I left the panel discussion of the Steward Speakers Series on Oct. 29 fired up. The kickoff event for the 2020 series focused on economics — a change in the plan. Originally, the dialogue would focus on politics, economics, culture and religion, but moderator Roland Martin made it clear economics would be the sole focus.
He opened by saying when asking about the top five issues facing African Americans, money or economics is always mentioned last when it should be mentioned first. I’m guilty of this. I started thinking about my columns and how much I focus on social justice but not economics and economic justice, although I speak about it at length privately. In my mind economics is implied since we can’t do anything without money. However, we need to be explicit and overt about economics.
The Recorder, African American Coalition of Indianapolis and Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance recently held a Black agenda town hall and economics came in second in the top five. So, we’re on the right track in Indianapolis!
Several startling statistics were shared throughout the night. The Black dollar circulates three to six hours in our community. That’s it. Hours. In other communities the dollar circulates in their communities for days — 28-30 for the Jewish and Asian communities, and 14 for the Hispanic community.
This tells me supporting Black-owned businesses is nothing but talk for many of us. I’ve seen it firsthand now that I’m editor of the fourth-oldest Black-owned newspaper in the country. I’ve been disappointed in the lack of support our community gives this historic newspaper. And, I’m not speaking about just subscribing. I’m talking about the big money — advertising. Since my return, I’ve been appalled at how many people balk at supporting this paper through advertising. Compared to other media outlets, we’re a bargain! I’ve been surprised at how many people take this paper for granted in a day and age where newspapers are folding left and right. Our people constantly ask and expect us to make concessions no one would ask the Indianapolis Star to make.
As I listened to the panelists discuss how we must self-fund and sustain businesses in our community, I couldn’t help but keep coming back to the Recorder. Let’s be clear: this isn’t about me trying to keep my job. Most of my career has been outside of the Recorder, so it’s not about me. It’s about recognizing the value of this newspaper. It’s sad that those with means and understanding of valuable assets don’t value this paper and its history. We’re not perfect, and I’m sure critics abound, but if we’re not here, what will you criticize? Tell me where Black people can find news specifically geared toward Black people 52 weeks a year. Tell me where there’s another 124-year-old Black-owned business in this city. I really want to know because that business needs recognition as well! Do we realize how difficult it is for a Black-owned business, let alone a newspaper, to exist for 124 years?
Before integration we patronized businesses in our neighborhoods and community; we didn’t have a choice. After integration we spread out into other neighborhoods and took our dollars with us. It’s hard for Black businesses to survive and yet we make it more challenging by taking our business outside of our community — and we allow others to set up shop in our neighborhoods, spend our money with them while Black-owned stores close and then we complain about not being treated right and not having anything Black owned when we consistently show we don’t support our own.
Let’s put our money where our mouths are.