An ode to the Black Economy

Abigail Busenze reflects on the importance of supporting Black entrepreneurs and Black-led businesses, with a focus on those here in Leeds.

I write this in attempt to encourage engagement with the endeavours of Black-owned businesses and, thus, to be a part of a trajectory that will lead to Black liberation.

Malcom X expresses that not only do we need to re-educate ourselves on the importance of supporting Black -owned businesses, we also need to be aware of the importance of going into business. This allows us to have autonomy over employment and therefore eliminate the necessity of begging to get a seat on somebody else’s table when we have now built our own. 

Black owned spaces for Black people is necessary. Both taking a seat at the table and making your own table is necessary. [Those] who can use that space are responsible for who is allowed to be involved. 

– Say it With Your Chest

This has been highlighted by Black Pound Day: a day occurring once a month where people are encouraged to spend on Black-owned businesses in lieu of their usual purchases. This was created by So Solid Crew’s Swiss in response to the death of George Floyd and the current Black Lives Matter movement. Mahogany Market is a market focused on Black Pound Day, creating a platform for Black businesses in Leeds to come together to connect and trade. Though this occurs once a month, it is encouraged to invest in Black-owned businesses in general.

Leeds is a hub for entrepreneurs; amongst these entrepreneurs are Say It With Your Chest, RD Designs and Sable Radio. Say It With Your Chest is a Leeds based art collective focusing on Black creatives working together and holding events centring Black arts, film and sound. They believe in speaking power to truth with confidence through poetry.

The Black community want to be accepted into Black aristocracy and opulence. We need to create opulence. We need to create our own platforms. Our generation can be the beginning of generational wealth if we take charge now.

– RD Designs 

Living in the streets of Leeds, it is clear that the arts are at the forefront of entrepreneurialism. AD, a former Leeds Arts University student embraces the words of Pyer Moss designer, Kerby Jean-Raymond, that “If I’m going to be the Black designer, I’m going to tell it my way”. With RD designs, AD created a fashion line that tells the Black community that they are beautiful. This came from recognising that media has painted a negative narrative of the Black community; therefore it is fundamental to take ownership in how we see ourselves.

A Black-led radio is important because Black people and non-Black people of colour deserve the right to self-determination in digital media. We deserve to be able to represent ourselves and showcase our creativity and talent.

– Sable Radio

We as the Black community should empower ourselves rather than wait for the media to do it for us. This means taking initiative, which can be seen by Sable Radio: a Leeds-based, Black-led community radio station created as a direct response to the lack of Black and Brown creatives in the radio and music industry. Alongside broadcasting, they do other arts and culture programming. These endeavours allow them to platform and support a variety of creative practices, achieving their aim to facilitate creatives of colour in northern England.

Having spoken to all three businesses I asked “Why are Black-owned Businesses important?”. As you read their responses on the following page, it is elemental that you answer this question for yourself too.

At the bottom of education, at the bottom of politics, even at the bottom of religion, there must be for our race economic independence.

– Booker T. Washington

Header Image Credit:  Maariyah Fulat, Images from the Mahogany Market