My friend Floyd, I guess that I can call him my friend, gingerly slid into his seat at This Is It in a manner that was so awkward and cumbersome that it grasped my attention in an uncommon way. If compared to his present state, the Floyd that I knew had most certainly seen better days; this figure now sitting before me moved not like a man who was stricken with an illness, rather his slow and deliberate movements resembled those of a man who had recently found himself on the losing end of a significant physical altercation.
Floyd’s slow herky-jerky movements were so disconcerting that they did what I thought was impossible at that particular moment, that being distracting me from my succulent plate of Chicken and Dumplings. I had searched far and wide to find a Chicken and Dumplings that rivaled those I ate as a child at my grandmother’s home. It was not until I stumbled upon This Is It that I finally found Chicken and Dumpling’s that even approached those offered by Loraine Young, my beloved grandmother. I am certain that you can understand that I now wished Floyd’s present physical state prior to him sliding into the booth, I would have told him to go and get some food for himself. Unfortunately for me, that no longer appeared to be an option so I simply motioned toward the kitchen and told Floyd, “It’s on me. What do you want?”
Floyd, at nearly a whisper level, an obvious sign that it was extremely difficult for him to speak, communicated, “I wouldn’t be mad at you if you got me some of those chittlins’.”
Although I did momentarily pause out of concern for Floyd’s physical state, I figured that issue would not be immediately solved, particularly in the few moments it was going to take me to order and retrieve his food. With Floyd’s plate of chittlins, coleslaw, and collard greens in tow, I made my way back to the booth and set the plate in front of Floyd. Predictably, even in his present state, Floyd found a way to aggravate me as he intentionally waited, at least I thought that it was intentional, until I had not only sat down, but also picked up my fork to resume eating before issuing another request through a facial expression that reminded one of a meek child, “Could I get a little Sweet Tea to go with this?”
Floyd knew very well that his ill-timed request would be honored, however, not before I shook my head and shot a disapproving stare in his direction; in many ways the most frustrating aspects of his entire episode was that I already knew Floyd well enough to predict that he was going to wait until I sat down before making a request that would, by design, disrupt my dining experience. I mumbled several words under my breath as I rose from my seat to retrieve Floyd’s ‘Sweet Tea’.
During the walk to and fro, I decided that today was not the day for me to fool with Floyd regarding what was going on in his life. I had already decided that today was not going to be a good day for Floyd to dance around with his off-brand of foolishness.
As I sat the ‘Sweet Tea’ in front of Floyd, I jumped right to the crux of the matter.
“Floyd what in the world has happened to you?”
Apparently Floyd was in a mood to be coy and elusive in regards to my query, positions that were simultaneously aggravating and antagonizing to engage him in any type of conversation. Floyd feigned ignorance regarding what I was asking about with a response that he used so frequently that he should have had it trademarked; “What do you mean?”
My only response to Floyd’s attempt at being difficult was to angrily stare straight into his beady little eyes.
“Okay, Okay, Okay! I had a little incident that was most certainly not any fault of mine. I was attacked by a mob of revolutionary Niggers.”
Floyd knew very well that his comfort with using the ‘N-word’ always sent my mind into a spiral. With a mouth full of chitterlings and coleslaw, Floyd continued.
“You know that I am on a fixed income so each and every penny counts. Like this place right here, I would never be able to afford eating here on the regular. This is an uncommon and much appreciated treat for ol’ Floyd. So thank you for this.”
As Floyd paused to deposit some more food into his increasingly greasy mouth, I chimed in. “But Floyd, you do know that it is critical that we support Black businesses like this place, the Breakfast Klub, and Mikki’s Soul Food, because not only do they provide an awesome service, but also they reinvest their profits into the community, not to mention the droves of our people that they employ. You most certainly understand that.”
By the time I finished my soliloquy on the virtues of supporting Black businesses, Floyd was shoveling yet another forkful of chitterlings into his even more greasy mouth. Although I wanted to continue expounding upon the desperate need for African-Americans to circulate the dollar within the Black community, Floyd held up one coleslaw covered finger as if asking me to wait before I continued my diatribe regarding our individual and collective responsibilities when it came to Black economics.
It was only after Floyd had not only swallowed the massive amount of food he was holding in his mouth as if it were some type of oversized storage unit, but also chased it with a gulp of ‘Sweet Tea’ that he began to speak again.
“Now you know that I understand the need to support our own. Have you forgotten my experience at ‘Cookie’s Corner’? You remember how I acted when our people by-passed a Black business in favor for an Arab store? Remember, who was charged with a ‘hate crime’ for defending a Black business?”
I must relate to being a bit surprised, if not impressed, at Floyd’s response because he was most certainly correct on all accounts. It was this past that made his recent confrontation all the more strange.
“I was simply informing you about my fixed income status, nothing more and nothing less. If anything, it is economic constraints and common sense that makes my supporting Black businesses difficult.”
I intuitively realized that Floyd’s ‘common sense’ statement was the bait he was using to bring me into a discussion about Black businesses.
“Now let’s get back to why those Niggers, your kind of people, made the decision to jump on ol’ Floyd.”
I responded to Floyd’s offer to return to my earlier question with little more than a slight nod of my head.
“As I said before, I am on a fixed income, so each and every penny counts. I have to watch my money closely or I will run out of it before the month ends.”
Although I knew that I shouldn’t, I chimed in with a question. “Floyd? What in the hell does that have to do with you being beaten up?”
Most certainly annoyed by my interjection, Floyd stared at me before stating, “If you would give me a minute then I could tell you!”
“I have a routine that I adhere to; I purchase the same groceries from the same corner store that is located around the corner from where I live. I don’t have a car to either make it to a real grocery store, or the means to get the stuff that I purchased home even if I did. I am definitely not going to get on the bus with them; that would create an entirely different issue. So I by-pass all of those issues and go to the corner store that is closest to my apartment, it just happens to be owned by some Arabs who are actually always nice and polite to me. I don’t bother them and they respect me.”
Floyd apparently read the skepticism on my face, as he was known to do, Floyd changed facts to bolster his position in any argument or debate that he was involved in. I knew from prior discussions that Floyd lived in the predominantly African-American 5th Ward, not far from the location that we were currently dining. It was difficult for me to believe that there were no Black business options from which Floyd could make his purchases.
Floyd continued, “I already know what you are thinking. And you are right. There is a Black corner store right across the street from the Arab store.”
I inquired, “Why not simply shop at that store and support your own people, Floyd?”
“I have two good reasons that I don’t shop at the Black store. Reasons that I wished that I could have shared with those Revolutionary Niggers that jumped on me for shopping at the Arab store. Number one, I am on a fixed income and the Arab store is cheaper. Number two, I know that fool who owns the Black convenience store, he owns a gang of them, and he is not re-investing his money back into the community, he is putting it into his damn pocket as he heads to plush pad in River Oaks.”
“You do know what made me see the light in regards to not blindly supporting Black businesses don’t you?”
I just cringed at what I knew was coming, my own words. Floyd laid out in front of me one of my recent editorials regarding this matter.
THE JORDAN RULES:
HOW MICHAEL JORDAN UNRAVELS ‘BUY BLACK’ CAMPAIGNS
Racial uplift plans began prior to the issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Most certainly since the slave era ended in 1865, African-Americans have attempted innumerable plans to improve the community by addressing its financial shortcomings. A diverse group of leaders from Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, T. Thomas Fortune, Marcus Garvey, Elijah Muhammad, Martin Luther King Jr., Madame C.J. Walker, Malcolm X, and Louis Farrakhan, have all advanced slightly different formulas that promised to lift African-Americans out of the economic chains that have held them so firmly.
Generally speaking, the vast majority of these programs are relatively simple in that they call for the rise of a Black entrepreneur class that creates businesses to serve the needs of the African-American community. The rather simple formula calls for the African-American community to support these businesses with an unbreakable loyalty. According to most Black Nationalists, the circulating of the dollar within the African-American community is the only reasonable means of economic improvement. Such thinkers are most certainly motivated by Malcolm X’s famous quote of, “You run down your own community when you give your dollar away.”
Often ignored in such economic formulas is a final step that calls for Black businessmen to honor the African-American community’s unending loyalty by re-investing their monies in new businesses, philanthropic endeavors, depositing their money in Black banks who will then issue loans to aspiring business owners, and the hiring of community members. Failure to do such destroys the entire racial uplift campaign as it is doing little more than enriching individuals whose wealth is not ‘trickling down’ to the masses that it was built upon. One of the greatest examples of such is the basketball icon Michael Jordan.
Although one can have a robust argument regarding who is the greatest basketball player of all-time. Innumerable names appear in that discussion: Oscar “the Big O” Robertson, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Julius “Dr. J” Irving, Larry Bird, Ervin “Magic” Johnson, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and the list goes on and on. However, there is one arena that is indisputable in regards to the aforementioned basketball legends, that being, who has been the most financially successful player away from the court. Michael Jordan, a six-time NBA Champion, stands without peer in regards to off the court financial success. Jordan’s unprecedented off the court financial success is attributable to the sneaker empire he has built with the aid of Nike.
I am certain that there are many who believe that Ervin “Magic” Johnson rivals Jordan in post-athletic career earnings, those people are wrong. According to Nike Chief Executive Officer Mark Parker, the Jordan “Jumpman” brand “…transcend(s) sport and culture across gender, age and geographies…(opening up a) world of opportunity…”
Jordan has been able to accomplish something that seems impossible by increasing endorsement dollars after retirement. In 2004, the year after Jordan retired from the National Basketball Association, the six-time NBA champion earned $28 million dollars in endorsements. Today, the Jordan brand was raking in more than $100 million in endorsements; more dollars than any active NBA player. In fact, one could combine the endorsement dollars of LeBron James and Kobe Bryant and still not equal Michael Jordan’s total.
According to the initial theory of racial uplift, the African-American community has proven their loyalty to the Jordan Brand by spending millions, if not billions, of dollars purchasing everything produced with the infamous “Jumpman” logo on it. Unfortunately for the African-American community, Michael Jordan has proven to be a non-factor in racial matters. I am reminded of Jordan’s stance of neutrality when asked which political party he belonged to; Jordan slyly declined to answer the question before quipping, “Republicans buy shoes to.” There is no doubt that Michael Jordan is neither a Civil Rights activist nor interested in practicing socially responsible individualism. He is quite simply a Capitalist interested in earning as much money as humanly possible.
I think that there is much to be learned from Jordan’s refusal to aid in the uplift of his people despite their loyalty to the Jordan Brand. Quite possibly the largest lesson to be gleaned is the harsh reality that current ‘buy Black’ economic programs are going to be woefully insufficient if Black business owners are absent a commitment to uplift the race that matches those who are religiously supporting them. Unless Black businessmen have a developed sense of loyalty to the race, ‘buy Black’ campaigns will never improve the economic status of the community one iota, it will simply lead to the financial prosperity of a class of Capitalists who have no desire to aid others.
James Thomas Jones III
©Manhood, Race, and Culture
As I am certain that you can tell, I wanted to debate Floyd regarding his not supporting a Black business, however, there was little that I could say regarding this matter because he was correct in his assessment that any African-American establishment that does not re-invest a portion of its earnings into the community in some form, shape, or fashion, should not be considered a Black business. Put simply, they are Capitalists using the fact that they are “Black owned” as a brilliant marketing tool to exponentially increase their exploitation of the African-American community.
I simply sat across from Floyd, partially impressed that he had taken something I wrote, digested it, and applied it to his life. All I could muster was, “Well, well, well.”
Sensing that he had won this particular verbal joust, Floyd annoyingly stated through not only a thick Southern accent, but also a mouthful of Chittlins’, “And yet another victory for Floyd.”
There was little left to do after fantastic food and great conversation than to exit This is It. However, as I rose to leave, Floyd, in his own special way, quickly asked me.
“Bruh, let me have $50. I told you that I am on a fixed income.”
He laughed hilariously as I reached into my pocked to retrieve the requested funds. All I could do was shake my head and thank God for such a friendship.
Dr. James Thomas Jones III