Thomas Sheffield

The unemployment rate fell again last month. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. gained 209,000 jobs and the unemployment rate is fell to 4.3 percent. However, according to, the unemployment rate for the Black community was 7.7 percent. It seems the jobs we are able to get are minimum wage jobs and are entry level, despite our education level. Many of us are unemployed or underemployed. What can we do to reap the rewards from this economic upturn? Two key ways are to start supporting more local businesses and to create your own.

There are many reasons for supporting local businesses. When you support local businesses, significantly more of that money stays in the community. Studies show $68 of every $100 spent stays in the community, compared to only $43 of each $100 spent at a chain retailer. Buying local gives you better customer service that is more personalized, because you know the people behind the businesses. Shopping locally also adds value by making your community special by giving it flavor. The sights, smells and sounds re what will keep the community thriving. The local businesses also tend to hire local employees. That could be you, your kids or neighbors.

I encourage every one to start thinking of what you can do to bring value to the community. Technology has made it easier to get your side hustle started to help create your own destiny. Create your own economic upturn by offering services to your friends, neighbors and church. Ride sharing with Uber or Lyft, babysitting, baking and car detailing are small jobs that take little startup money. I find everyone wants to save time, so you could offer services to help people do it. You may want to cook meals, grocery shop or run other errands for people in your spare time. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. You will be surprised how much extra money you can make by helping others.

I realize for many of us, it is easier said than done. We are busy trying to figure out how to make it to next payday. How are we to make enough to pay for gas, food and to keep a roof over our heads? Low-income families already spend a higher proportion of their income on food, energy, transportation and health needs than higher-income families do. Now that school has started, a different set of problems arises. It can get overwhelming. We should not have to play catch up, but white America had a 400-year head start. Some seem against helping us get caught up, with cuts in education and fights to repeal affirmative action. All we have is time and our faith in God. But as Fannie Hamer said, “You can pray until you faint, but unless you get up and try to do something, God is not going to put it in your lap.”

If you have ideas on how to do better and capitalize on your opportunities, please feel free to contact me Or you can follow me on Twitter @tcsheff.

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