I went to an HBCU from 2003-2006, and while I attended that school, there was a Black owned bookstore down the road that I frequented every now and again. I really loved looking around the bookstore, but never really had enough money to actually “shop” there. One day, I had the choice to purchase a book I needed from that bookstore, or from my campus bookstore. Although I felt, in my gut, that I should support the bookstore down the street, I ended up purchasing from my campus bookstore instead.
A few weeks later, I learned that the little bookstore on the corner was being shut down because there wasn’t enough patronage.
I remember feeling so guilty, and so sad for the owner – whom I’d met a few times. Not that my one little purchase would have saved the shop, but it really struck me as ridiculous that in a predominantly black neighborhood, near an HBCU full of educated black students – a black owned bookstore had failed. More than just a bookstore failing, a black business owner lost his livelihood because he was not being supported by black people in his own community.
I’m not saying that Black people should never make purchases from business owners of other races – but we should also invest in our own communities. We should help one another to get ahead by patronizing our own businesses whenever possible.
And there’s an added benefit to this: when our children see us buying from Black business owners or using Black doctors, dentists, and lawyers – it sends the message that they can do more than sell records or play sports. It gives them professionals to look up to, so that when they are inevitably told that they can’t, they’ll know they can.
What are some ways that you can make cooperative economics a part of your life this season?
–Purchase gifts, books, and other small items from Black owned businesses whenever possible.
–Volunteer your time in a black owned business that may need the extra help.
If there aren’t any black businesses near you, there are plenty online!
We’re almost to the end of the Kwanzaa holiday! See you tomorrow for Kwanzaa’s fifth principle!