COMMENTARY: Separate can be equal: OurStory Matters, Black Dollars Matter
SAN FRANCISCO BAY VIEW — Being forced to go in an unfavorable direction because all other paths are blocked is the worst feeling. Sadly, this has become the lifestyle for Blacks in America.
by Amani Sawari
Being forced to go in an unfavorable direction because all other paths are blocked is the worst feeling. Sadly, this has become the lifestyle for Blacks in America. Throughout our collective time spent in this country, our plate has always been served with whatever society has left over. We understood after suffering through the oppressive conditions of America’s segregation era that separate but equal could never be equal and fought for the right to assimilate as a result.
However, the idea of separate not being equal is true when only one party is in charge of allocating resources. How can we expect a hostile group to allocate equal resources to their enemy? Or to fairly appropriate resources to an oppressed group for which they have no relation or respect?
The idea of separate not being equal is true when only one party is in charge of allocating resources.
During segregation and the era of Jim Crow, we were forced to purchase from those businesses owners that had no consideration or respect for us. We did not have the financial power or ability to own our own businesses due to the many barriers to doing so. Today, while many of those barriers have been fought through, many still exist in a variety of fields, but now that the alternatives do exist, it’s our responsibility to seek out and support our own.
We must understand that Black dollars matter and building up Black enterprise depends on our circulating the Black dollar within our community for as long as possible. Knowing this, every single Black person should have an account with a Black-owned bank, at least a small account. The Black Out Coalition keeps a record of where Black-owned banks are located in the country.
At Detroit’s Liberty Bank, individuals can open an account for as little as $25. Separate can only be equal when we invest in ourselves at an equal or higher rate than our investment in other groups. Right now our investment is far behind. While Blacks spend well over a trillion dollars a year, only 2 cents of every dollar we spend in this country goes to Black-owned businesses, according to the Black Wealth Channel.
Separate can only be equal when we invest in ourselves at an equal or higher rate than our investment in other groups.
In the same way that Black dollars matter, our story also matters and we are responsible for holding and sharing our stories and the stories of our ancestors. Often in public education the stories of our ancestors are left out of the curriculum with the more popularized figures crammed into the shortest month of the year. In an attempt to assist with centralizing our story on our collective consciousness I’ve worked with Sincere in Michigan’s Department of Corrections to create OurStory Calendar.
Ourstory Calendar is a 2019 publication that highlights the dates of revolutionary figures: political prisoners like George Jackson and Jalil Muntaqim, entertainers such as Nina Simone and Bob Marley, as well as entrepreneurs from W.E.B. Dubois to Madam C.J. Walker, all of whom are revolutionary minded and freedom fighters in their own right.
Ourstory Calendar is a 2019 publication that highlights the dates of revolutionary figures.
These many figures, along with important dates from Juneteenth to Kwanzaa, are featured. This essential shift in focus centralizes the minds of readers on revolution and the overcoming struggle of the people rather than on those government recognized “holidays” that promote consumerism and historical offenses like Thanksgiving and Columbus Day, which work to further oppress marginalized narratives and their oppressed histories. Having these figures and their powerful words on display in your home, work or entertainment space is a great way to learn about these historical figures, raise awareness for others that enter the space as well as honoring those who fought for the benefits in society that we hold today.
My hope for this project was to expand our collective vision. For every calendar sold, one can be sent free to an incarcerated activist. Our incarcerated comrades are in desperate need of encouragement after the retaliation that many continue to suffer as a result of their participation in this year’s National Prison Strike. Sincere’s participation in the strike resulted in the cost of phone calls being dramatically reduced from 23 cents to 16 cents per minute. This is a dramatic reduction for inmates who make as little as 14 cents per hour. Sincere has spent over five of his years incarcerated collecting the quotes and figures featured in OurStory to consolidate into this project. I’ve included the introduction he wrote, which is also featured in the calendar.
For every calendar sold, one can be sent free to an incarcerated activist.
As we set out for this new year, we need to remember the words of wisdom from our true revolutionaries and not allow the grassroots individuals to be erased from Ourstory. Mainstream media has a way of only giving tribute to certain individuals and that’s for a specific reason – reasons we know fit into their status quo. This calendar is a reminder of the greatness Ourstory embodies, it’s the richness and texture of our legacy, it’s the strength, motivation, courage, purpose and pride of our people.
This is our way of celebrating all those who contributed to the struggle for freedom in this country and around the world. We believe purpose and pursuit of happiness is our ability to do for ourselves, becoming self-sufficient and developing a clear idea of what we need as a people, as well as what we aspire to accomplish as a people – and to make known the roadblocks and obstacles that remain hinderances toward our goals.
We believe self-esteem and introspection is part of our right to be human – the ability to take a hard look at our objective and subjective possessions and no matter how low and empty they may seem, the conviction that there’s still time if we set about them in earnest. Also, identity in a people is essential and the dignity and respect they deserve comes from the individuals upholding and adhering to the standard they set forth as the identifying principles of that people.
A high sense of self-esteem reflects onto others just how highly we esteem ourselves and is the bridge to building and sustaining strong relationships within our families, communities and society. Introspection is the best way to discover the strengths and weaknesses within ourselves, and the only way we can identify exactly who we are and what it takes to be fully human.
We believe that education, leadership and Black pride are the fundamental building blocks for our people. Our education should be fashioned to liberate our minds and allow us to express our creativity in an unrestricted way. It should be focused on our position in society economically, politically and socially. It should be designed to produce critical thinkers who understand the significance of being self-sufficient as Dr. Karenga set forth in the Nguzo Saba. Self determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics etc. are all things our pedagogy should reflect.
We believe that education, leadership and Black pride are the fundamental building blocks for our people.
We believe that reflections and spirituality are an essential part of who we are as a people. Reflections remind us of our past and guide us toward our future. They also give us the patience to contemplate on ourselves. Spirituality is our connection to our ancestors and God. We have always been a spiritual people and tapping into that spiritual self gives us the strength to keep fighting for our freedom.
Faith is our ability to believe wholeheartedly in ourselves and the power to know that we can materialize the unseen and bring Heaven to Earth right now. Faith with no work is no faith at all; we have the power to change our conditions physically, mentally, psychologically, emotionally and spiritually. Spirituality, morality and anything of a psych nature takes information to feed it. As we reflect on our experiences, let us keep in mind the wisdom of those before us and the deep spirituality they possessed. It’s only because they possessed a profound love for themselves they were able to reflect that love to the people.
As you read this calendar, let it become the model for that which you choose to become as an individual and the platform for our success as a people. We cannot allow our true revolutionaries to be silently erased as though these sisters and brothers never existed.
Purchases can be made in person at Left Bank Books in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. Online orders can be made via this product page: http://sawarimi.org/product/ourstory-calendar.
Letters and requests for orders can also be mailed to: 14419 Greenwood Ave. N. Ste A #132, Seattle, WA 98133.
A special thank you to our investors: my Mother and Father and the Arrieta family.
A special thank you to my patrons: San Francisco Bay View newspaper, Lewis L. Szerecz, JR Martin, Jesse Sulam, James Craig, Brad Jencks and Ashley R. Walsh. Become a patron online at http://www.patreon.com/sawari.
All Power to the People.
Amani Sawari can be reached via Twitter and Instagram at @SawariMi.
This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Bay View.