By Kimberley McLeod
In the aftermath of Ferguson’s grand jury decision not to indict the murderer of unarmed teen Michael Brown, people across the country organized to boycott our biggest spending day. I was skeptical. Perhaps it was the elusive “them” in hashtags like #HitThemWhereItHurts. Who were “they?” White people? “The Man?” The oppressor? Capitalism? Then I questioned how we were correlating Black people’s buying power on this one day to the events in Ferguson. Would asserting that we stop our spending prevent another Mike Brown from dying or another Darren Wilson from walking away scot-free? Was this some knee-jerk reaction to momentarily make us feel good?
Then it hit me: If we’re going to build our power as Black folks, queers, women, and anyone systemically pushed to the margins of society, we have to recognize it first. That’s why I got on board Blackout Black Friday. And it’s why I’m proud to finally launch The ELIXHER Index, a directory that features restaurants, retailers, organizations, and more owned by Black lesbian, bisexual, queer and transgender women. It’s why I’m pushing for each of us to act from this place of intentionality with our pockets (and more) every day. To kick things off, ELIXHER has partnered with LezBiBuy, AfterEllen’s national day of shopping and supporting lesbian, bisexual and queer female-owned establishments on December 6. Will you join us?
“We make seemingly small decisions every day about where we direct our hard-earned dollars. Let’s act from a place of intention because these small acts add up.”
In Our Black Year: One Family’s Quest to Buy Black in America’s Racially Divided Economy, Maggie Anderson, founder of The Empowerment Experiment and MaggiesList.com, documents her family’s year of “buying Black.” The challenges that arise are real. First, finding Black businesses for basic items like diapers is a hurdle. Since the pool was much smaller, locating ample Black retailers with quality goods also proved difficult. Additionally, many of these businesses were unable to sustain themselves and closed during the course of her experiment.
Similarly, we see that local queer female-owned businesses are a dying breed. Why should they be? The total buying power of the U.S. LGBT adult population for 2013 was projected to be $830 billion. This year, 75-year-old Jewel Thais-Williams sold Catch One Disco, the nation’s largest Black gay nightclub, explaining that “there’s no reason to stay if the kids are not interested.” Let’s be clear. Lesbian, bi, queer, and trans women, especially women of color, face financial hardships that their white and male counterparts don’t. It’s a privilege to decide to buy a cocktail at the lesbian bar across town instead of the spot close to your office when you don’t have a job in the first place. But those of us who do have choice can choose to shop small, shop Black, shop queer and all of the above. Our growing database, The ELIXHER Index, makes it easier. Know a place near you? Add it to the list below by filling out this short form.
Of course, it doesn’t stop there.
If you weren’t researching your local politicians in lieu of shopping Black Friday, you might be missing an important part of the equation. Demetria Irwin at theGrio notes the disconnect between getting people to the polls this past election day and the hype around not shopping on one particular day. She reminds us that St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch (who has been criticized for having a pro-police record) ran unopposed for re-election, and on November 4, 2014 he won his “race.” “Communities must arm themselves with accurate information and use that to make informed decisions at the polls,” Irwin writes. “Incumbents obtaining easy wins election after election regardless of job performance is a problem across the country, especially in city and county-wide elections.”
Harnessing our political influence (and combating voter apathy) is a major chunk of how we’ll bring about change. But let’s not dismiss the weight of our wallets. African Americans have over a trillion dollars in buying power. A trillion. Blackout Black Friday was more than a boycott. It was a wake up call. The official charge to curb our spending habits may be over but the movement-building continues. Join ELIXHER for LezBiBuy on Saturday, December 6…and beyond. Buy female queer-owned. Buy Black. We make seemingly small decisions every day about where we direct our hard-earned dollars. Let’s act from a place of intention because these small acts add up.
Kimberley McLeod is a NYC-based media strategist and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) advocate. A native of Trinidad and Tobago, she is the founder and editor-in-chief of ELIXHER, an award-winning website and magazine for Black LGBT women. Determined to harness the power of the media for cultural, social and political change, Kimberley is a public speaker with training in journalism and media activism as well as experience at some of the nation’s leading publications, including ESSENCE, TIME, Marie Claire, and People StyleWatch. Kimberley has trained numerous spokespeople and journalists on effectively and responsibly sharing LGBT stories as well as successfully placed countless articles in both national and local media.