ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) – August was National Black Business Month, a celebration of Black-owned businesses across the country.
Here in Alaska, the Alaska Black Caucus helped bring attention to the month by promoting Blackout Friday.
Every Friday in the month of August, ABC asked that people only spend money at Black-owned businesses. They even kicked off the event at the beginning of the month with a soul food mixer at Roscoe’s Catfish and Barbeque.
“Maybe the culture isn’t something you’re familiar with, but you know it’s important to go out into areas and communities that you don’t normally visit,” said President/CEO of Alaska Black Caucus Celeste Hodge Growden.
The ABC also held a Black-owned business showcase at Roscoe’s the first week in August, giving other Black-owned businesses in the city of Anchorage the chance to showcase themselves and their products. Some notable Black-owned businesses that showed up to the event were Dana Mae’s cookies and The Drip, a family-owned coffee shop that serves the Anchorage community with local flavor.
“We are honored to be a part of this, and we have something each Friday of this month; we will have deals going on,” said The Drip Owner Rafael Moore.
While businesses such as The Drip and Roscoe’s were willing to participate in celebrating the acknowledgment of National Black Business Month and Blackout Friday here in Alaska, one Black-owned business decided not to participate in Blackout Friday.
Waffles and Whatnot owner Derrick Green decided that he wouldn’t be a participant in Blackout Fridays this month. Green opened Waffles and Whatnot in 2016 on the sidewalk as a food truck. He then opened his first store in Eagle River. After the closing of that store, he was able to open another store in Anchorage.
Green said that his reason for not participating in Blackout Friday is he feels that just one day isn’t enough.
“I don’t feel one day is effective enough,” Green said. “I support recirculating Black dollars within the Black community, as other communities do very effectively, but I don’t think one day is sufficient to make a meaningful impact.”
“I’m beyond saying I’m not going to shop at Target today because it’s Blackout Friday no, we can do more,” Green said.
Green believes it just doesn’t go far enough to Blackout one day because the Black community has not changed their mindset.
“You’re a consumer or a producer,” Green said. “And our community is very largely a consumer, and until they change that mentality of being a consumer it’d be one thing if I had a restaurant and I just go to Costco only go to Costco and buy stuff from Costco and resell it. I’m not producing anything.”
Green believes that more should be done than just blacking out one day to help the Black community. He believes that the Black community needs to change from being the consumer to the producer.
Green manufacturers about 95% of the food at his restaurant, from the labels on his products to the product that goes into the bags he produces.
Yet, others believe that blocking one day a week to ensure people generate dollars for Black-owned businesses is a start.
“Slow progress is better than no progress,” Moore said. “You always hear the saying that a lot of progress has been made but there’s a lot more that needs to be made. How is that going to happen if you are not making any advances to make it happen.”
Moore says that he knows that Blackout Friday and the celebration of Black Business Month aren’t going to change everything, but believes that if the Black community starts here, it could be something bigger by next year.
“If us as a Black community are going to advance as a whole, then it starts with us,” Moore said. “it’s our responsibility to make sure we are taken care of.”
Moore’s wife Mychal says growing up in Alaska, she never had conversations about Historically Black Colleges and Universities or supporting Black businesses. Her dad owned a tow truck company and was never highlighted as a Black-owned company.
“To know that there are so many Black businesses that are here today, and nobody still is really making it known every day. So if it’s a month that we really have to take advantage of it, then that’s what we’re going to do,” Mychal Moore said.
The Moore’s said they feel honored for the opportunity, and felt that the event is needed to help progress the Black community and the Anchorage community as a whole.
Although the views are different, the goal is still the same — giving the Black community the opportunity to change from being consumers to producers — whether BIPOC or not, participating in the event helps to create the opportunity for inclusiveness and community development.
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