In a previous article, I noted the ridiculous scenario of Black people protesting while others profited, how we travel across the nation to march and never march into a Black hotel, a Black restaurant, or to a Black-owned bus company to get to the march, or fill up at a Black-owned gas station. I ended that column by noting that we count people “at” our protests while others count profits “from” our protests. Through the years I have wondered when we would “get it.” It took a group of young people who went to Ferguson, Mo. over the Labor Day weekend to encourage me in that regard.
They get it. The Howard University Student Association (HUSA), led by its incoming president, Leighton Watson, organized a 13-hour bus trip from Washington, D.C. to protest along with other students from Washington University and other colleges. They went to stand with the residents of Ferguson to seek real solutions to the issues that plague that city.
An interesting thing happened on their way to the march. Those young people marched to a Black company to charter their bus. When they got there they marched to a Black restaurant to eat. They made every effort to find a Black-owned hotel, but the Roberts Hotel in St. Louis is closed. They did, however, manage to get accommodations at a Black-owned franchised hotel. They let their money speak as they protested; I even saw a sign that said, “No Justice, No Profit.”
I was blessed to speak at a teleconference of HBCUs at which they sought appropriate responses to what took place in Ferguson – and what is taking place around the country between police officers and Black folks. The more I listened to the students, the more I knew that our future was in good hands. They are not only intelligent, but they are conscious and they have the courage of their convictions. They showed their willingness to sacrifice for a just cause, to stand up against wrongdoing, and to speak truth to the powerful.
I could hardly hold back my emotions as I watched and listened. Leadership, discipline, and respect for one another permeated the teleconference. I thought about how long our elders, who now include me, have tried to make us understand the priority of economic empowerment and economic leverage, how they have screamed at us to use our collective income to obtain reciprocity and equity in all areas of our lives.
I thought about Joshua and Caleb, two young men who were not afraid to stand up against what the older men thought was an unconquerable obstacle, which led to 40 years of meandering in the desert until all of that older generation died, leaving only Joshua and Caleb. Instead of cowering in the face of evil, the students were willing to “go into the land” and fight for a righteous cause, and they were willing to do it in a way that makes economic sense.
Howard students attended Ron Daniels’ recent symposium in Washington, D.C. and Leighton Watson spoke from the perspective of young people, whom Daniels encouraged to be there and step forward to carry on the battle for justice. They heeded his call to show up and speak up, and now they are putting up, not shutting up.
Plans are in the works to confront the real powers in this country, those who are in charge and in control the vast majority of the money, primarily by leveraging our economic resources, Black “buying power” as it’s called, to elicit appropriate responses to Ferguson and elsewhere. Money runs politics and everything else in the U.S. and the world, and college students understand that withdrawing their consumer dollars from various product categories is the only way to get the attention of those who can put an end to the blatant injustice that festers in our land.
Finally, HUSA members will be featured each week, Friday at 5:00 PM, on the Carl Nelson Radio Show (www.woldcnews.com and 1450 AM in the D.C./Maryland area). They will give updates on their overall activities, which is another great way to connect with even more students across the country and build a coalition in the mold of Joshua and Caleb.
I am so proud of the students at our various HBCUs as well as those in other colleges and universities, who have taken up the gauntlet by bringing not only their intelligence but their energy and seriousness to the frontlines of this fight. Like Moses and Dr. King, I may not see it or get there with them, but I am confident in their ability to take us to the next level of economic empowerment, from “No Justice, No Peace!” to “No Justice, No Profit!”
Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati and can be reached through his Web site, blackonomics.com.