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Redistribute the Pain: The movement to stop funding Black oppression

“We are in a state of emergency,” said Melina Abdullah, the deputy director of Black Lives Matter Grassroots. Her words indicate the need for Black people to recognize Black dollars as a tool and invest in Black-owned businesses.

This year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales declined from what they were last year. Ms. Abdullah said she hopes it means Black people are becoming conscious on how they use their dollars.

Retailers saw $8.9 billion in online sales for Black Friday, compared to $9 billion one year ago, reports Adobe Analytics, which tracks top U.S. retailers. Adobe says it is the first time it saw a decrease on major shopping days since it first began reporting e-commerce data in 2012. The $5.1 billion spent on Thanksgiving Day is at the low end of Adobe’s forecast—$5.1 billion to $5.9 billion. 

Memphis-based Nation of Islam author, researcher and Student Minister Demetric Muhammad said the reports speak to the level of uncertainty in the country produced by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“When sales are not good, it’s interpreted as an indicator that the consumers don’t have a lot of confidence in the economic stability of the country, so they withhold their money,” he said.

Though Black Friday foot traffic increased from last year, it was still down 28.3 percent compared to 2019, according to data from Sensormatic Solutions. The National Retail Federation reports that 179.8 million people made purchases, compared to 186.4 million in 2020 and 189.6 million in 2019.

Experts say the stats could be attributed to inflation, the decline of discounts and earlier shopping habits. Dr. Abdul Haleem Muhammad, the Southwest Regional Minister of the Nation of Islam and an urban planner, said it’s an indication that the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan’s words have consequences.

In 2015, Minister Farrakhan toured the country under the clarion call “Justice or Else.” He called on Black and oppressed people to boycott Christmas and holiday spending to “redistribute the pain,” a concept voiced by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In the same vein, in 2014, Black Lives Matter started a ‘Black Xmas’ campaign, an annual Christmas boycott of White-owned companies. The boycott started because of the death of John Crawford, a young Black man who was shot and killed by a police officer for holding a BB gun in Walmart. The tenets of Black Xmas are to build Black, buy Black and bank Black.

“Rather than spending with White corporations that don’t respect Black life, let’s take our dollars and say how do we build a strong Black community?” Ms. Abdullah said. “We encourage people to take the dollars that they may have spent during a holiday season and instead of spending it, invest it in Black-led, Black-serving organizations.”

Demetric Muhammad said the efforts to buy Black, spend Black, support Historically Black Colleges and Universities, protest injustice and embrace Black theology reflect a new thinking present within Black America. He referenced Moses praying to Allah (God) to break the wealth of Pharaoh so that the Children of Israel would hear the message of separation and independence.

“As long as there is a George Floyd, as long as there is an Ahmaud Arbery, as long as there’s a Kyle Rittenhouse getting off scot-free for murder, as long as we continue to be the victims of injustice, then we should weaponize our dollars and withdraw from continuing to fund our own oppression,” he said.

Dr. Haleem Muhammad said the basis of an independent people is owning and controlling their own communities. He said Black people need to maintain and sustain boycotting and buying Black past the holiday season and institutionalize the principles of doing for self as taught by the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad.