While driving on North Avenue, I noticed a sign that caught my eye. It was so disturbing I had to turn my car around to see if I had just seen what I thought I had seen. But I would have been late for a meeting, so I decided to come back after my meeting to see if my suspicions were true.
Those who know me know I am a man who tries with all I have in me to spend every dime I have with those African-American business owners who defy the odds to open and sustain their businesses. Sometimes it doesn’t matter if the price is a little higher than others. I have made a conscious decision to help in every way I can, Maybe I feel this way because I own a business and have owned businesses and know that no one-no one white, brown, or black-is going to give you a break.
Statistics show that African-Americans spend 94 percent of their dollars with others. That leaves us who open our businesses in our own neighborhoods to fight for 6 percent of the African-American dollar and less than one percent of others who spend money.
Knowing the odds that are against us and seeing this sign on North Avenue, I was both shocked and sad and wondering what happened. The sign read, “Under New Management.” It was located at the once black-owned Subway at the corner of North Avenue and Austin. I would always go in and feel a sense of pride just to see black folk working for themselves. I would see the father, Mr. Jackson, and his sons and other family members working together. I may not have known anything going on in the background, but I love to see entrepreneurship in motion. I also know the only ones who hire blacks to work are other blacks. I passed by today, and I did not see one black face working.
The phenomenon of blacks going out of business is something that has to change. Do we not understand there is a higher rate of employment among Hispanics in the African-American community than African-Americans? The reason is they employ their own! They are trying to sustain their families. What is going on? We need to come up with strategies to open more black-owned businesses in our community, not watch as they go out of business. We need to go to our elected officials with a plan for them to implement on behalf of black folk.
We have a black caucus who should be representing black issues. Just as blacks are the only ones who shop in black communities, blacks are also the ones who vote for black elected officials. Those who believe they can make it without their black constituency are sadly mistaken.
As we go into another year we have to come up with a plan on all levels-our church leaders, our business owners, and our elected officials-to see what can we do this year to help black businesses in our community. If the City of Chicago can give Wal-Mart $14 million of taxpayer money, then why can’t they do more to help small black businesses?
By the way, Wal-Mart’s first year sales were reported at $55 million at the North Avenue location. If the City can come up with all kinds of creative ways to help developers, such as creating Tax Increment Financing districts, then I know there has to be a way to help us help ourselves.
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