My friend Floyd, I guess that I can comfortably call him my friend, gingerly slid into his seat at This Is It in a manner that was so unusual that it caught my attention. Compared to his present state, Floyd had certainly seen better days; Floyd moved not like a man who was stricken with illness, rather his slow and deliberate movements resembled those of a man who found himself on the losing end of a physical altercation.
Floyd’s slow movements were so disconcerting that they distracted me from my delicious plate of Chicken and Dumplings. Although I now wished that I had noticed his condition before his sliding into the booth, I motioned toward the kitchen area and told Floyd,
“It’s on me. What do you want?”
Floyd, at nearly a whisper level, a clear sign that it was difficult for him to speak, communicated,
“I wouldn’t be mad at you if you got me some of those chitlins’.”
Although I momentarily paused as I wanted to find out what was wrong with Floyd; I figured that issue would remain after I returned with the chitterlings. With food in tow, I made my way back to our booth and set the plate in front of Floyd.
Predictably, Floyd’s present condition did not prevent him from intentionally aggravating me. He purposely waited until I had not only sat down but also picked up my fork to resume eating before asking like a meek child,
“Could I get a little Sweet Tea to go with this?”
Floyd’s request, although ill-timed, would be honored, however, not before I shook my head at him and let out a prolonged sigh; in many ways the most frustrating aspect of this entire episode was that I knew Floyd well enough to know that he was going to wait until I sat down before making another request. 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. Today was not a good day for Floyd to dilly-dally around.
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 his usual mood to be coy and elusive, positions that were as aggravating as they were unnecessary. By feigning ignorance, ‘Foolish Floyd’ was raising my ire to a level that would have surprised him; as I previously mentioned, today was most certainly not the day to be fooling around, I was quite simply not in the mood for his silly banter.
“What do you mean?”
My response to Floyd’s attempt at being difficult was to stare straight into his beady little eyes angrily.
“Okay, Okay, Okay!!!! I had a little incident about a block from my house; one that I definitely did not cause. I was on my way to the store when a mob of those Revolutionary niggas attacked me.”
Floyd knew very well that his easy use of 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 every penny counts. Like this place right here, I would never be able to afford eating here on the regular. It costs too much.”
I jumped right in on this point as Floyd paused to deposit more food into his greasy mouth,
“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 all of the people they employ. Those people are someone’s mother and father.”
By the time I finished my soliloquy on the virtues of circulating the Black dollar, Floyd was shoveling yet another forkful of chitterlings into his even more greasy mouth. Although I wanted to continue expounding upon the desperate need to support Black businesses, Floyd held up a coleslaw covered finger as if he were asking me to cease my diatribe.
It was after Floyd swallowed the massive amount of food he was holding in his mouth as if it were some oversized storage unit and chased it with a gulp of ‘Sweet Tea’ that he began to speak again.
“Now you know, of all people, that I understand the need to support our own. Have you forgotten my experience at ‘Cookie’s Corner Store’? You remember how I acted when our people by-passed a Black business in favor of 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 overly impressed, by Floyd’s response because he was correct on all accounts.
“I was just informing you of 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.”
Floyd’s use of the words ‘common sense’ was apparently today’s bait being used to usher me into a raucous discussion regarding the desperate need to support Black businesses at all costs.
“Now let’s get back to why those Revolutionary niggas, your kind of people, jumped 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 every penny counts. I have to watch my money closely, or I will run out 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?”
Annoyed by my interjection, Floyd stared at me before stating,
“If you would give me a minute then I could tell you! So just be quiet for a couple minutes, please.”
“I have a routine that I adhere to; I purchase the same groceries from the same corner store located around the corner from where I live. I don’t have a car to make it to a real grocery store. I am not getting on the bus with no damn groceries; that would create an entirely different issue. So I bypass all of that and go to the corner store closest to my apartment, it just happens to be owned by some Arabs who are always helpful and polite to me. I don’t bother them, and they respect me.”
Floyd apparently read the skepticism on my face. I knew from prior discussions that Floyd lived in the predominantly African-American 5th Ward, in fact, he didn’t live far from where we were dining. It was difficult for me to believe that the area was devoid of opportunities for Floyd to do business with his own people.
“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.”
“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 niggas before they attacked me for shopping at the Arab store. Number one, I am on a fixed income and the Arab store is much less expensive. Number two, I know that fool who owns the Black convenience store, he owns a gang of them, and he is most definitely not re-investing his money back into the community, he is putting it into his damn pocket as he heads to his plush pad in River Oaks; over there with the white folks.”
“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 an editorial 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, 2015.
As I am certain that you know, I wanted to chastise Floyd regarding his not supporting a Black business, however, there was little that I could say. To my shock, ‘Foolish’ Floyd 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 fashion does not qualify as a Black business. Put simply, such businesses are mere Capitalists using the fact that they are “Black owned” as a marketing tool to fleece African-Americans.
I simply sat across from Floyd, partially impressed that he had taken something I wrote, digested it and then 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 Chitlins’, “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 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 pocket to retrieve the funds. I simply shook my head and thanked God for blessing me with such a good friend.
Dr. James Thomas Jones III
© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2015
Chapter Excerpt from the book, Foolish Floyd: The Life and Times of an African-American Contrarian.
Currently available at Amazon.