Covering the WestSide as it is today and Challenging everyone to become involve as we move into the future.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
The Anderson family - John, Maggie and daughters Cara and Cori - are "shopping black" for 2009. FILE 2009/Staff
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
'Empowerment Experiment' is about self-help
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
I have a different criterion for buying what I need vs. buying what I want. When I buy what I need, I go out of my way to try to find something that was made in America - especially when it comes to houseware items for the kitchen and bath.
If the American economy is to remain strong, we have to support the remaining manufacturers in this country. I have found Pyrex products, Sterlite Plastics containers and rugs for the bathroom that are still made here. I found an entire Web site devoted to products made in this country, and I'm linking to it at my blog. Is there anyone in this country who can be mad at me for making that decision? Most likely no.
I thought about that last week Wednesday, I had the pleasure of being invited by the Kellogg Business School's Black Alumni Association to a reception they held for John and Maggie Anderson. To refresh your memory, they are the Oak Park couple who announced about a year ago that they would only buy from black businesses for one year. And just like I go out of my way to buy products made in America, they were going out of their way to spend their money with black businesses. How could anyone have a problem with that? But guess what? Some people did.
The Andersons have been continuously dogged out by some because of their decision. I am amazed at whites who holler and call their Empowerment Experiment (EE) racist. Every ethnic group in this country has made their community a success by pooling their resources, supporting each other and building wealth by shopping and networking amongst themselves. Yet when blacks espouse the same, it is somehow reverse racism. Why?
It wasn't long ago that the constant retort a lot of black people got from whites was about "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps." Those whites would smugly recount how their immigrant ancestors had come to this country with nothing, didn't know the language and, one generation later, were successful. Well, I too can recall the days of thriving black businesses that could rival any other. I look back a generation and see a once-vibrant black economic force of Johnson Products, Soft-Sheen hair care, R.L. Dukes' Oldsmobile dealership, etc. ... all gone. I never saw the Cortez Peters Business School when it was on West Madison, but as a child I was so proud that a black man could type 225 words per minute.
Now within this same community, we have children growing up and during their entire childhood, they have never seen a business owned by a black person. Something is very wrong with that picture.
All the social programs and all the rhetoric in the world cannot save the black community until we save ourselves. And the first life-rope we need is to support the quality black-owned businesses that are in existence. It is an absolute disgrace that we can have a mega-church taking up an entire block and not have a grocery store on its first floor. It is a sin to spend the amount of money we do on hair care, yet almost every beauty supply store is owned by people who don't have black hair. It is the epitome of stupidity to listen while some blacks proudly say they won't patronize black-owned businesses while never asking themselves what if their employer looked at them and felt the same way.
Someone wrote on my blog that they feel offended by any sign that says "black owned." Well, I wonder if they feel as offended seeing the flag of Mexico on every Mexican restaurant or Chinese characters on every Chinese restaurant or the Italian flag on pizza places. I'll answer the question and say no. Those groups open up businesses in every community and never once are they concerned that their ventures won't be patronized by everyone in the area. Most whites shop with other whites because they own the businesses in their neighborhood. What the Andersons are doing with their EE is to get black people to do the same.
For the past four years, I have been doing my own version of the EE on a much smaller scale. I decided I would find a black manufactured product and support it over any other. My choice, Nubian Heritage Black Seed Soap. The product is 100% natural, smells good, leaves my skin feeling soft and smooth and is my small way of ensuring they get my money before anyone else does.
So to those who criticize what the Andersons are doing with their EE, if blacks don't support blacks businesses, who else will?
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Arlene Jones' Biography
I was born in Chicago. I grew up in Cabrini Green. I attended Wells Sr High, the University of Illinois at Chicago Circle where I majored in Spanish and minored in Education. I have a diploma in Computer Programming.
I moved to Austin when I purchased a home here. I have two children.
I have been active in the community since moving here. I started with my blockclub. In the early 1990s, I worked with several people to try and form the North Austin Homeowners Association. I even went on patrol with a group of people who had a walkie talkie car patrol of the neighborhood.
As with most programs in the AA community, many factors led to the demise of those groups. Lack of support from elected officials was at the top of the list.
There were several people who had a group and we met out of DaVinci Manor. DaVinci Manor was at the corner of North Ave and Central where Walgreen now stands. Again there was very little interest in saving that building and our community lost a beautiful hall.
I have protested the state of the Central Ave bridge. I worked with Leola Spann and did many a smoke out including one in the 1500 block of North Lorel where drug paraphenalia layed on the ground. I have over the years here in Austin worked with the following groups at one point or another:
Northeast Austin Organization (Mary Volpe, Tom Hosea);
Northwest Austin Council;
Brotherhood of Black Men;
Westside Health Authority;
Every Block A Village;
25th District Housing Committee;
African American Employees at the Merchandise Mart (AAEMM);
Lafollette Park Advisory Council;
Garfield Park Conservatory Advisory Council;
Westside Executive Advisory Council;
Austin Landmark Cultural Center;
Concerned Citizens of East Garfield Park
and so many others that it gets hard to remember.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing. -- Malcolm X