A few months before Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans in 2005 I was in the ‘Big Easy’ having the time of my life at the Essence Festival.
The atmosphere was magnificent, the parties were great and the food was like none I’ve had before. Even the vendors had a good selection of products.
I recall one vendor, a black woman, who sold T-shirts she designed. They were very nice, but I didn’t see the point in buying two of the same T-shirt. My friend did.
His explanation was, “My people always told me to support black businesses, so I go out of my way to buy extra when I’m at one.”
I applaud my friend and others who think like he does.
Today is the first day of Blackout 2k8, a weekend of events that are meant to encourage black students to patronize black-owned businesses.
Florida A&M University Student Government Association and Florida State University’s Black Student Union are hosting the event, which is meant to develop a sense of pride among black students about black-owned businesses.
To a large degree, it seems like blacks don’t support black businesses, have faith in them or respect them.
Most black people are big spenders - at McDonald’s, Old Navy and Zales.
If you like Burger King or Express’ clothes, good for you, but don’t neglect the black-owned restaurant just because of its owner’s race. We are too quick to patronize every business except black ones.
One does not have to subject oneself to low-quality products or substandard service just to give a fellow black person business, but nine times out of 10 this isn’t the case.
Most of the clothes we wear, phones we speak on, and jewelry we buy from stores were not made in America. Macy’s probably buys its clothes from the same factory in China as the black-owned business.
So what’s the problem?
Whenever most of us see that black guy standing on the corner of a busy intersection with the red bowtie and suit on, we lock our doors, roll up our windows and avoid making eye contact with him.
Would it hurt to see what he is selling?
There’s no good reason why there shouldn’t be more black-owned businesses on FAMU’s campus.
Pizza Hut and KFC are in the café; why can’t there be a Wilson’s BBQ and a D&Z Café there instead?
It’s important that we participate in Blackout 2k8, but more importantly we should support black-owned businesses year-round.
Siraaj Sabree is a senior newspaper journalism student from Miami. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.