Our Readers Sound Off

Since the inception of BLACK ENTERPRISE 35 years ago, readers have spoken out on issues important to African Americans, ranging from the state of black business to our political affiliations and our financial health.

Today, technology enables our readers to engage in a more powerful information exchange than ever, thanks to the message boards at blackenterprise.com. Based on be.com polls, readers responded passionately to questions including “What is the largest obstacle black entrepreneurs must overcome to create and sustain large businesses?” and “What barriers do you feel are preventing African Americans from fully realizing the American dream?”

Representing a range of be.com readers, four individuals speak up about issues that impact us and what we need to do to empower our communities.

For Madrice Guy, a 24-year-old computer programmer and a rising senior majoring in applied information technology at the University of Baltimore, recycling black dollars is the key to financial empowerment.

Exemplifying Declaration of Financial Empowerment principle No. 8: to support the creation and growth of profitable, competitive black-owned enterprises, Guy patronizes African American-owned businesses, including retail clothing stores and booksellers. He also seeks out African Americans, such as his accountant, to provide critical services. Guy says it’s vital for us to exercise our buying power with black firms whenever possible: “The greatest power we have as African Americans is our purchasing power, which we should use as a bargaining chip, making it a force to be reckoned with.”

The act of supporting black businesses was the impetus for Muhammad Nassardeen to start Recycling Black Dollars (www.rbdusa.com), a 2,500-member Inglewood, California-based nonprofit organization. RBD aids in the support of black businesses through various educational, marketing, and networking services for consumers and business owners.

“The recycling of dollars is a simple process once you understand it,” Nassardeen explains. “If you bank at a black bank, if you go to a black [dry] cleaner, if you go to black restaurants, you are recycling your dollars. And every time you do that, you have a strong impact.”

Not only does supporting black business contribute to the bottom line of black establishments but it also helps chip away at the 10.1% unemployment rate for African Americans. “Just imagine a dealership like Prestige Auto (No. 1 on the BE AUTO DEALER 100 list). It grossed $1 billion this year — the first [black] auto dealer to ever do that,” says Nassardeen. By patronizing Prestige, we support a company, “which can provide jobs and opportunities to the rest of our community.” That’s something we can do for all black businesses — no matter how big or small.

Nassardeen suggests checking black business directories such as BlackPages.com or local African American newspapers for businesses in your area. Or the next time you are looking to do business with a new vendor, ask friends and family for recommendations. However, he cautions against patronizing a business just because it’s black-owned. “It is incumbent upon any business to deliver quality service in a quality manner at fair prices.”

Madrice Guy, 24, Computer programmer and college student, Edgewood, MD. Message