Today’s #BuyBlack Movement: Leveraging the Black dollar for Social Change

Last month, Alton Sterling, a 37 year-old African-American father of 5, was shot at point blank range by 2 white police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. One day later, 32 year-old African-American Philando Castile, was killed by a Minnesota officer after what appeared to be a routine traffic stop. According to witnesses and video footage of both of these incidents, the men were wrongfully killed.

The names are different. The locations are different. The circumstances under which these men were killed are different. The only component that remains the same is what many are calling an epidemic – unpunished police brutality against the African-American community, specifically black men. A community is fed up. Enough is enough. Feeling hopeless, yet eager to be proactive in the fight for justice, African-American activists are protesting in a myriad of ways.

Retaliation filled with hate will not eliminate racism or solve the issue of police brutality. However, there is one approach that involves protesting not in the streets, but in the marketplace. African-Americans across the nation are vowing to shop exclusively or as much as possible at black owned businesses (BOB’s) and to move their money to black owned banks.

The vow by many protestors is to “hit them where it hurts” – their proverbial pocketbooks.

So, why is buying black a relevant form of protest? How powerful is the black dollar? According to a 2015 Nielsen Report, “the untold story” of black consumers, the household income for blacks is experiencing incredible growth in the $200,000 plus bracket, increasing their economic power and buying influence. The 2015 Multicultural Economy Report predicts that African-American buying power will be $1.2 trillion in 2015 and $1.4 trillion in 2020. This is up from the $320 billion in 1990.

In Houston, local rappers are exhibiting solidarity by moving all of their money to black-owned Unity National Bank, the only black-owned bank in Texas. The rappers include Slim Thug, Willie D and Paul Wall. A photo on Slim Thug’s Instagram account shows the men standing in unity as they prepare to open their new accounts.

Image courtesy of @KillerMike on Instagram
Image courtesy of @KillerMike on Instagram

Rapper Killer Mike encouraged consumers to move $100 million into Citizen’s Trust Bank just days before the bank experienced tremendous growth. The bank’s CEO and president, Cynthia Day, used Twitter to show gratitude to Killer Mike. Other celebrities such as Solange Knowles, Usher and Jermaine Dupree have also vowed to #BankBlack. With an influx of deposits and money transfers being made into black banks, assets for these banks will increase. This will allow them to invest in the community by giving small business and home loans.

Black consumers are not only protesting by moving their money to black-owned businesses and banks, they are also boycotting large and non-minority owned establishments. Just days after the shooting of Alton Sterling, black community leaders of Baton Rouge called for an economic boycott of the Mall of Louisiana and the mega chain, Walmart. The boycott worked. Store owners were forced to close early, because not one dollar was spent.

Although the call to #BuyBlack isn’t a new one, there is something more unified and intentional about this new #BuyBlack movement. With social media allowing more people to be reached and more information to be distributed, this movement has lasting potential and may be one of the only ways the impact of racial injustices are felt by the majority. Will you join the movement?

Visit the Federal Reserve for a list of the 23 black-owned banks in the United States. If there isn’t one in your area, bank online. OneUnited Bank is the largest black-owned bank and the first black Internet bank. OneUnited has launched a national #BankBlack campaign to challenge consumers to open a $100 online savings account at their bank, and tell 20 friends to do the same. Click here to learn more.

Vonna Matthews

Vonna Matthews is a marketing and branding expert who has over ten years experience working with non-profits and small businesses. She received her Bachelor's degree from the University of Texas at Austin and her MBA from Dallas Baptist University. As a wife, mother of 2 and entrepreneur, Vonna understands the challenges of work/life balance. Her brand Bottles, Bibs & Pumps helps mompreneurs grow their businesses.

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