Late last week, Chino Amobi, one of the founders of NON Records, announced a new monthly initiative called Black Friday. On the launch date, this Friday 15 July, NON Records invites you — and everyone — to buy exclusively from black-owned businesses. It's a beautifully practical, crucially simple action that embodies the larger concept: the redistribution of wealth as a means to drive equality. A related movement sprang up two years ago when a group of activists decided to #BlackoutBlackFriday by boycotting the annual sales shopping day following a grand jury's failure to indict Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of Ferguson teenager Michael Brown. In light of the continued police violence, a more proactive approach has proved necessary. Amobi has put together a bunch of resources to help locate black-owned businesses; we jumped on the phone yesterday to talk more about it.
What's the idea behind Black Friday?
CHINO AMOBI: It's a practical step that everyone can take that will redistribute resources and wealth into the black community. I believe that the opposite of justice is poverty. By helping to redistribute the wealth into the community, there will be more power within our people. It'll be a catalyst towards change, in terms of being able to have power over what's happening in our community, being able to hold police more accountable, [and] the ability for those funds to enable us to be organized and unified on a front.
I was reading about money that is spent in black neighborhoods, that [there are] a lot of businesses that are not owned by black people, and the money doesn't stay in the community. So a big initiative of Black Friday is for the money to stay in the community and to also start a dialogue of healing, healing, healing. Much healing. Because with everything that's happened over the years — generationally, as well as within the past couple of months — there's been so much trauma. It's very important for us to focus on healing and reconciliation across cultures and within the black community. If black lives matter, I feel it's really important for us to really show love. Because people are angry, people are frustrated. Justly angry and justly frustrated. And in these times, it's critical for us to show love. Often times I feel like where we put our money is a sign of what we love, or what we value. Because money is a very strong message. I started to think about it when I saw Solange posting about putting money into black-owned banks across the country. That's really important. I just want to show solidarity in this time and give an option of a practical way that we can all show solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter and be a catalyst for rewriting the social narrative.
What other movements like this have there been in the past?
In the '60s, there were a lot of boycotts, and Martin Luther King called for black people to redirect our resources into the black community and into black banks. Also, the Black Panthers had free breakfasts for kids and a lot of cultural programs before the FBI targeted these organizations and intentionally infiltrated and tried to break down the programs that were trying to uplift people and strengthen the black community. So there's that. I was also reading about a woman who was buying black for a year. For a whole year, she would seek out black-owned businesses even if she had to travel a little further. I really identify with that objective — it's very important to patronize our community and I feel like there's a lack of that. There's so many opportunities for our strength to arise. Malcolm X fought for that very strongly, as well. I feel like it's a very important dialogue to begin.
There's a dual impact to Black Friday, too. On one hand, it financially supports black-owned businesses, but then secondly, it's actively encouraging people to talk to one another. Mykki Blanco said something to that point on Twitter, that there are lots of white people saying #BlackLivesMatter but they're not necessarily talking to their black neighbors.
That's critical — starting some sort of dialogue where it's like, "Look we're talking to each other, this is very, very important in terms of reconciliation and healing." There's a racial toxicity in the air that's so thick, but it's like the elephant in the room, you know? And then when things happen, people are surprised. And in many ways [it's because] there isn't a dialogue between these people. And even with the police, there's a disparity of dialogue between many of them and the communities that they serve. I just feel like that feeling is caused through [old] habits. [New] habits come through communication and compassion —and compassion comes through dialogue and humility and grace and mercy, and I feel like those [can all be] worked out through commerce. Because then it's actually a very valuable exchange.
“I believe that the opposite of justice is poverty. By helping to redistribute the wealth into the black community, there will be more power within our people.”
The staunch anti-capitalist view is that we need to do away with capitalism. But we need to achieve equality before we can dismantle it together. What are your thoughts on that?
I agree with that. In [NON Records] statements before, we said we are against hyper-capitalism, which is where the free market just feeds on the subordination of the "other." But we've never stated that we're anti-capitalists, although some people have tried to put that label on us. We believe that there's much value in using resources to establish equality. Because you could have a shift into any sort of political [system] but the inequality could still be there, and most likely will be there if there's not a sense of deep community and equality within the people. I don't prescribe to the idea that we just need to get rid of capitalism. I don't feel like that's at the heart of inequality.
I feel like it's three-pronged: white supremacy, patriarchy, capitalism. They're the trinity behind inequality but we can't battle capitalism until we battle white supremacy and patriarchy.
I'm 100% in agreement with that. Without equality, there can't be healing across socio-economic disparities. People can change the government however they want but without tackling these issues in terms of how we treat each other, how we relate to one another on a very day-to-day, grounded level, [nothing will change]. For example, the Black Friday event, it's an intentional way of how to spend your money. If that exchange is not happening on a very intentional level then people are just going to end up being exploited, and the poor will stay poor and powerless, and the injustice will continue to happen.
I feel [it’s my duty] to try to be a part of helping people where injustice is happening in their lives through a lack of distribution of cultural capital. There are many ways that we can do that: like myself, I am a first generation Nigerian-American — both my parents are from Nigeria — and there are certain privileges that I have that I know people who have come from generations and generations of slavery in America have not been able to benefit from. So I feel consciously burdened to be a catalyst in that redistribution of cultural capital. I want to keep building momentum from this event and continue doing one every month as it leads up to what America commonly refers to as "Black Friday." [We want to] leave our mark on that and to continue building and to unite with other organizations as well on this mission, just continue to build momentum off of it.
On a practical level, what resources do you recommend for locating black-owned businesses?
In the Facebook group, we have included websites and lists that document different places in specific areas where people can go to. Google has been super helpful for finding these things for me. For example, somebody posted in the comments, "I would love to participate in this, I'm just not sure which locations are black-owned within the Raleigh-Durham area." And I just did a quick Google search and a specific page came up that had over 200 black-owned businesses in the Raleigh Durham area. So, yeah, Google is very helpful. [There are more resources listed in this NON Records Google Doc.]
We also feel it's very important, when you're at the location, to talk to the storeowners or employees and let them know what this day is about. I feel like that's a great way of engaging in the dialogue and it's something that I feel both parties will remember. It's not an act that would be done in vain.