Very few are. There’s nothing wrong with admitting that you are angry that two parties were responsible for a life but only one party is bearing the responsibilities while the other party is living a life largely unchanged. In all this, we must be open to the fact that two things can be true at the same time: you can not love the life you have but still love your child.