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​5 Ways to Spend Money With Impact, If Racial Justice is on Your Holiday List

November 13, 2018


End of year gift-buying and joy-driven spending are here. There is a social, economic and racial crisis that is relevant to your holiday season. Wherever you live in the United States, the wealth gap is real - and abysmal. According to the Fed, in 2016, the median wealth of white households in the U.S. was $171,000. 10 times the wealth of Black households ($17,100). The wealth gap for Latinx families? Almost as bad.


That's why I am buying more and more from Black and Latinx businesses - with increasing diligence, purpose and volume. Wealth gets created when people own things and the value of those things increases. Right? The value of Black and Latinx owned businesses can increase if they get access not only to transactional dollars here or there - but also if they get access to entirely new social networks and market segments. These businesses are also much more likely to hire people of color than the average American business, an important consideration in a labor economy that is tight overall but still plagued by high unemployment in the inner city and among Blacks and Latinx men and women.


I have spent real money on goods and services from Black and Latinx-owned businesses this year myself - breakfastslunches and dinners to graphic designbookstoothpastea wallet and a watchjewelryclothing, and other things too. Heck - even chutney (the perfect hostess gift...)! And I have personally directed thousands more in purchases to businesses owned by people of color, via clients or organizations where I'm involved:

photographyarchitecture and designweb developmentcateringcupcakesIT services and more.


If racial justice is on your holiday list - here are 5 ways you can have real impact.


1. Cater your holiday party. Intentionally. Make a statement with the tasty, creative, customer-centric stylings of any one of a number of Black-owned catering companies in your city. In my hometown of greater Boston try Fresh Food GenerationLyndigo Spice, ZaZ and Jamaica Mi Hungry.

2. Eat dessert first. It's a good investment. Customers of Boston's Sweet Teez Bakery know that Teresa Maynard's cupcakes, cakes and pies are king. And she operates a nut-free bakery so if that matters to you and you are anywhere near the 617 - get on it! Recently Sweet Teez became a featured partner at Whole Foods. You can custom order anything from them too - corporate players like WeWork, KPMG, and Capital One have been impressed. Another Boston area idea: Nobody ever got in trouble for ordering from Petsi Pies in Cambridge and Somerville, owned by Renee "Petsi" McLeod. My favorite Yelp review of Petsi Pies: "For what they do, there is simply no better choice."


3. Take the time to get somebody a nice - reasonably priced - watch. The orange banded watch I got this year from Talley & Twine Watch Company of Portsmouth, Virginia has earned me many compliments. The quality is top notch and the design too. And consider this about their name, quoted from founder and CEO Randy Williams on the website: "Our name comes from an intersection that was formerly the center of a notorious, crime-riddled neighborhood in Virginia. In recent years, the neighborhood has been completely revitalized and those same families now have the opportunity to own. A place with a dark past now has a bright future; Talley & Twine represents that future. It's not about how you start, it's about how you finish."


4. Buying a kid a new backpack? Or a whole new wardrobe for an athlete? Have you seen the 1954 line from Blended Designs of Jacksonville, Florida? There are many who would be psyched to have one of these beautifully designed "for kids who aren't afraid to be different." I saw these bags promoted on twitter by Arlan Hamilton of Backstage Capital of Los Angeles, which in 2015, "set the audacious goal to invest in 100 high-quality startups led by underrepresented founders by 2020" and since then is turning heads and setting trends. So why not buy a whole bunch of these and donate as many of them as you can to youth organizations and schools near you? Double-impact. It's that simple.

And how about custom clothing and a style coach for someone on your list with an athletic build? Check out E-Lete. Here is their pitch: "As athletes it's a challenge to find professional attire off the rack which fits our build and personal brand. With E-LETE we make it easy to create your styles, find the perfect fit and look your best on and off the field."


5. Take your friends out for dinner. Or lunch. Nothing says I love you like a really well prepared free meal in good atmosphere. In Boston, try MidaCesariaDona HabanaMerengue, ZaZ - all favorites of mine. None of these will disappoint. Maybe commenters can add some great local favorites in other cities.


Here's the rub: We need to be more conscious of the impact a dollar can have for an entire region if it travels to corners of the economy that years and years of social, political and racial barriers have isolated from the vast majority of economic activity. Wherever you live, top-line revenue means economic vitality and the possibility of greater social and financial power over time.


And to really bury the lede - the quality of what is available in the so-called "Black and Brown" entrepreneurial economy is outstanding -- a reflection of the vitality, ingenuity, creativity, skill, insight, intelligence and resilience of the people. Check out these links for lists of great businesses to support: Black MarketBlack Economic Council of MassachusettsTemple Israel of Boston, and Street2Ivy.


Find out what the options are near you. A quick google will find you lists compiled all over the country with Latinx or Black-owned business holiday shopping in mind. Let's add shopping consciously - with intentionality to the list of things we all need to do with greater urgency to make a dent in the universe for greater equity and social justice.


P.S. I am hardly the expert at this - just motivated to learn more and do more. Please add ideas in the comments -links, names of companies, etc. Let's do some business. Oh - and one more idea -- African American history museum stores in Boston and in Washington, DC offer fantastic selections of gift items, many of which are made by Black-owned businesses from all over the country.



Andy Tarsy is founder and principal of Emblem Strategic.

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