On one of my daily walks I pass a series of shops in Canning Town (Newham). There was a newsagent selling what you would expect them to sell and in this part of London, quite naturally run by a member of the Asian community.
On a particular walk in 2019 I did a double take; walked back and became incensed with what I saw. Now, don't get me wrong, I understand businesses have to diversify or pivot to bring in more income; but he had decided that the way to make more money was to invest his time and money in the purchase and sale of black hair products.
Now along this road that are numerous shops, run by various communities that sell black hair products and he knew this. However, he made a conscious decision to invest his little bit of profit and time selling to the supposedly "poor" black community.
Update: I wrote this blog in May 2020 and in mid June 2020, as I walked I saw the that it's no longer a newsagent, of course it's a hair shop selling 90% black hair products and accessories and he's kept the Oyster Top Up business.
So I had to ask myself; what the hell is wrong with us? What does he know that we don't know?
There is this constant drip feeding of myths via the media, the film industry, education, the health system. Black people are poor, we are unreliable, we are gangsters, we can not not be trusted.
Yet, the facts show that we are still good enough and rich enough for others to take their hard earned cash or even borrow just to consciously invest in our black community.
They continue to invest their time and money because the returns on their investments in the black community are high, consistent and reliable.
They have the mindset that:
Black people are rich; in fact we are some of their best and loyal customers.
That there's enough to go round.
They are 100% sure that their investment will yield a return but can feed their families and fund their lifestyles.
So can we recreate The Black Wall Street in the UK?
No, because Black Wall Street was a physical neighborhood. Social mobility and integration has decimated that type of local black community.
Yes, technology and the internet means distance, social mobility and integration is no longer an issue.
Just as families can connect virtually, so can our lost or broken communities.
We can and should be creating lots of small virtual black wall streets that provide not just hair products and clothing, but banks, accountants, solicitors, essential food, lifestyle coaches, private tutors; high end, middle and low end products and services.
For me, it's not about black power; it's not about big politics; it's about being able to have a choice. To choose products and services that reflect me, have thought about me and totally understand my needs and where I'm coming from.
And lastly, think like that newsagent in Canning Town; there's more than plenty to go around, there's no need to be jealous of other black businesses.
We often talk about leaving a legacy e.g. money, property, shares. But actually the best legacy you can leave is your knowledge; the importance of shared knowledge within the community, patience, time, how to invest, how to be builders of businesses and commerce. When people want to conquer a civilisation they always destroy the knowledge first and those that have it, because knowing how, is the key.
So buy black; start your business; network with others; accept that we won't all get along but look for your tribe.
More importantly be generous, especially with your knowledge and time. Help or mentor someone and don't get upset if you have to tell them the same thing several times. It's what other communities do.
Just remember, when you share, the universe rewards you.