While the hashtag #SupportBlackBusinesses has recently taken storm in some corners of
Twitter and Instagram, this call to action isn’t new. Black economic power is deeply rooted in our history, so much so that it’s the fourth principle of the Afrocentric celebration Kwanzaa. Ujamaa, also known as “cooperative economics,” inspires the community to build and maintain stores, shops and other businesses while collectively profiting from them. One widely known example of this is Black Wall Street.
Before it was set aflame in the Tulsa race massacre of 1921, the Oklahoma city’s Black Wall Street was the epicenter of Black business and culture, formed on land purchased by wealthy Black landowner O.W. Gurley. The property Gurley named “Greenwood” later grew into a prosperous district with about 35 blocks humming with Black-owned restaurants, movie theaters, barber shops, pool halls, nightclubs, libraries and more. Gurley’s vision? To “create something for Black people by Black people,” according to Hannibal Johnson, author of Black Wall Street: From Riot to Renaissance in Tulsa’s Historic Greenwood District. As the once-mecca of Black success, Gurley did just that.
How do we as a community emulate the success of Black Wall Street? By supporting Black businesses. In honor of this August’s National Black Business Month, I’ve highlighted how we can do just that — all year round.
Contributing at no cost
Contrary to popular belief, showing support isn’t just about a financial transaction. While shopping has the biggest impact on a brand’s success, there are other ways to do so for free. Simple acts like visiting their websites and signing up for newsletters help improve analytics, which can lead to higher Google search positioning and future advertisements.
Another way is by sharing social media content or shouting out a favorite Black-owned company on your page. Never underestimate the power of a repost. Believe it or not, sharing content helps increase the digital footprint, brand awareness and credibility of a company.
Next are recommendations, ratings and reviews. As a consumer, how often do you read rates and reviews before purchasing a product or service? How often do you remember a company that’s recommended by a trusted friend? Word-of-mouth marketing and keyboard clicks go a long way at zero cost.
How to support small business for free in 2021:— Google Small Business (@GoogleSmallBiz) January 25, 2021
Leave positive reviews: $0.00
Add photos to @googlemaps: $0.00
Share on social media: $0.00
Let them know you love them: $0.00
B* better have my money
We’ve all heard of the friends-and-family discount before, and like most Black families I’ve been around and honorably inducted into, almost everyone is related somehow. From your grandma’s church sister to your mom’s high school friend to your dad’s Spades partner and on, being labeled as “family” is an honorable, yet easy title to acquire. It happened to me just a few months ago. After relocating to Atlanta from the Akron/Cleveland area, I ran across a Black-owned restaurant not too far from my home. While talking to the owners, I learned that they were from Cleveland and once lived close to my partner’s grandmother! That connection deemed us family and they started giving discounts until I finally refused — I realized being “family” only made it more important for me to fully support their business, at full price.
As entrepreneurs, it’s easy to give everyone a discount — and it’s even easier to accept that discount as customers. While this exchange may be in the heart of “looking out” for loved ones, the truth is, it hinders growth. If we can pay full price at big-box stores like Target and Walmart, we can pay full price for services and products in our community.
Friends will ask for discount prices.. True friends will pay full price: to support you, your time and your work. Friendship is friendship. Business is business. Lets not get confused.. This. is. my. JOB.— K A T E (@kunit04) June 26, 2019
I don’t know about you, but I love cute outings at even cuter spaces, pre-COVID at least. Some of the best events I’ve attended were held at Black companies that weren’t necessarily venues. I’ve gone to a book signing at a Black-owned coffee shop; a poetry slam at a Black-owned art space and had cooking lessons at a Black-owned winery. Each time, I was introduced to a company I never knew existed. After my time there, I frequented the spaces and recommended others to do the same. My point? Finding a Black-owned space for your next event — whether personal or for your business — means not only supporting them yourself, but introducing your attendees to a community space they might otherwise never come across.
Buy Black today and tomorrow
While living in luxury is a lifestyle, supporting Black businesses should be too. Not just during National Black Business month, not just during holidays, but every day. It’s also important to remember that Black businesses don’t only offer beauty and apparel, but provide any product or service you rely on. From Black chefs to Black manufacturers to Black marketers to Black medical personnel and on, our community has a host of talented people, and we should put their skills to use.
By recycling the Black dollar, we pour into our community in a myriad of ways. We foster job creation and employment, boost community morale and confidence, help close the racial wealth gap and, most importantly, build our own with our own by doing our own. In my humble opinion, there’s nothing more revolutionary than that.
Where to spend
It’s only right that I add my favorite platforms for finding Black-owned businesses. Enjoy.
Sierra Allen is an Atlanta-based writer who considers herself a creative by nature and storyteller at heart. As a Black culture enthusiast, she writes with purpose and passion while highlighting local and national community-centered topics.