dollar_signs.jpgJust how much buying power do African-Americans have? A report by the polling company Nielsen, in collaboration with the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) – umbrella for America’s black press – says it will reach $1.1 trillion by 2015.

Calls for using such purchasing clout to advance ourselves are nothing new, of course. The journalist and activist Tony Brown, of Tony Brown’s Journal fame, has dedicated a good deal of his life to spark an interest in just such a movement.

Yet, the African-American landscape is not dotted with symbols of economic empowerment. We are not in banking, high finance such as hedge funds and national and international corporations. All the indices point to us as the stepchild of this mighty economy.

We have allowed ourselves to be relegated to the role of consumers –  of all kinds. We buy the most expensive footwear and cars, we buy an inordinate number of movie tickets. And when something new comes along, we buy it up, such as new technology, represented by smartphones. We cannot get enough of social media and Internet content. This rush to spend is our economic blind side.

We do have people who earn a lot of money, such as sports and entertainment superstars, and they can make a dent in the economic depression which is a perpetual state of affairs for us. But there is a deeper-seated problem that we must tackle and it starts with being more frugal and using our savings as a means for economic advancement.

That’s at the individual level. Collectively, we can do vastly more. We can put that $1.1 trillion to work for us, as all other Americans do with their money. We must start building the infrastructure for an African-American economy.

There is no need for anything sophisticated, at least at the beginning. One interesting initiative which has recently surfaced is the Million Dollar Black Spending Power Campaign, which is discussed elsewhere on this page. It says that if African Americans spend just $20 a week with a black-owned business, that will mean $1 million a week going into black communities nationwide. It also pushes the self-supporting platform that has been an underpinning of other similar initiatives in the past.

That proposal focuses on our ability to influence change through how we choose to spend our dollars. It is worthy of serious consideration and could be a significant start to the process of our  economic salvation, which is the key to end our drowning in a sea of dollars, and finding a way to use our financial strength to catapult us into the mainstream economy.