• Alex

What I've learned while Supporting Black Businesses During the Covid-19 Lock Down.

As much as I’d rather be on an airplane pursuing a day trip or embarking on a travel adventure in a faraway land. I must say that being quarantined in Chicago has taught me a valuable lesson about my community, and as bad as it may sound it forced me and many others to support local black business. Now, I’m not saying that I have never supported black businesses (of course I have) but what I am saying is that my experiences with doing so in the past have sometimes been faulty. One time it was so faulty that I had to take a person to court and have their contractor’s license suspended until they completed my project. There was also this one time when I purchased laundry detergent from a black-owned detergent company and the liquid detergent didn’t even suds up in the washing machine, in fact, I still had stains on my clothes at the end of the wash cycle (the consistency of the detergent was watery as hell). Although, I have a few more stories where my interactions with black-owned businesses didn’t live up to my expectations. I certainly have many more with other establishments that were not black-owned but I still continued to patronize out of stupidity or convenience.

In many of the black communities in Chicago, the only thing ‘Black’ about the black community are the people who reside there. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that none of the businesses in Chicago are black-owned but I am saying that the majority of the businesses we support within the black communities are not owned by African Americans. The nail Shoppes, fast food restaurants, cleaners, beauty supplies, liquor stores, gas stations, grocery stores, etc are mostly owned by other nationalities. Some may not see any issue with this (Kudo’s to you), but I personally believe that a person’s community should reflect the people who live there through the business’s that are present. For instance, when I’ve visited Chicago’s little India neighborhood the streets are lined with Indian merchants and businesses. Their businesses range from jewelry stores, clothing shops, restaurants, convenience stores, gas stations, beauty salons, grocery stores, check cashing places, banks, travel agencies, etc. All of these businesses are owned by the residents who reside in that community. If you think about it, all the money the residents in that community earn can stay within their possession and cycle around time and time again directly benefiting the Indian culture and families that reside in that neighborhood. Seeing your dollars at work within your own community is a beautiful thing.

Sadly, according to Nicole Kenney an NAACP Economic Program Specialist,Black Americans must stop the massive “leakage” of our money out of our communities. Currently, a dollar circulates in Asian communities for a month, in Jewish communities approximately 20 days and white communities 17 days. How long does a dollar circulate in the black community? 6 hours!!! African American buying power is at 1.1 Trillion; and yet only 2 cents of every dollar an African American spends in America goes to black-owned businesses”. So now we must ask ourselves why in the black community do people who don’t live amongst us, know our struggle, or care about our well-being are receiving all our money and building their own communities. I wonder does anyone else see this just as despicable as I do.

However, during this Covid-19 Pandemic I have met and been referred to many talented black people in Chicago who have kept things afloat while many other facilities are closed. From hair stylists, nail techs, bakers, seamstress, medicinal herbal stores, barbers, and HVAC technicians just to name a few. My list could goes on and on and I’m sure many of you could add to it, but the point I’m driving is that there is too much talent living in black Chicago for us not to be successfully running our own communities.

Black Customers

The focal point of why many black people claim they don’t support black businesses is because of the bad attitudes, lack of professionalism, and quality service. However, the attitudes and expectations of black customers can sometimes be atrocious. Just recently while attending a black-owned nail spa, I witnessed a black woman telling the owner, “I don’t normally trust black women to do my nails or pedicures I just don’t trust them to do a good job but the nail shops are closed so I guess I don’t have a choice”. I was disgusted by her comment and with the inability to hold a poker face the owner saw my irritation. However, she maintained her composure and even managed to muster up a smile and continue servicing her client. The rude client even complained that the baby oil the owner used on her hands at the end of the service made her skin look too black (mind you the lady was dark-skinned and baby oil is clear).

Now, I know some Asian nail Shoppe owners that would have cursed her out and refused to service her for those nasty comments. And she probably would have returned the next day quiet as a mouse and accepted the service they gave her. However, if this professional black nail tech who set up a nail spa in her home during these unprecedented times had checked her for her rudeness or refused to service her she would have been pissed. Probably would have taken her anger to Facebook and tried to label her as unprofessional. Instead this sister left with a sexy set of nails and pedicured toes. She even had the nerve after all her complaining to place a deposit to secure her next appointment.

Outside of that example, I have seen black folks in Chicago act a fool because they couldn't get a discount from a friend or families business. Ive even seen family members become upset because they felt they weren’t supposed to be charged at all. It is my opinion that family and friends should be some of the first people to support your business. For them to ask for a free service from an up and coming business is a slap in the face. Maybe this is less of an informative blog post and more so a rant about my observationn and feelings. But honestly, I see the bigger picture of how building and supporting black business’s in our communties personally affects us. For instance, Since Black-owned businesses are likely to hire people from the community, supporting them helps put job opportunities in our neighborhood which people need to achieve financial stability (maybe that would even help lower some of the crime). Also when we choose to shop Black versus with everybody else, we are voting with our dollar. We are showing these other nationalities that come in our neighborhoods how we want to be treated, what we will accept, and it also holds their ass’s accountable for their actions. It’s no need to picket or trash their businesses taking your money elsewhere is enough. And Lastly, supporting and building black businesses supports families, brings jobs for our people, and encourages other black entrepreneurs to start businesses, it also attracts community investors who provide banking services, loans, and promote financial literacy--all things that build economic strength. We are the key to getting our communities booming.