• Kierstin Tonic

Hit Them in the Pockets! Black Out Day 2020 and the Power of the Black Dollar

Updated: Jul 25, 2020

The latest incidents of systemic and institutional racism brought global recognition to the injustices still faced by Black Americans. The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery sparked protests, marches, and conversations. One particular video challenged people to think deeper and realize that this is going to be a marathon and not a sprint. It urged us to educated ourselves on the power of Black American spending and how it impacts our nation.

In the original video, outraged by yet another injustice against a Black citizen, Calvin Martyr asks the questions that spark a movement, “Where do we go from here?...When will actually formulate together and like our ancestors and formulate together like our ancestors did?...The only way as a people that we will get any change is if we unite, solidarity, with the dollar.”

His call to action started with one day (7/7/2020) of suspending purchasing from any and all businesses that were not Black owned to show that our spending is disproportionate to our population. Black Americans spend $1.2 trillion annually in the U.S. but make up only 14% of the overall population. They have the most influence over spending in categories including (but not limited to) hygiene products, bottled water, and non-essentials like cologne and jewelry. The numbers are expected to hit $1.5 trillion by 2021. To stop spending even for just one day would certainly shake up the economy. And it did…

With support from One United Bank, the largest Black owned bank in the country, $2 million Americans registered to also support the #blackout2020 movement. It gained national and global attention from those who agreed that there is power in Black dollars. Celebrities like Rhianna, T.I., Cardi B, and Tristan Thompson stepped up in solidarity. Additionally, Black owned businesses saw a significant increase in patronage.

Some criticized that this movement was going to cause a deeper divide essentially warranting segregation. Others believe that one day was not enough. On the blackoutday.org website Martyr addresses both notions:

“Although this movement is exclusively targeted at empowering and uplifting black people all over the world, we welcome ALL people of color to stand with us in solidarity. Black people alone account for an estimated 1.2 trillion dollars or more of spending in the economy annually. Together we have 3.9 trillion dollars in economic spending power. While we welcome allies, who choose to stand with us, we make absolutely no apology for the fact this movement is FOR US & BY US.”

“This is only the beginning of a lifelong pursuit of economic empowerment as a reality for ALL BLACK PEOPLE. United, we are an unstoppable force. We are a nation of people within this nation that at any time can demand our liberation by withholding our dollars. If we can do it for a day, we can do it for a week, a month, a quarter, a year…and one day we will look up and it will be a way of life.”

This movement has created a new awareness to the power and influence we have as a culture. It has shed light on the fact that there is and urgency to educate and comprehend where we stand in this nation economically and how there is a need to build generational wealth to sustain us as a people.

The movement is far from over. If you would like to learn more and participate here are a few suggestions:

1. Support Black Owned Businesses. – Use websites and apps such as webuyblack.com and supportblackowned.com to locate goods and services produced by Black owned businesses. Start with your everyday items and research businesses to patronize.

2. Go to the blackoutday.org website and register to organize in your city. – Click the “Take Action” button to fill out the form and choose how you would like to raise awareness in your hometown.

3. Follow hashtags such as, #blackownedbusiness, #supportblackbusiness. – These hashtags will lead you to a plethora of businesses to support.

4. Join social media groups and pages that highlight Black Owned Businesses. – Be part of the conversation and join groups dedicated to increasing our presence in the economy of our nation.

Although protesting and marching are effective tools in the fight for equality and justice, it is time for the movement to reach a new level. Time, patience, education, dialogue, and unity are crucial at this stage. We need more people like Calvin Martyr who are willing to use their knowledge and skill to step up and lead in all areas of this fight. The issue of systemic, institutionalized, generational racism will not be solved overnight, but we must keep our foot on the gas to produce change.

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