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data on African American consumers
Black Buying Power:
$679 Billion (2004)
Black U.S. Population:
Top Five Black Cities
- New York
Top Five Black Metros:
- New York-New Jersey
- Los Angeles
Top Five Expenditures:
- Housing 110.2 bil.
- Food 53.8 bil.
- Cars/Trucks 28.7 bil.
- Clothing 22.0 bil.
- Health Care 17.9 bil.
Click here for more stats from "The Buying Power of
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Click here to go to African-American Census Bureau
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Remembering Montgomery, wielding black economic power
is the first installment of a four-part series.
Click here to read the additional stories.]
(November 28, 2005) A half a century ago this week, blacks in Montgomery,
Alabama sent a message by keeping the money they normally spent on bus
transportation to themselves as part of a year-long boycott.
The move -- which, in essence, crippled the city’s major transit system,
was a bold one. Blacks, fed up with mistreatment from the separate and
unequal system of the Jim Crow era, knew the power their money wielded,
and they weren’t afraid to do without to see that change was made.
Today, a similar movement could happen, but there are other ways to make
the voices of our community heard by the powers that be, some say.
Stephen Washington, president of the Cleveland-based Black Wealth Network,
BlackAmericaWeb.com that a sit-out or one-day ban on
buying a particular item or shopping at a particular store could work
temporarily, but blacks could gain greater benefits by becoming owners,
not just consumers.
than a boycott] what would be even more interesting to me would be sort of
unified focus on accumulating ownership in areas where we’re strongly
affected,” said Washington, founder and managing director of the Black
Wealth Network, an online investing company. “In other words, we need to
be buying stock in companies where we as African-Americans have a large
Industries such as sneakers, cosmetics and clothing apparel, Washington
said, thrive off of the black dollar, with African-Americans making
upwards of 25 percent of their customers, while only making up roughly 13
percent of the nation’s population.
“Why not accumulate ownership in those industries so that you benefit as
much as those who benefit from being an owner?” Washington asked, pointing
out that, with the large numbers of blacks spending hundreds of dollars on
Nike shoes, the impact made from those same blacks becoming shareholders
in the company would be phenomenal.
The only hurdle, Washington said, is that most major corporations aren’t
making it known that investors are welcome.
“Companies who know their customers well put some effort to reaching those
customers through advertising, but what they don’t do is market the
opportunities to become an investor,” Washington said, adding that most
publicly-traded companies will hire consultants to target investors, an
outreach tool rarely used amongst the black community.
“These big companies know that when you become an investor, you have a
say-so. An owner is a lot more powerful than a customer,” Washington said.
“To me, we should unify around those areas as an ownership group. That
way, we would have a tangible benefit from a collective as opposed to a
The symbolic gestures, Washington said, are good for temporary gains, but
the long-haul requires something more forceful than a boycott. With
today’s world much different than the one Rosa Parks lived in 50 years
ago, similar action created after her arrest might not be as effective,
“You could prove a point,” Washington said, adding that businesses would
realize that the black customer base is needed. “But beyond proving a
point, what did you really get out of it?”
Melissa Harris Lacewell, Ph.D., a political science professor at the
University of Chicago, said the Montgomery bus boycott wasn’t successful
because it was the first time such a stand had been taken. In fact, she
said, similar actions had been made by blacks in many southern cities for
decades prior to Montgomery. What made it a success, Harris Lacewell said,
was leadership, something that would be needed today to truly show the
power of the black dollar.
“When we think about what caused the success of Montgomery, it’s not just
the idea of boycotting or power of the dollar; it was a variety of
factors,” Harris Lacewell
BlackAmericaWeb.com, acknowledging the well-oiled machine
run by a young Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the even-tempered
personality of an ordinary woman like Parks.
Today, blacks would largely have more success on a local level, rather
than attempting to wholeheartedly boycott a national chain, Harris
Lacewell said, due largely to the growing diversity within our own
community. With upper, middle and lower class black residential areas in
just about every major city, it could be difficult to have the same level
of accountability for blacks when attempting to make companies see the
true power of the black dollar.
“Our capital is much broader today, and boycotts at major levels require a
great deal of accountability. You simply need to be able to hold one
another accountable,” Harris Lacewell said. “You’ve got to be prepared to
look at your neighbor, look at the person next to you in the church pew
and hold them accountable.”
Because things have changed so much over the last 50 years, Harris
Lacewell said, there is a price to pay when granted the same privileges as
members of other races.
“When you look at where the black dollars are spent, the vast majority is
spent like white dollars,” Harris Lacewell said. “The only dollars really
spent solely within our community are at barber shops and beauty salons.
We tend to buy clothes, food and other things like other Americans."
She credited people like radio personality Tom Joyner for urging blacks to
take action with their wallets against national chains like CompUSA and
John Deere. But in a society where blacks presumably have as much access
as whites, she said, that pressure can only go so far.
“This is part of the blessing and the curse of having so much more
opportunity [than in the past],” Harris Lacewell said, adding that, for
the most part, the major audience that companies target -- blacks 25 and
under -- are often hard-pressed to find a cause their willing to stand up
“What sort of racial issue would move the 25-year-old African-American
consumer to change their spending habits?” Harris Lacewell asked, yet not
chalking all the responsibility on this particular group.
“We tend to think they’re apathetic, but they just don’t have a clear
sense of where things lie,” she said. “In this transition, our civil
rights organizations have done a bad job of really defining the issues for
Washington agreed, adding that our best bet for making a serious dent in
any corporation is by joining in on the party.
“[During the civil rights era], they used economics to achieve political
goals,” Washington said. “Now, I think it’s harder to do that. It would be
more effective to use that same unity to actually redirect dollars in a
way to bring the economic benefit to you.”
Bus systems across the nation
to pay tribute to late civil rights icon
28, 2005) Dozens of bus systems nationwide, including
Philadelphia's and Pittsburgh's, will pay tribute to civil rights icon
Rosa Parks on Thursday, the 50th anniversary of the day she refused to
give up her seat on a Montgomery, Ala., bus to a white man.
In Philadelphia, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority
will decorate the interior and exterior of one bus with posters honoring
Parks. Middle school students will write comments about the significance
of her actions on the exterior posters, and the bus will then be put into
regular service for several weeks.
In Pittsburgh, the Port Authority of Allegheny County buses will feature a
decal next to the first forward-facing seat on the driver's side of each
bus. The decal includes a picture of Parks along with the declaration:
"She refused to move. And changed the course of history."
On Metropolitan Transportation Authority buses in New York City and Long
Island, the seat behind the driver will be symbolically reserved for the
late Parks, whose act of disobedience and subsequent arrest prompted a bus
boycott and proved a major turning point in the country's civil rights
Above the seat there will be a poster of Parks, who died Oct. 24 at age
92, with the saying, "It All Started on a Bus," The New York Times
reported in Wednesday editions.
The authority also will leave on the headlights of some 6,000 buses to
commemorate the day.
Westchester County, N.Y., buses, including one that was previously named
for Parks, will also keep a seat vacant in her honor, the county announced
Wednesday. A flyer on the empty seat will explain the observance.
Other bus systems expected to pay tribute to Parks include those in
Boston, Cleveland, Montgomery, Newark and Washington, D.C.
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'Buying Power' report shows black consumers spending more on home life
As the American economy continues to move sluggishly,
African-American households are curtailing their spending in many
categories, including food, clothing and basic household items, while
investing more in home repair, home entertainment and consumer
electronics. Although they are trimming back, black consumers are still
spending more than their white counterparts on most of these products.
According to the newest edition of “The Buying Power of Black America”
report, African-American households are tightening their belts when it
comes to dining out, expanding their wardrobes, and leisure activities out
of the home. At the same time, they are increasing their spending on home
repairs and remodeling, audio and...
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