When Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor of Africana Studies at California State University, Long Beach, CA created the holiday of Kwanzaa in 1966, he wanted a way to preserve, revitalize and promote African American culture. Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa has its own meaning, and the fourth day, Ujamaa (00-JAH-MAH) is described as “Cooperative Economics: To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and profit from them together.” 

While Ujamaa recognizes the need to share resources communally, it also emphasizes the opportunity to build community through locally owned businesses.  According to The Network Journal Black Professionals and Small Business Magazine, the collective spending power of black consumers during the 2015 holiday season was $1.2 trillion.  The LetsBuyBlack365 movement was formed to encourage using some of this money to support black-owned stores and services throughout the year. It recognizes the fact that locally owned businesses create jobs, reinforce pride,  and infuse needed capital into neighborhoods.

Shoppers have many choices as to where to spent their money, and both the buy local movement and the concept of economic empowerment that is part of Kwanzaa are important efforts to show consumers that their choices matter.  While it is unrealistic to think that every dollar will be spent locally,  shoppers need to realize that independent retail stores and other small businesses play a key role in defining and maintaining the unique cultural identity of our communities.

Happy Retailing, 

Carol “Orange” Schroeder

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