Why We Must Support Our Own Businesses

Why We Must Support Our Own Businesses



~ By David A. Anderson/Sankofa


Sister Diane Sheffield said it: “We must support our own businesses.” Now, the sister knows some things, so let’s pay attention. Used to be that Afro-Rochester folks was into Clarissa Street, as the center of Black business and culture. It had what folks needed: from corn meal to collard greens; from Louis Jordan’s Tympany Five on 78 rpm. records to three dollar haircuts.

To help pay the rent, I helped Jimmy Barnett at his Pit o’ Ribs diner early Saturday morning (Sunday’s too). I served up bacon and eggs breakfasts to the folks that danced Friday night away at the Pythodd. However, to keep my strength up, I got down at Sandy and Lola’s. At one end of that palace of
home-cooking, was the kitchen where chickens and fishes beat up on each other over which could jump into Miss Sandy’s skillet first.

Lola? She was some kinda cute switching back and forth between the kitchen and the six-stool counter, four tables, and two booths. “Here you go, Anderson,” she chirped while sliding fried haddock (hot sauce on the side), potato salad, corn bread, lettuce and tomatoes, and lemonade up
under my chops. Sweet potato pie? Oh yeah, that to.

Those who ran businesses up and down Clarissa Street, either lived on the premises, or close by. No matter where you was from, Clarisssa Street was “down home,” and some of us imagined it as Rochester’s tan and terrific wanabee, Wall Street.

Wall Street? Sister Diane Sheffield reminds us that a generation or so earlier, Black folk in Tulsa, Oklahoma had eateries and barber shops, too, plus, many different kinds of businesses. Black Tulsans, like Black folk all over the nation, chaffed behind the enforced racial segregation, a tool oppressors used trying to keep us poor, and, under control. Hey, but Black Tulsa ignored the tendency to beg and cry. Several “Sandy and Lola’s,” and Pythoddlike businesses were interspersed among the vast real estate holdings. A black-owned bus system motored up the avenues, delivering passengers to the vast array ofbusinesses ready and willing to serve them. Physicians, lawyers, teachers and preachers; Black doctors and dentists intently studying and tending the medical needs of their community. Licensed pilots, owning their own airplanes; landowners, some of which harvested crude oil.

Money? Black greenbacks spent by black hands, through and around Black Tulsa, were circulated many times, s-l-o–o-o-w-e-r-r-r within that community, than the lightning speed at which today’s dollars sweep through Black Rochester. Afro-Tulsans created businesses and jobs at such
a rate that Tulsa, Oklahoma became a most affluent all-Black community in America: a genuine Black Wall Street.

As Miss Diane might say, “Some serious Ujamaa, was the rule on Black Wall Street. “Ujamaa,” of course is the Kiswahili (East African language) term for “Cooperative Economics,” principle four in the Seven Principle Kwanzaa celebration, calls us to work, even as we celebrate.

Each December, Afro-Rochester pauses to celebrate Kwanzaa. Indeed, celebration is solid, but practicing the principles . . . .? Rochester Kwanzaa Coalition, planners for the community Kwanzaa events, vigorously urges that we practice the Seven Principles. Moreover, Afro-Rochester is urged to reinvestment in Watch Night, as it unfolded December 31, 1862, at sites where Black people prayed that President Lincoln would sign the  Emancipation Proclamation. When it was clear that Lincoln had been true to his word, African Americans strengthened the zeal with which they put forth acting out the behavior of a whole people, determined to be free.

Cooperative Economics was promoted as a valued asset at this year’s celebration of Juneteenth: AKWAABA: the Heritage Associates’ actors rendered monologues attesting to how the people at Galveston, Texas responded to the June 19, 1865 announcement that Lincoln had issued the
Emancipation Proclamation two years earlier, and the April end of the war. Afro-Galveston celebrated, but they also got to work to make freedom real.

To be really real, is to support/depend/rely on one another. The day-to-day action on Clarissa, and every other street, must be to “. . . build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.”