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4/15/2019 "The Black Economy 50 Years After The March On Washington"

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Wall St. & Business Wednesday: The Road To D.C. Is Paved With Green by James E. Clingman

I can see the headline now, ďMillions of Blacks Leave Millions of Green in D.C.Ē The subhead would read, ďAnd leave even more green on the road to D.C. as well.Ē Remember the last Million Man March and the subsequent marches that followed? Have you ever thought about the tremendous economic boost they caused for non-Black businesses? As the presses were rolling on the evening of October 16, 1995, writing the lie about 425,000 men showing up, rather than one million, business owners were busy counting their cash windfall from our having made the trip.

Now we are preparing to return to the nationís capital. Black men, women, and children will come from all across the country and converge on the Mall in Washington, having gotten there by various ways and means, eating, sleeping, and basking in the glow of having pulled it off once again. We will be proud of having ďcome togetherĒ once again to make our collective statement and make our mark on history.

Additionally, other people will also bask, but in a different kind of glow; theirs will be the green-tinted glow of success. If we fail to plan our strategy now, if we do not start thinking about the economic side of the March, right now, the day after this next March they will again write their stories about how it wasnít ďall that,Ē as they count their profits from our travel expenses, our accommodations, our appetites, and the other goods and services we will need to make the March.

We should start marching now, march directly to Black owned businesses, and we should start assuring that Black made products are coming into our homes on a regular basis via the Black channel of distribution, the MATAH Network. Well, I have other recommendations.

As we prepare to attend the next Million Man March, first we must understand that other business owners canít wait for the March to start. They know we will spend millions planning, traveling, eating, and staying at the March. If you think about it, the way we spend our money with everyone else, unless we change in a hurry, we could not have a Million Man March without white folks and other groups that provide most of what we need to pull it off. So letís break the mold in which we have been cast as consumers.

Consider this: In our local organizing groups, letís find ways to increase our support of Black businesses as we make our plans to go to Washington. Letís find Black venues in which to conduct our meetings and Black caterers to feed us as we meet. Contact Black churches and ask to use their buses and vans, and their drivers if need be, to get to D.C. And pay them for their use! Find every Black owned transportation company in your area and hire them to take you to D.C.

On a national level, letís create a list of every Black owned gas station in the country, and make sure to plan our stops at those stations to fill up our cars and buses. Are there any Black owned airplanes out there we can charter? Find them and hire them. Letís make sure that we have a complete list of all Black restaurants in D.C. and surrounding areas, and eat at those establishments. Letís find all the Black caterers in D.C. and make every effort to use them if we have side meetings and need food for those occasions. And if there are any Black owned hotels, motels, B&Bís, even homes of individuals who may want to rent rooms, letís find them and use them.

When we get there and take up money, make sure that money goes into a Black bank. Purchase advertisements in Black media, Black newspapers especially, prior to and after the March. Explore every opportunity to purchase all necessary supplies, i.e. audio-visual equipment, trash containers, computers, from Black vendors.

Quite frankly, it would be shameful and downright stupid for us to stage what could be the largest and most significant event in history and come away having enriched even more those who care nothing about us and those who only want us close to them when we are spending our money in their businesses. It would be a sad commentary and a tragic moment in history for our children to read about when they are older. On top of all that, it would simply be the most outrageous, egregious, waste of money in the annals of our existence.

I am sure you can think of more things we can do prior to October 2005, but the important point to remember is that we do everything within our power to assure that millions of Black people do not go to Washington, D.C. and drop millions, maybe billions, of green into the laps of non-Black businesses. If we donít, the headline might read, ďBlacks go into the red while whites get into the green.Ē

James E. Clingman, an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati's African American Studies department and founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce. Visit his website This article was published in May 2005 on

James E. Clingman

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

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