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The Black Lives Matter movement has brought necessary attention to Black-owned businesses, and support for them should continue throughout this holiday season.
Held from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration of all things Black life and culture. The celebration has seven principles, one for each day. The fourth principle, Ujamaa, means cooperative economics or building up the Black community through economic empowerment. Now is the perfect time for people to empower the Black community by shopping for the holidays at Black-owned businesses.
Shoppers may choose to support these businesses due to the ongoing BLM movement, said Danielle Smith, director of the Renée Crown University Honors Program and professor of African American Studies at Syracuse University. Many people are now thinking more critically about how they spend their money, Smith said.
“It is encouraging to see that more and more people are beginning to recognize the importance of supporting these businesses and how much value they bring, not just to any specific racial, ethnic, or religious group, but to all Americans,” Smith said. “I hope that many of the events that we’ve witnessed have helped to make many Americans realize the importance of supporting these businesses.”
Black-owned businesses found themselves at the center of attention following the protests this summer, and they even became the focus of a song by Pharrell Williams and Jay-Z titled “Entrepreneur.” However, with the presidential election complete and a coronavirus vaccine becoming a reality, Black-owned businesses may be forgotten by those making their holiday gift lists.
That being said, it’s important to follow Kwanzaa’s principle of Ujamaa, which emphasizes spending one’s money with good intention. How one spends their money sends a message and can reflect their beliefs. Those who spent the summer protesting on behalf of the BLM movement should reflect this support by spending their money at Black-owned businesses.
This begins with wanting to know more about Kwanzaa as a whole, Smith said, and it could lead all Americans to a better understanding of what the celebration is and why it matters.
“I would expect, and I would hope, to see growing interest in Kwanzaa among Blacks and, again, among all Americans,” Smith said. “I think this summer has forced us, as is commonly said, to ‘reckon with our past,’ and part of that reckoning is going back to learn about some of these things, what is Kwanzaa and why is it important.”
The rise in support for Black-owned businesses has inspired many Black entrepreneurs to financially depend on their own.
“One of the things that the protests and COVID have made really clear is the high level of economic uncertainty,” Smith said. “With the loss of jobs and many, many people, especially those most vulnerable, not getting economic relief…I think people are rethinking how they can make do with very little financially. It’s an economically tenuous time for so many Americans.”
The rise of new Black-owned businesses can be seen on our own campus.
Black business owners have a renewed sense of confidence in their businesses, as shoppers have learned to “speak with their dollars” when buying holiday gifts, said SU junior Stephon Johnson, founder of the Loyalty Over Love clothing brand.
“In the long run, people are going to buy more things that people of color own, even if it’s small,” Johnson said.
Customers will see that their dollars go further at a small business than at a franchise, he said. While he hasn’t seen a massive increase in shoppers as a result of the BLM protests, he has felt a greater desire to share his brand with the public.
Black entrepreneur and SU junior Paige Adebo, who created the YouTube channel BeautyxPaige, said it’s not necessarily the protests alone that have brought attention to Black-owned businesses. Social media has also done its part in emphasizing the importance of shopping small and Black-owned.
“I think with this age of social media being such a big space, I think that helped bring recognition to Black brands, especially around now,” Adebo said.
Domonique Charles, an SU senior and founder of Basketball Royalty, LLC, said it’s important for BLM supporters to have a change of heart when it comes to Black-owned businesses. Prior to the recent focus on Black-owned businesses, Black entrepreneurs have had to deal with many negative connotations about their businesses.
“Unfortunately, there’s this stigma and this notion that Black businesses mean cheaper, not as high quality, and things of that nature,” Charles said. “It’s really frustrating because you see it in the way in which customers respond, just expecting something that they wouldn’t expect from another business.”
It’s unfortunate that consumers who aren’t familiar with Black-owned businesses may not realize that most Black entrepreneurs truly care about their craft, Charles said. But she remains hopeful that things are changing. It’s why she’s hoping that the momentum behind supporting Black-owned businesses sends a message to people to follow the Kwanzaa principle of Ujamaa.
“My hope would just be the elevation of people that look like me. I’m hoping, with us pouring back into ourselves, we’re able to show that, ‘Look we don’t need this, we don’t need everything else,’” Charles said. “Without our Black dollar, a lot of things would not get done, could not get done. This country would not run without the Black dollar or without Black people.”
The BLM movement caused many to talk about supporting more Black-owned businesses. Kwanzaa’s principle of Ujamaa should inspire holiday shoppers to be more diligent in putting their money where their mouth is.
Camille Daniels is a graduate student in the magazine, newspaper, and online journalism program. Her column appears bi-weekly. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Published on December 16, 2020 at 2:35 pm
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