How To Exist Solely On Black-Owned Businesses

Interview with Nataki Kambon, activist and spokesperson for the LetsBuyBlack 365 movement

In our interview with Nataki Kambon, she opens up about the LetsBuyBlack 365 movement that is situated around Black economic development. The LetsBuyBlack 365 movement is a project designed to empower Black people through committed Black-owned businesses, restoring confidence of Black consumers in Black-owned businesses and also to serve as a resource of information for people in a way that is meaningful, relevant and impactful to their communities.
Could you please tell us more about you, where you’re from, where you studied and what movements you’ve been involved in?
Nataki Kambon
I’m from Raleigh, North Carolina. I did a major in Environmental Business Communication but I ended up doing business consulting not environmentally related right after college. I shifted to business consulting because a lot of my advisors really admired my business plan and some of the ideas. It was a good practical use of what I had in school, and everything started to blossom into the entity that I’ve been doing since college. In and after college, I was involved in a lot of Black student organizations. I started a vegetarian club in college and after college. Philly had a Book Starter Cultural Center, so after college, a lot of my activism was there. We had a lot of speakers, programs and activity sessions to motivate people to take action around different issues, from police brutality and political prisoners, to environmental issues, health and diet and others. Most recently, I’ve moved to DC and I’ve been active with different groups that focus on financial literacy. Most of my business consulting end up being people who aren’t Black and so doing some of the financial literacy classes or even teaching best practice with business is a way for me to actually be engaged in the community.
Let’s talk about LetsBuyBlack 365. What inspired you to start this project?
Nataki Kambon
I’m the spokesperson for LetsBuyBlack 365, but it was actually started by a group of individuals who were, like many of us, sick of injustice and being in positions of powerlessness. The idea was, “How can we shift the power so that we can affect multiple issues simultaneously?” And so this movement was conceived just because when you look at any of the issues that affect the Black community, all of them have an economic undercurrent. If you look at even domestic violence, all communities have domestic violence, but the reason for domestic violence within the Black community tends to be because of the economic disparities that make the financial stability of Black homes much different and also makes how Black men have to cope with their economic environment a lot different. Look at education; how schools are financed is based on the economics in the community. But when you look at some of the solutions, a lot of them are really focused on the symptoms. We’re definitely against all of these kinds of things, gentrification, and the prison industrial complex, but in addition to attacking the symptoms, we want to start with attacking the problem and the source.
Tell us more about LetsBuyBlack 365. What is the site about and how does it help Black entrepreneurs and consumers?
Nataki Kambon
The movement is geared to help address the core issue of how we finance the kinds of solutions that protect our people from all the problems in our communities. If you look at the last sixty years, we’ve preached to people to do something, we’ve marched, protested and demonstrated, and we’ve elected politicians, but nothing has really moved the needle significantly. A challenge has been that at times when certain leaders have tried to rise up, you have political assassinations of some people who are known, and many people who are unknown for activism. Another problem is that we as a people assume that we need an individual to be a leader to make a difference in our community. So the whole premise of this movement is: Let’s not sit and wait for someone else to be our leader, for someone else to tell us what we can do and how we can do it to affect change. You, right now, can make the choice to stop financing our oppression and start financing Black liberation, freedom, justice and truth by shifting your money so that you’re still spending your money on the same goods, services and products, but you’re getting them from Black-owned entities and keeping the money circulating within the Black community. So the LetsBuyBlack 365 app and website are actually an ecosystem designed for people to do just that. It’s also a space where people can dialogue about practical actions and solutions that they’re taking on a local level, and then also just engage with other people in general in a positive re-enforcing space that is not filled with a lot of the other negativity and ignorance that we’re subjected to on a constant basis.
Do you think that Black people often face racial profiling when buying goods from big retail stores?
Nataki Kambon
Often I’ve heard people ask, “Does racial profiling exist?” I think racial profiling in these big stores is another part of the problem even in our mentality, if we recognize that things are present to purposefully, economically depress in this country and throughout the world. Black people know that, everyone else knows that. And so when you go to some of these huge stores that have price points that are higher than what the average American is even designed to afford, and we know that this system is set up so that Black people can’t even afford the same lifestyle that even that ‘average’ American can afford, then you get people who go, “Why are you here? Because we are aware the system doesn’t put you in the position where many of you would be able to access this. So we are going to look at you a little sideways because we’re wondering how you got here. Are you one of the few who got through or you are one of those going to probably rob the place.” I think the bigger issue is, “Why do we continue to shop in stores that don’t hire people who look like us, who don’t manufacture from African countries that can supply some of the raw materials, that are built in cities that are not predominantly Black, that give to foundations, organizations and charitable entities that actually further economically depress the Black community?” And we’re still begging people to give them our money, then we get mad when they treat us bad while we’re there. Dr. Frances Cress Welsing talks about the psychosis you have to have to literally beg someone to include you and treat you poorly, when you’re very aware of what the situation is.
So what kinds of goods do you specialize in? Do you specialize in goods that are specially made for Black people, like cosmetics, and personal products, clothing and other things like that?
Nataki Kambon
What the app does is, one, it’s a social network, so you can invite other people to join. You actually get points because we have a slogan there that says: Networking Pays. In this digital age, people do very superficial explorations of topics, subjects, ideas, websites, etc. And some people are more concerned about volume. But I think we need to have a major shift in how we do things because it’s not about the quantity, it’s about the quality, the engagement and how we can affect others. This website is designed to make it where people are encouraged and incentivized to engage with the community on a much deeper level. People talk about how social networks like Facebook have really destroyed social interactions because people have a mindset of just clicking ‘Like’ and moving on, and they don’t even retain the information. In this social network, you can do all the things that you would do in any other social network, but the benefit is that the more you actually engage in meaningful ways, the more you get points, and the more points you get, the more you can do with that in terms of having access to information, having access to celebrities or things that are relevant and fun, businesses and prizes. So it actually encourages people not to just ‘Like’ something but to actually reflect on it and to make a meaningful comment, because you actually get more points for that. You get more points for writing a meaningful article than you do for just posting a one line, ‘Here’s what’s coming up the top of my head’ status update. You get more points for finding something that other people would find helpful and sharing it with the community, more points for rating and reviewing Black-owned businesses and then you get the most points for adding businesses. The directory is crowd-sourced, meaning that it’s not about businesses going in and adding themselves, it’s about you going to find the Black-owned businesses in your area, adding them to the directory and that way, you become the resource of information for others in a way that is meaningful, relevant and impactful.
Do you have any discounts or special offers for people ahead of the Christmas holiday season? What is on sale on the app? Which businesses are signed up?
Nataki Kambon
Well, I’d like to not focus on promotions and discounts just because businesses can and may offer those kinds of things, but other communities actually encourage people in their communities to pay full price for things. Because they realize that when people pay full price for things inside of their community, they’re helping a business owner finance someone’s salary. Kim Bridges is famous for a quote where he says if all of the Black people in this country chose to patronize the existing Black-owned businesses, those businesses would be able to hire all of the unemployed Black people in the country and wipe out unemployment in one day. So while some people want to focus on a 10 – 15% discount, what we really should be focused on are what businesses are committed to hiring Black people, what are the companies that are interested in training and mentoring and creating jobs, creating executive divisions, creating investment opportunities, creating infrastructure in our communities so that we can employ ourselves, police our own communities, educate our own children, and finance everything we need. As long as you are satisfied with getting a 10% discount from somebody white and walking by Black-owned businesses, you’re are literally financing your family’s unemployment, your under-education, and you’re helping people who are robbing other people because there are no job opportunities for them.
Can you tell us a little bit more about the team you work with?
Nataki Kambon
The movement in and of itself is not about a core team or group. We designated a spokesperson because we need someone to be able to do these kinds of things, but every Black person in America is a member of this movement. The real decision is whether you are an active member, a passive member or you are actually secretly or privately against the movement because you’ve not chosen how and where you’re spending your money. So we have on our website a link, where anyone can go in and say, “I am good at making fliers, I want to make fliers for the movement,” and that person becomes an activist who develops some of our marketing content, or anyone can say, “I’m really good at networking,” and they have local events. We have a couple of people who are in the filmmaking industry, and they’ve decided to use their skills to create LetsBuyBlack 365 TV Show. So the whole movement is how people can get involved by using whatever their skills, talents and resources are, to uplift all of us at the same time. Immediately you download the app, you see our partners and sponsors. A 40-million-dollar Black-owned office supplies company in the heart of the Black community in Philadelphia has through the app created a special online ordering portal where they sell anything that you can get from any major office supplies company. I buy my office supplies at Alpha Office Supplies in order to finance jobs, political power and economic stability in the Black community.
Working with this project, what do you think about Black fundraising or angel investors helping Black entrepreneurs to solve their financing issues. Do you think that there are a lot of Black people who are interested right now in helping Black businesses?
Nataki Kambon
I think there are. One of our cherished advisors is Dr. George Fraser who has FraserNET and the Power Networking Conference. We have a video of him on our website where he talks about how we are disconnected from each other from how to gain information, how to really think about things critically, ask meaningful questions and do our due diligence. So sometimes the people with the money don’t have access to the people who don’t have the money and vice-versa. And so this movement is really designed to, through the social network, bridge communications and create a platform and an ecosystem where people can actually begin to build trust amongst each other and have spaces to dialogue and build businesses, enterprises and industries.
What are your parting words to our readers?
Nataki Kambon
I would just share the whole concept. It’s really about how individuals are empowered and how we can shift our understanding of what we can and can’t do based on where and how we spend our money. I would share that about 98% of the companies I spend my money with are Black-owned, and so is everyone, from my exterminator, to my attorney, to my doctor, to my hairstylist. Also, all of my haircare and bath products, office supplies, shoes, come from Black-owned companies. So it dispels the myth that you can’t exist solely on Black-owned businesses. This is very easy for me to do. I moved to DC not too long ago and I found these entities, some local, some online. So I like to always impress upon people that it is not a sacrifice, it’s actually very easy, once you realize the significance of either financing your liberation or oppression and you decide to make sure that your money is going to create a job for someone else’s loved one or one of your own.
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