Staying in the black

An effort to support African American businesses

Muhammad Nassardeen is on an economic mission. He wants African American consumers to use their $500 billion spending dollars at black businesses. His Recycling Black Dollars (RBD), a nonprofit organization based in Inglewood, California, has been encouraging not only black consumers but black businesses to do business with each other since 1988. “If you have $20 and you go see a movie at the Magic Johnson Theatre, that money has been recycled. They’ll use it to pay their employees and, if those employees spend their money at black businesses, that same $20 has been recycled over and over again,” says Nassardeen.

RBD, a 501(c)3 corporation, aids in the support of black businesses through various educational, business and networking services. Twice a month RBD hosts a mixer where businesses can network and interface with black consumers. Once a month there’s a members-only breakfast meeting held at a black business. Members receive assistance with business plans, marketing and promotional support, a monthly newsletter, and group advertising opportunities, among other support services. Members can access RBD’s database of 4,500-plus black businesses and consumers in the Los Angeles area. Through its weekly radio program, On the Positive Side on KTYM-AM (1460), and weekly cable TV show of the same name, RBD profiles its member businesses. According to Nassardeen, RBD has reached out to major corporations to urge them to use black vendors. “We’ve worked with Shell Oil and Toyota,” he says. RBD has a housing program (HUD 203k) available to its members, which forms alliances with funding organizations to assist black businesses in receiving loans. “We also work closely with the SBA,” says Nassardeen. Besides offering members the RBD Black Business Directory and a magazine called The Black Dollar, consumers and businesses alike can connect with each other through a referral service (800-UNITE-US). “If you want to find a black plumber, just call for a referral,” Nassardeen points out.

To spotlight black businesses, RBD sponsors regular promotions, most recently “Support Black Cleaners month” in which members were encouraged to use black-owned cleaners. RBD supplied a list which highlighted black cleaners through its various media outlets. In 1996, RBD started “Change Banks Month,” an ongoing promotion that has attracted more than 2,000 new depositors and an excess of $20 million in four years.

Nassardeen, a former director of community relations at Centinela Hospital and past vice president of the Inglewood Chamber of Commerce, used $20,000 of personal savings to launch RBD after overhearing two black doctors discussing their lack of respect for black businesses. “I realized that this sentiment was felt by many in the black community, so I knew there was a need to educate people about black businesses and encourage consumers to patronize them.”

Today, RBD has some 1,500 members. A business membership is $150 annually. A consumer membership costs $25. RBD hosts two annual fundraisers-the Annual Honors Luncheon, held during the summer, and the Positive Side Awards & Anniversary Dinner, every November, which honors corporations that have consistently used black vendors and suppliers.

“We also want

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