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Black Dollar Day event makes vital sales pitch

Two months after African-Americans lauded the idea of doing for self and economically supporting one another – key principles of Kwanzaa – they get the chance to convert the rhetoric into action.

Saturday’s first annual Black Dollar Day Bazaar takes aim at the notion that African-Americans – as well as other marginalized groups – spend relatively little of their income with one another, and thus do little to support the businesses that can hire and contract within the group to build up group wealth.

In fact, it is often said that black dollars recirculate in the African-American community only six hours, compared with 28 days in the Asian community and 19 days in the Jewish community. When Howard University’s looked into the numbers, it could find no study documenting such figures, even after tracking down authors who have used the stats in their books.

Still, even those who dismiss the six-hour figure as an “urban myth” agree that more of the $1.2 trillion that African-Americans dole out every year could be spent with black businesses.

So why isn’t it?

Answers range from the belief that the quality of white products is inherently superior – a delusion exposed in the phrase “the white man’s ice is colder” – to the suspicion that prices will be higher or the service won’t be as professional. Such stereotypes can have their roots in experience, but lousy service is not confined to any one group.

“That comes no matter what the race or ethnicity. But for some reason, the stigma just sticks with us more, unfortunately, and we’re less forgiving,” said Stephanie Foreman, a board member of the Urban

Chamber of Commerce, the primary sponsor of Saturday’s event to give minority firms more exposure.
Up to 25 businesses will set up from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the chamber’s headquarters at 1325 Main St.

One of those will be ISB Family Travel, where owner Evelyn Foreman (an in-law of Stephanie’s) describes another challenge facing small black businesses: expectations of the “hookup.” Some black customers expect black entrepreneurs to give them unrealistic discounts that no business can afford and that they would never expect from a travel agency such as AAA.

“That’s part of the conversation I have upfront,” said Foreman, who will save travelers money wherever she can, but notes that “I’m more about quality.”

Another obstacle can be size, which is what Anita Sanders runs into when her Trace Assets Protection Service bids on security contracts against large corporations. Networking at events can be invaluable, she said, and is how she won contracts at Canalside and at McCarley Gardens apartments.

But because of overhead differences, small firms often have to bid a little higher than corporations, something that often is not taken into account when proposals are sought.

“That’s a huge obstacle,” said Sanders, who provides both armed and unarmed guards and sees a growing need for security services as projects such as the Northland Corridor and the redevelopment of Central Park Plaza take off.

Other businesses on hand Saturday provide everything from clothing and jewelry to desserts and hair and skin care products.

But offering such products is one thing. Getting the community to buy from them, and thereby create jobs and wealth and lessen the dependence on government, is another. With all of the other obstacles that these entrepreneurs face, their own people should not be one of them.

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