Black Business Leaders Launch ‘The Black Dollar Project’ Initiative to Bridge Gap between Black Consumers and Black Businesses.
There was a strong spirit of unity on Thursday, June 5, 2014, when business owners, clergy, media outlets and community leaders gathered at Texas Southern University’s Jesse H. Jones School of Business Auditorium for the historic launch of ‘The Black Dollar Project’ and to find out more about this powerful new economic movement, originating from Houston, Texas.
‘The Black Dollar Project’ is a one-of-a-kind, business initiative created to activate ‘economic empowerment’ between businesses and consumers within the African American community in order to promote financial security, wealth building and positive growth.
The initiative was the brainchild of Karen Carter Richards (Houston Forward Times), Kehlin Farooq (Farooq Holdings, LLC) and Jeffrey L. Boney (Texas Business Alliance), who joined forces on this unique and dynamic new business initiative that has been in the works since 2008.
"When African Americans become informed and economically empowered then we can build within our community and start negotiating from a position of strength," said Richards. "‘The Black Dollar Project’ is important because it will challenge any current mindsets that go against everything we need to become stronger."
At the historic launch, ‘The Black Dollar Project’ founders discussed the rich history of early twentieth century Black Wall Street and shared how the spirit of those innovative leaders were the driving force behind their overall vision to see the Black community return to the same position of economic strength and unity they displayed in the midst of tumultuous times.
"Black Wall Street businesses and consumers gave African Americans a successful blueprint that can be followed today," said Boney. "Although we are living in a different time, we can recreate that culture by connecting Black businesses with Black consumers one dollar at a time."
The founders emphasized that Black consumers must rid themselves of the "one-chance" and "only-chance" mentality when it comes to supporting Black businesses and encouraged attendees to sign up and get engaged.
"If the perception of the Black dollar has no value, then our purchases will have no benefit," said Farooq. "‘The Black Dollar Project’ addresses the immediate need for us to change the way we view the Black dollar and the way we spend it."
Attendees were blessed to have civil rights activist Dr. Virgil Wood in the audience. Dr. Wood, who worked closely with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., has committed much of his life’s work to the struggle for economic and spiritual development among the nation’s disadvantaged.
"Five weeks before Dr. King was assassinated, we had a conversation about creating a more solid movement focused on economic development amongst the African American community," said Dr. Wood. "I am pleased tonight to know that nearly 50 years after his assassination, ‘The Black Dollar Project’ is being launched and this is the type of initiative we have needed to truly fulfill the dream that Martin shared with us. I am signing up to be a part tonight."
Pastor Manson B. Johnson, Holman Street Baptist Church delivered the invocation and several key business and community leaders delivered remarks, including guest speaker Irvin Ashford, Jr., Comerica Bank, Senior Vice President, who encouraged attendees to support the initiative, while sharing a powerful story about the lessons he learned from his grandmother and how they apply to an initiative such as this.
"My grandmother taught me to be smart, be wise, be sensible and use the tools that are available to me," said Ashford. "She also taught me to go after the low hanging fruit because it was often the best. Black businesses oftentimes get overlooked but are the best, and being a part of an initiative like this will help identify those good businesses that are prepared and ready to grow."
Ashford, a Comerica executive since 2000, emphasized that financial institutions like his are looking to do business with quality African American businesses and that being a part of an initiative like ‘The Black Dollar Project’ helps them identify more of them to do business with.
The keynote speaker for the launch event was Cheryl Pearson-McNeil, Senior Vice President, U.S. Strategic Community Alliances and Consumer Engagement at Nielsen. Through the leadership of Pearson-McNeil, Nielsen created a report called, "The African American Consumer Report," which shows the spending habits of the African American consumer. Most importantly, the report revealed and calculated the annual buying and spending power of African Americans in the U.S. and revealed that Black buying power is slated to reach a forecasted $1.3 trillion by 2017, with African Americans making up approximately 13.7% of the U.S. population.
"How many of you would give $100 to a complete stranger," asked Pearson-McNeil. "None of you raised your hands, but every day we are giving our money to complete strangers when we shop and pay bills, without having a relationship with them at all. Until we realize the power we possess with our forecasted $1.3 trillion by 2017, we will not gain the respect we deserve."
Se7en the Poet delivered a soul-stirring, original piece about the importance of supporting Black businesses and the power of the Black dollar that brought the audience to their feet.
The primary goal of ‘The Black Dollar Project’ is to assist in creating meaningful and beneficial economic empowerment in the African American community that leads to exceptional growth and sustainability. Because many African American businesses have no dedicated advertising and marketing budgets, ‘The Black Dollar Project’ allows Black businesses participating in this branded network to do so at an incredibly reasonable amount.
Black businesses participating in this initiative can join in the network at the cost of only $1 per week ($52 per year) and will have a business listing for one full calendar year. Being a part of this branded network gives Black businesses the ability to advertise and selectively target Black consumers in the same way major Fortune 500 companies and other businesses do.
‘The Black Dollar Project’ has created a marketing component that allows Black business owners to become a part of a branded network that advertises on their behalf via (print, T.V., radio, Internet, email marketing, social media, networking events, educational forums, etc.), and gives them increased exposure and an opportunity to reach consumers, primarily African American consumers, on a far greater scale.
The general marketing premise for the initiative is to drive consumers to patronize and support Black businesses, by creating ads that focus on the importance of supporting Black businesses, and through educating consumers about the impact of circulating the Black dollar within the African American community.
Every business member receives ‘Tbe Black Dollar Project’ decal that will be displayed at their place of business to identify them as a member and supporter. Studies show that when a community chooses to participate in a conscientious initiative to purposefully spend money with businesses within their own community, the probability of stimulating economic growth is increased and the community is positively affected.
Every business member in the initiative is listed on ‘The Black Dollar Project’ online directory (www.blackdollarproject.com), as well as in a specialized print directory in the Houston Forward Times every month. In addition, every business will have the opportunity to purchase additional and upgraded advertising options at a discounted rate.
Black businesses will be challenged to operate their businesses at the highest levels of quality and customer service. Black businesses will also be challenged to do business with other Black businesses, create new jobs and support institutions within the African American community, which will help them grow and build capacity.
Through solid partnerships with business and community empowerment organizations, faith-based institutions, elected officials and media outlets and through a solid partnership with business organizations, such as the Texas Business Alliance, along with partnerships with media outlets such as the Houston Forward Times.
Black businesses and Black consumers will be educated and empowered through monthly forums and connection events, where Black consumers will learn to become more conscientious about their spending choices and provide training for Black businesses to help ensure they provide quality customer service offerings that Black consumers deserve. Doing this will help the African American community become financially self-sufficient and consistently provide residents better services without having to ask someone else to assist in bettering the community.
‘The Black Dollar Project’ will encourage its members to 1) provide quality customer service to the community it serves, 2) utilize other Black businesses in the network for their business and personal needs, 3) support non-profits and initiatives within the community through philanthropy and volunteerism and 4) encourage others to join and grow this branded network.
It is time for the African American community to rebuild the economic foundation designed as a successful blueprint for us to follow, and begin to support and grow Black businesses, so that the Black community can thrive and function as a self-sustaining community, just like the men and women of Black Wall Street did.
For more information about this initiative, please visit the website at www.blackdollarproject.com.