Student Life

Black History Month: Black money and activism

Exercising your economic power to put your money where your culture is

Black History Month is upon us and I’ve got one question for you, dear reader: where is your money going? Black people all over North America spend this month bringing light to the horrible atrocities that were faced in the name of “building a republic.” In order to carve a better future, one must never forget their past; and in the case of black Canadians, they stand on the shoulders of giants. Men and women who persevered throughout the most unimaginable situations are now revered and fondly remembered.

When one thinks of slavery and Canada, it’s easy to think about how this country was the final destination of the Underground Railroad—the escape route many American slaves used, led by the fearless Harriet Tubman. However, allow me to shatter this perception of Canada.

In an article written by Joshua Ostroff published in the Huffington Post, historian Afua Cooper is quoted saying, “slavery was the dominant condition of life for black people in this country for well over 200 years. We’ve been enslaved for longer than we’ve been free.” Although slavery was abolished in Canada in 1834, so many black Canadians are still in bondage when it comes to their finances. So again, dear reader, I ask: where is your money going?

What was once regarded as trivial and inconsequential has grown to influence economic markets worldwide. The present-day black consumer has more power and influence with their $1 bill today than ever before—but this same consumer may be more ignorant about said influence.

Pioneers of the Civil Rights and Black Panther movements were aware of their influence, as evident through their actions. Robert E. Weems, in his article “The Trillion Dollar African American Consumer Market: Economic Empowerment or Economic Dependency?,” writes: “The Montgomery (Alabama) Bus Boycott of 1955-1956 remains the model instance of organized black consumer activism. One cannot overemphasize the resolve demonstrated by Montgomery’s black community during this action. The widespread publicity given black Montgomery’s ultimately successful campaign for respect and dignity subsequently emboldened blacks throughout the South to follow New York Congressman Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.’s advice to ‘withhold the dollar to make the white man holler.’” Black consumers put their money where their mouths were, and it paid off.

During this month where we take the time to remember our past, I implore you to support black businesses and ensure our future presence within the economic scene. It makes no sense that the majority of hair product stores in Montreal—where, in my experience, most of the shoppers are black people—are owned by East Asians; and hair is just the tip of the iceberg of products black people consume that others have a monopoly over.

Support black businesses. Put your money back into black businesses. Small ones, big ones, Mom & Pop’s, and everything in between. A quick Google search will give you a list of black-owned businesses in Montreal, in Canada, and online.

Feature graphic by @spooky_soda

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