There is $1.3 trillion dollars in African American spending power. Let me say that again—$1.3 TRILLION in spending power—based on Nielsen’s African Americans are More Relevant Than Ever report projection of African American spending power in the United States this year. That’s a lot of power for the over 42 million African Americans in the United States. We aren’t fully using that power but the time to start is now!
African American Spending Power in Perspective
Let me put this $1.3 trillion dollars in perspective: This is around the same amount of the United States defense budget for two years. Additionally, $1.3 trillion is more than over half of U.S. states’ budgets combined. I don’t know about you, but that’s a LOT of power and dollars. Therefore, it’s time to start using those $1.3 trillion dollars to make some sense for our community, the outcomes of which could be social and economic justice.
The Universal Language
African Americans can use our spending power to make sense for our community through reforms. We know that those reforms come from policy changes, which come from policy advocacy.
There is a universal language that, no matter your background, gender, race, or sexual preference, we all speak—some more fluently than others—and that language, ladies and gentlemen, is money. The current protests are needed, and that’s what makes us American. But, I truly believe that the fastest way to social and economic parity is through the power of the almighty dollar. So, we must put the pieces together to leverage the power of the dollar toward reformation.
Sometimes, we may think of “economic justice” in terms of boycotts and supporting black businesses, but these things only reach the surface of leveraging our spending power. So, I am advocating using our dollars to influence policy.
I am not talking about bribery or anything illegal; I am talking about legitimate advocacy work. We have the voting numbers and spending power to make people listen. Hence, some may not listen when we talk about the impact of mandatory sentences on our black men. But, they will listen when we discuss the impact our money could have on their bottom line or electability. I can attest that magical things happen, when we pull together our resources.
How to Use Your Dollars in Ways That Make Sense
Previously, I have explained WHY we need to use our dollars to make sense. Now, I am going to give you some examples of HOW:
- Support Your Local Officials Financially: As an elected official, I know that the most important step for an advocacy vote is to be reelected, but elections take money for campaigns, constituent services, and to communicate the message. Therefore, make sure you not only reelect those that strongly advocate on criminal justice and economic justice issues. Also, make sure you help to reelect strong advocates, by financially supporting their bids for re-election. As my colleague, Georgia State Representative Calvin Smyre (D-Columbus), says, “It takes coal to run a train but it takes gold to run a campaign.” ‘Tis true.
- Conduct a Disparity Report: If there is an industry that you think African Americans are being unrepresented, nothing proves the naysayers wrong like independent research. Pool together resources, or demand that a disparity report be done in that industry to show numerical proof of disparities. Then, use that information to demand changes in that particular industry. For example, in Georgia, the Georgia Department of Transportation completed a 2016 disparity study that found a decline and large gap in state contracts awarded to African Americans. With this information, African American legislators are able to follow up and advocate for change.
- Hire a Lobbyist: I know—dirty word. But, lobbyists serve an important function of influencing legislation when you can’t, because this is their full-time job. So, you can’t tell me, with all the spending power, groups of us cannot hire someone to advocate for a specific interest. In fact, don’t solely rely on African American politicians as, we have hundreds of other issues and constituencies we have to concern ourselves with. Instead, get someone focused on the cause full-time, then watch the results that follow.
- Consider Donating to a Cause: As you know, there are already organizations with the infrastructure and resources to advocate for your particular issue. I understand that the third option on this list can be daunting, so this is an alternative. Consider a monthly donation to help these organizations fight on your behalf, and provide you with updates and resources. Hopefully, we all have something we are passionate about that we are ready to put our money behind. There also may be opportunities to volunteer and become more involved. There is no excuse to be a passive spectator of the political system.
Call to Action
The above mentioned list is not exclusive, but I think it’s a good start for using your dollars in ways that make sense and make a difference. So, let’s get started with changes in our culture, policies, and at the ballot box. Let’s start by voting and advocating with our dollars. Let’s start by sacrificing those brand new pair of shoes or upgrading to a more fancy car, and instead, let’s take that money and put it toward one of the suggestions I mentioned. If enough African Americans do it, you would be AMAZED at its impact on policy, which would trickle down to our everyday lives.
Like Dr. King, I, too, have a dream: It’s a world in which unarmed, black citizens don’t get shot in the streets, because we have voted out certain politicians. It’s a world in which we have so many victories in the area of economic justice, that everyone listens when we demand social justice reforms.
I am ready to turn our $1.3 trillion dollars into a tool that makes sense for African Americans now, and in years to come. Will you join me?
Dar’shun Kendrick is a private securities attorney and owner of Kendrick Law Practice, helping businesses raise capital the LEGAL way. She has two B.A.s from Oglethorpe University, a law degree from the University of Georgia, an M.B.A. from Kennesaw State University, and works with “for profit” companies seeking to raise $250,000 or more through private capital. Additionally, she’s been elected to the Georgia House of Representatives , representing East DeKalb and South Gwinnett counties since 2011. She serves on the committees of Juvenile Justice, Interstate Cooperation, Judiciary Non-Civil, and as the ranking Democrat on the Small Business and Job Creation Committee. She’s also co-chair of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus Economic Development Committee; a board member of the Technology Association of Georgia’s (TAG) corporate development board; and the founder and board chair of the nonprofit, Minority Access to Capital, Inc. Its mission is to educate and empower minorities about how to grow their companies and create generational wealth.