Zimmerman Aftermath: “Stand Your Economic Ground” Campaign Emerges In Black Communities

Bob Law

In the aftermath of the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the killing of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, leading Black activists and clergy have launched a national campaign to convert the outrage into redirecting the $1 trillion African American spending power into institutions that benefit the Black community.

On Tuesday August 6, 2013, the noted radio personality and veteran of economic empowerment campaigns Bob Law and Rev. Calvin Butts moderated a program at First Church of God in Christ on Kingston Avenue and Park Place in Brooklyn to announce this campaign.

Mr. Law pointed out; this new movement is a national effort supported by Rev. Ben Chavis, Rev. Conrad Tillard, Sister Souljah, Rev. Butts of Abyssinian Baptist Church, Chokwe Lumumba, Dr. Maulana Karenga and a number of politically and economically conscious individuals across the national spectrum.

Reminding that “Jesus came specifically to his own,” Law told the nearly 300 individuals gathered to receive his usually highly informative message; he wanted them to join his effort because a great deal was at stake. He wanted them to assess the situation and redirect their spending habits to really get the most “bank for their buck.”

For one thing, a plague has infested the Black community that beyond economic considerations has implications for health concerns with a tremendous impact on the family structure. This is exacerbated because many families, individuals, are struggling in the bowels of our community and they don’t even realize the true impact of this “sweet-tasting plague.” Even more important, they are at a disadvantage because of the inability to control their spending habits. Then as an analogy Law delved into the impact of the Montgomery Bus Boycott of which Rev. Augustus Jones and Rev. Wyatt Tee Walker were a part and how that strategy undergirded the effectiveness of the Civil Rights Movement within the context of Adam Clayton Powell’s admonition: “Don’t buy where you do not or cannot work!”

As such, Law spoke to the “preponderance of fast food joints” that “saturate the Black Community” and create a moral and social dilemma of dependence with lasting implications not simply for economic matters of spending, but health and the inability to pay full attention to one’s own eating habits, food choices, preparation, and so forth.

This is especially so because of the lack of fruits and vegetables in the African American diet, because of the unavailability in many Black Communities. This in turn  has given way to that preponderance of Fast Foods establishments that call into question health issues. Diabetes, cancer, heart attacks, strokes, are plaguing Black communities at a time when health care is increasingly more expensive and hospitals that serve the Black community are being closed en mass. Case in point in Central Brooklyn alone we can show many hospitals are closed or closing — Brooklyn Women’s Hospital, Caledonian, Brooklyn Jewish, St. Mary’s, and Long College and Interfaith are on life support.

This “Fast Foods state of affairs” prompted this reporter to investigate this matter further. As such, I chose the Nostrand Avenue Corridor from Fulton Street to Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn. This is a good representative sample, of the Black Community, and while the results are not exactly a duplicate elsewhere, they can, however, serve as a pretty good barometer to assess the significance of the problem posed.

There are 23 Fast Food Establishments not counting the nearly 12 or so Delis in this 12-block stretch along Nostrand Ave from Fulton Street to Eastern Parkway. There are four at Fulton Street and Nostrand Avenue alone and 1 or sometimes up to 3 on each block as you approach Eastern Parkway. As such, in this and other instances, Law wants people to redirect spending habits, because we represent these businesses’ profit margins. When they lose that margin of profit they respond to the demands of the Black Community.

One way to get this nation to respond to our concerns is the economic boycott and it becomes more effective if conducted on a national level across city after city, state after state, with religious institutions playing a significant role. 

Next, Rev. Butts elaborated on the problem. 

He Reminded that “We represent the margin of profit” and that if “We stop buying a product” the makers suffer and begin to listen to our concerns. This strategy has had the greatest success backed by the Black Church, whether it’s the African Methodist Episcopal, the Christian Methodist Episcopalian, or the Church of God In Christ. The Montgomery Bus Boycott was effective because of the role of the church.

Adam Clayton Powell’s mantra, “Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work” was not “Burn Baby Burn” but “Economics Baby Economics.” 

We must remember Marcus Garvey and Elijah Mohammed encouraged Black people to “Do for self.” The Black Churches were built by people pooling their money. Bishop McCulloh and Sweet Daddy Jones were able to establish banks, insurance companies, foundations with people pooling their money. “When you begin to amass economic strength you gain respect in this nation. We can focus our economic strength.”

“We have the right to read, own property, save our money. We spend crazy with people who really don’t care about us. They don’t employ us and take our monies out of our community. We can make a difference,” he said.

Remember, “a little bit of salt changes the flavor of food.  When we buy we must ask ‘where are the Black people who work here’? So, we must shop at Black establishments. We must respect ourselves and we must spread the word. We must remember radio stations such as KISS and WLIB do not program in our best interest. TV is not of any substance. We must spread the word through our churches, civic organizations, and fraternities. We must become disciples of an economic gospel that put our community first.” Rev. Butts added: “I am a devotee of this methodology. We must remember the effectiveness of the principles of Kwanza. We must Remember Trayvon Martin. Finally, I want you to pay attention to 3 movies, Fruitvale Station, The Butler and 12 Years a Slave for they chronicle our experiences.”

Bob Law again addressed the gathering. He introduced Bishop Jerry Seabrook who spoke about present and past incidents of injustice. The Bishop first referenced a recent episode. Today the streets of Detroit look like war zones. The City is in default; bankruptcy. Yet, poor folks raised $18,000 in a free-will offering for a pressing cause. This was pocket money understandably. People protesting and marching were outraged because of George Zimmerman, acquitted in the trial for killing Trayvon Martin.

In 1976, Randy Evans, a 15-year old African American was shot by Officer Robert Torsney; the police officer was declared not guilty because of a “temporary insanity” plea. Then there was Eleanor Bumpers in the Bronx. A 66-year old elderly diabetic woman, shot to death when police broke into her home to carry out an eviction order.

In these cases police claimed they feared for their lives when they shot these people. He referenced the infamous Dred Scott 1857 Supreme Court ruling and said it still applies today. In that ruling, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney said Blacks “had no rights which the white man was bound to respect; and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit. He was bought and sold and treated as an ordinary article of merchandise and traffic, whenever profit could be made by it.”

Seabrook reminded that African Americans are still denied justice and that a national coalition is forming around the issue. He urged people to begin to use the leverage in the African American communities which is the economic strength in  the spending habits.

“Annually we spend nearly one trillion dollars,” he said. “Blacks outspend everyone else. We spend more money on everything than everyone else. Revlon. Nobody respects us. Everybody takes us for granted. When the Russian [President] said something derogatory about Gays, these people called in the Vodka lords and told them ‘We will stop buying your Vodka unless you say and do something. That is clout. Economics is one of the ways we have power.”

He added: “Remember Emmett Till. It was not stand your ground in St. Louis, New York, Mississippi, Florida. It is the institution of racism. Institutional Racism. What’s in your hand? Over one trillion dollars. Hold on to your dollars. Instead, give to constructive organizations that are working in our best interest. Give your burger and fries money to Sankofa Academy or the Learning Tree School.”

He was referring to two independent Black-owned educational establishments.

There are 6 times as many fast food restaurants in the Black Community than in any other communities.  We must remember most of the processed foods in the United States is already banned in some countries because of the preservatives.

John Killins, Lorraine Hansberry, James Baldwin all, for the longest denounced how Black communities were exploited.

Bob Law recalled how Rev. Leon Sullivan in Detroit tried to plead with some big wig in the auto industry about jobs for African Americans. The man outright told Sullivan “I don’t have time to speak with you.”

That was on a Wednesday afternoon. Rev. Sullivan got the word out to 72 pastors. That Sunday morning, word went out from these church pulpits “Don’t Buy his product.” By Tuesday morning, the big wig called Rev. Sullivan stating: “When are you available to meet with me?”

“We Must Stand Our Ground: Turn Black Spending into Political Power,” Law said. “We must use our money to influence policy. We must have an intelligent policy that is used effectively.”

He said we don’t have to stop all Black folk from buying fast food. Just 8% need stop buying fast food, to produce tremendous impact. He said it was a national movement with Chokwe Lumumba in Mississippi and Dr. Maulana Karenga in Los Angeles both involved.

Ollie McClean, Founder and principal of the Sankofa Academy, nearly 30 years in existence, next related the positive curriculum taught in her school. She delved into some of the activities the young people are a part of and the high percentage who go on to college.


This reporter will keep readers posted on the next move in this campaign.

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