Power in Numbers and Business


A few weeks ago I came across an article that intrigued me. It was about the Yemeni boycott of all the bodegas in NYC in response to the Muslims ban of the Trump administration. As a native of NYC, I have probably spent a small fortune in Brooklyn bodegas alone. I understand the boycott. My concern was that the boycott would hurt the various people of that neighborhood and not the administration whom they were responding to. In many NY neighborhoods, the bodega is everything, a one-stop shop for whatever you need.
It was reported that there were 13000 bodegas in NYC in 2012. I have known many bodega owners and workers throughout the years. The relationship in the black community is sometimes contentious cordial or hostile. It can be all three at times. The bodega owner is just one of many foreign nationals that clutter the black neighborhood sucking out their fair share of that trillion-dollar money tree. I had no idea that the Yemenis’ had a monopoly on the bodegas. There are Puerto Rican, Dominican bodega owners with Puerto Ricans and Dominicans living in these neighborhoods. We already have the Koreans heavily embedded in the business community, but the various Arab deli owners, we never really know where they are from. Should it even matter?
I know that my neighborhood in Brooklyn is similar to the predominantly black neighborhoods in Chicago, Detroit, Ohio St. Louis, Compton and all across the country. There is a shop ready to be set up in any number of black neighborhoods at any given time. What you may consider a lower-income neighborhood is really a goldmine for business owners. Monopolies are set up with govt assistance or group economics or both. Before you know it, this is a regular occurrence. All of the stores and services are owned and controlled by people who don’t live in the community and do not care to. The people become used to giving their money to people who do not look like them. The babies get raised this way. The visual is very important. I can remember my mom letting me pay the jet black man with the white coat behind the counter of a neighborhood store as a child in the 70 s’ in crown Heights Brooklyn. I don’t know if he owned that store or not, but that image turned out to be priceless for me.
Black neighborhoods should be filled and function with Black owned and operated businesses. This is natural. A predominantly populated Italian neighborhood will function with Italian business as the majority, with others participating. In any china town across the country it is the same way. In Indian neighborhoods, it is the same. Black neighborhoods become open season to whoever is ready to go business wise. The communities have to assume some responsibility for this as well, without a doubt. Entrepreneurial pursuits are not encouraged enough in black families. The “security” of a job in a white organization of company or establishment is looked upon more favorably. In fact the majority of black people in this country work for some city-state or federal job. We don’t have time to work for ourselves.
Is there a Black niche outside of soul food for black people to industrialize. We should have a monopoly on at least one industry from top to bottom. We dominate in music, sports, we have unique hair and fashion, but we participate in all of these sectors of business mostly as consumers. These were my thoughts after reading about the Yemeni boycott. Forget about the bigger industries, blacks have no power or control in the areas they populate. Could this be by design, or are blacks complicit in their own sense of powerlessness therefore not taking advantage of opportunities that could tilt the scales of power and control where they live. I think a little of both. Blacks are capable of controlling supermarkets and green spaces in the neighborhood. Hair and nail salons is a no brainer. Control of production and distribution of products is essential. I think the emphasis should be made for the next generation of entrepreneurs to cover the basics of black survival and living. Set up shop in your own neighborhood or other predominantly black communities. Provide goods and services. Dry cleaners, phone stores, sneaker stores. Connecting with other black business owners and creating a pipeline. Taking a business interest in some of the things that we consume should be encouraged by adults and peers to those ready willing and able to do business. This should be trendy. I think with the help of black banks many of these things are possible. The internet has opened the door for training and business support like we have never seen.
I came back to my senses as I pulled out a wrinkled up five dollar bill to pay for my water in the neighborhood bodega. As I waited for my change as they conversed in Arabic I thought, the Yemenis’ can have the bodegas for now…

 

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