AFRICANGLOBE – This past Saturday, October 18th was a sight to remember, as members of the Black Dollar Project gathered together on the steps of the historic St. John MBC on Dowling to re-create the Black Wall Street photo. The same spirit and unity captured on the faces of the individuals in the Black Wall Street photo could only be emulated by a like-minded movement with people who embodies the same spirit as those in the photo – that movement is the Black Dollar Project.
The Black Dollar Project was created to address the need for stronger business relationships and alliances through commerce in the African American community between business owners and consumers that spearheads steady economic growth and empowerment. Studies show that when a community chooses to participate in a conscientious initiative to support businesses in their own community by purposefully spending money with those businesses and stimulating economic growth, then the community is positively affected.
Black business members were full of excitement as they were able to create their own Black history as a part of this important and exciting movement. Over 50 members of the Black Dollar Project were on hand to take part in the historic photo and record a video where every member said in powerful voice of unison, “I Am The Black Dollar Project!”
“What a privilege it is to be a part of such greatness,” said 22-year old Dimitri Ferrier, Founder and CEO of The Ferrier Youth & Family Center. “Besides receiving my first check from a client, I must say that being amongst a group of Black business owners on the steps of St. John Church as we recreated the historical Black Wall Street Photo as a part of the Black Dollar Project is one of my most exciting moments as a proud Black business owner.”
Prior to the picture being taken, Black Dollar Project members began networking with one another, exchanging ideas and business cards and even solidifying business opportunities. It was a beautiful scene as the spirit of Black Wall Street and the spirit that birthed the Black Dollar Project were being put on display before each and every one of their eyes.
Black Wall Street was the name given to Greenwood Avenue, located in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Starting in 1910, this 35 square block area was both admired and envied by individuals, far and wide, because of the continuous circulation of the Black dollar within the Black community. Their commitment to supporting their own community helped them produce a number of prosperous and wealthy Black families, as well as a vibrant African American community. The thing that made Black Wall Street so historic and powerful, is the fact the Black dollar circulated anywhere from 36 to 1000 times in the African American community; sometimes taking an entire year before any money even left the African American community.
By 1921, the population of Black Wall Street had reached 11,000 and the community had its own bus line, thirteen churches, four hotels, three drug stores, two high schools, two theaters, two newspapers, one hospital and a public library. In addition to that, they built nearly 200 two- and three-story brick commercial buildings that housed professional offices for lawyers, doctors and dentists, clothing stores, grocery stores, nightclubs, restaurants and motels. Black Wall Street had become a strong commercial community.
Because African Americans invested their own dollars back into their own community, it produced a sense of accomplishment, pride and self-sufficiency. African Americans had been subjected to segregationist policies during the early 1900’s, therefore Black people were forced to live amongst each other, shop and spend money with one another. Since African Americans could not live amongst Whites or patronize their businesses in Tulsa, there was a forced interaction that caused Black people to purposefully support one another, which caused Black Wall Street to thrive to the point where Blacks were able to develop their own separate and self-sufficient business community.
Unfortunately, because of their continuous success and strength, Black Wall Street became the envy of America – particularly amongst Whites. Sadly, the worst act of racial violence in American history occurred on June 1, 1921, when Black Wall Street was burned to the ground by a mob of angry Whites; this after local newspaper reports wrongly claimed that a Black shoeshine boy named Dick Rowland had sexually assaulted a 17-year-old White girl named Sarah Page, who was working as the elevator operator in the Drexel building on May 30, 1921.
According to the most accepted accounts, Rowland attempted to enter the elevator and tripped. While falling, Rowland allegedly latched on Page’s arm, which caused her to scream. A White clerk in a first-floor store called police to report seeing Rowland flee from the elevator and the building and went on to report the incident as an attempted assault. Rowland was arrested the next day, on May 31, 1921 and a White lynch mob decided they would take matters in their own hands and tried to kill Rowland. These actions, and the Black community’s attempt to protect Rowland, led to one of the most intentional genocides of Black people in American history.
The African American community of Black Wall Street was attacked and during the night and day of the assault, deputized Whites killed more than 300 African Americans. They looted and burned to the ground 40 square blocks of 1,265 African American homes, including hospitals, schools, and churches, and destroyed 150 businesses. White deputies and members of the National Guard arrested and detained 6,000 Black citizens of Tulsa who were only released if a White employer or White citizen vouched for them. Nearly ten-thousand African Americans were left homeless and lived in tents well into the winter of 1921. The case against Rowland was eventually dismissed and Page did not want to proceed with pressing charges and decided not to prosecute the case.
After the Tulsa riot, White inhabitants tried to buy the property from African Americans and force them out of town. No bank or lending institution would make loans to African American residents from Black Wall Street and the city of Tulsa refused to allow anybody from the outside to offer them any assistance. Seeking to rebuild and restore their once prosperous neighborhood, many of the owners refused to sell and most of the buildings along the first block of Greenwood Avenue were rebuilt within one year.
Unfortunately, no other African American community has been able to consistently replicate the economic strength and fortitude exhibited during the times of Black Wall Street, although many attempts have been made. That is why the Black Dollar Project was formed. In order to get back to the same level of strength, as that of Black Wall Street, Black businesses must change their current business model and seek to establish meaningful connections with Black consumers, many of which have no dedicated loyalty with their dollars. Having a collective voice and a systematic approach to bridging the gap between Black consumers and the Black business community is the key. The Black Dollar Project is that vehicle.
There has been a tremendous disconnect between Black businesses and Black consumers ever since the days of Black Wall Street. One of the biggest complaints Black businesses have expressed is that Black consumers don’t patronize them. One of the biggest responses Black consumers give is that they would possibly support a Black business if they knew who they were and where to find them.
The Black Dollar Project’s primary goal is to assist in creating meaningful and beneficial economic empowerment in the African American Community that leads to exceptional growth and sustainability. African Americans businesses will finally be able to advertise and target the African American consumer the same way that Fortune 500 companies do, without having to have a significant advertising budget.
Through a solid partnership with business organizations, along with partnerships with media outlets, the initiative will drive Black consumers to become more conscious about spending their money and supporting Black businesses and allow Black consumers to receive better services to their community without waiting or asking someone else to assist in bettering that community.
After the photo, the Houston Forward Times hosted a brunch event for the members of the Black Dollar Project. Black Dollar Project founders shared words with attendees and informed members of upcoming events. They allowed members to share information about their years in business and solicited Black Dollar Project members to share ideas to help grow the network. Black Dollar Project members were encouraged to get involved in newly formed committees and help spread the Black Dollar Project movement to all geographical areas of town with heavy concentrations of African American businesses located there.
Black businesses participating in this initiative can join the Black Dollar Project network for 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 the Black Dollar Project decal that will be displayed at their place of business to identify them as a member and supporter. 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.
Joining the Black Dollar Project is simple. To become a member of the Black Dollar Project network and get involved, you can join at www.blackdollarproject.com or call 713.589.4880.