2020 is a year that the world has cracked wide open. As the Spirits of #AhmaudArbery, #BreonnaTaylor, and #GeorgeFloyd resonated globally, they were met by the spiritual energy of #DijonKizzee, #FrederickWilliams, and dozens of others whose lives were stolen by police violence right here in Los Angeles. In the midst of the most catastrophic health pandemic and economic fallout of our lifetimes, the significant of these murders weighed on us differently and challenged us to respond in a manner that made Black Lives Matter the largest racial and social justice movement in history. As the year comes to a close, it is imperative that we use our collective economic power to transform systems and make Black Lives Matter.
The global pandemic forced the world to recalibrate. Stay-at-home orders, travel restrictions, business shutdowns, school closures, and new ordinances were rolled out to protect us from a virus, also slowing us down from our normal, often frenzied and distracted lives. We were forced to confront the hunting and murder of #AhmaudArbery by the father-son-white-supremacist-duo-with-law-enforcement-backgorund. We had time to contemplate what it means that Minneapolis police officer Derrick Chauvin took eight-minutes-and-forty-six seconds to kill #GeorgeFloyd. We heaved, and grieved, and mourned the murder of a sleeping #BreonnaTaylor.
We rose up in Los Angeles when County Sheriffs criminalized #DijonKizzee for riding a bike to justify shooting him dead and leaving his body uncovered and in the gutter for at least 18 hours. And the video of a deputy pulling up on small gathering of young Black men in Mona Park, then chasing and shooting #FrederickWilliams in the back seven times, is a stark reminder of the slave patrol origins of policing in this country.
2020 is also marked by the harrowing statistics of life for African Americans in the pandemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control, Black people are more than twice as likely to get the virus, four times as likely to be hospitalized, and twice as likely to die from COVID. It is estimated that nearly 48% of African Americans are unemployed or have reduced employment under the pandemic, but only 13% receive unemployment benefits. Black households are twice as likely to be evicted as White households. In Los Angeles, Black people officially account for 34% of the homeless population, despite only being 8% of the total population. Data like this shines a light on the potential devastation this financial disaster could have on the future of our community. All of these issues were presented to and ignored by many of the “leaders” of Los Angeles under the banner of #BlackLADemands, including Mayor Garcetti (who is now being vetted for a Biden-Harris cabinet appointment).
Nonetheless, Black people voted and organized, serving as the driving force to usher Trump out of the White House…and District Attorney Jackie Lacey out of the Hall of (In)Justice. We are witnessing our power produce waves of change. As we come into the 2020 holiday season, which will look and feel unlike any other, our dollars translate into power.
From November 27, 2020 to January 1, 2021, Black Lives Matter calls for the harnessing of our economic power with even greater urgency under the banner of #BlackXmas. The murder of #JohnCrawford inside a Walmart store in Beaver Creek, Ohio in 2014 first inspired #BlackXmas as an acknowledgement of the white-capitalist complicity in the state-sanctioned murder of Black people. The police did not murder #JohnCrawford and #StevenTaylor inside Walmart stores, #SkyYoung inside Walgreen’s, #YuvetteHenderson at Home Depot, or #GrecharioMack inside the Crenshaw Mall as rogue state agents; they did so as protectors of white-capitalism. The economic system that requires racism and violence must be held accountable through conscious divestment.
We must also invest in the principle of ujamaa – cooperative economics. Our dollars can be used as a form of collective resistance. As we divest from entities that profit from our murder and devalue Black life, we also invest in the building of Black community by committing to: #BuildBlack, #BuyBlack and #BankBlack. #BuildBlack means staving off the white-capitalist attempt to lure us into rampant consumerism and instead using our dollars to support Black-led/Black-serving organizations. When we choose to buy, #BuyBlack – intentionally spending our dollars with Black-owned businesses that benefit our community. We must also refuse to allow our money to be used to finance our oppression and withdraw our dollars from white-owned corporate banks that finance private prisons, environmental degradation, and gentrification; and consider Black banks like One United and Broadway Federal.
While large corporations like Amazon, Target and Walmart doubled their profits during the pandemic and individuals like Jeff Bezos quadrupled their wealth, about 41% of Black-owned businesses have closed for good. This demonstrates just how important it is to spend intentionally this holiday season with Black-owned businesses that provide vital services, jobs and other community benefits.
Consumers spend over 700 billion dollars each year on holiday shopping. Together, we can work to strengthen the remaining Black-owned businesses and help establish blossoming ones.
This is a moment that the world has cracked wide open. As the portal threatens to close, we must not let it do so without honoring the lives of those whose names we hashtag and the Ancestors who we call upon, by doing all that we can to remake the world. Our money is a form of power. It’s not enough to say Black Lives Matter, we must build, buy, and bank like Black Lives Matter.
Additional resources are available at blackxmas.org.