As I look forward to what is to come in 2015, I am excited and very optimistic about what the future holds. 2014 was the beginning of a personal economic movement for me. In April 2014, I put a challenge to all who had attended the Austin African American Business Networking Association’s black business summit to meet me that following Saturday on the corner of Lake and Pulaski to shop with a black-owned business (Subway).
I remember being frustrated and telling those attending the summit that all of our talking did not mean anything if we were not prepared to spend money together. I had made up in my mind that whoever I did not see on that coming Saturday that I was done with them. I just felt like I needed some type of victory. As small as it may have seemed, the call to shop together was the beginning of my eyes becoming open to the power of collective economics.
While in a strategy meeting with Rev. Ira Acree and others, the pastor insisted that we needed a name, something we could use to call attention to what we were about to attempt.
After we kicked around a few titles, we decided on Black Economic Empowerment Rally. Mr. Willie Thompson of the Black Construction Alliance pointed out to those in the meeting that the acronym for our movement spelled out BEER.
It was so organic that Pastor Acree sat up in his chair and said, “I like it! Better yet, join us for a BEER. Yes sir, we will pique a lot of people’s interest with that.”
When Saturday was upon us, I was a little concerned about whether people were really going to show up, and if they would spend any money.
I am pleased to tell you that black people came together as I have never seen before. We spent more than $1,500 in two hours, and others came by the black-owned Subway throughout the course of a month. There were people from as far away as South Holland, who came by just to spend their money with a black business.
As 2014 ends and we start 2015 anew I am more excited than ever at what we will accomplish collectively. I now get calls from business owners, as well as consumers, asking how they can be a part of this BEER concept.
In my mind’s eye I can see a transformation of black people spending their dollars locally. I can see people opening businesses in our communities. I see a sports grill, a coffee/Italian ice shop and new streetscape; also a convenience store owned and operated by us. I also see an emerging business training center, and much more.
The overall theme of 2015 for me is “take the risk; the ordinary just won’t do.”
My hope for us as a people is that we develop a collective voice. I know that we will not agree on everything, but as a community we can agree on some things. We have control over whom we spend our money with, and we must hold them accountable.
Malcolm Crawford is executive director of Austin African American Business Networking Association (AAABNA), and co-owner of Sankofa Cultural Arts & Business Center with his wife, Stacia.