Buying Black Is How My Family Celebrates Kwanzaa

Ujamaa is cooperative economics—here's my family envisions it.

Young woman paying for goods with a smart watch in a coffee shop.
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Tara Moore/Getty Images

The fourth Kwanzaa principle Ujamaa is dear to my heart. Falling on the fourth day of the Kwanzaa celebration, it means cooperative economics in Swahili. According to the official Kwanzaa website, cooperative economics refers to building and maintaining “our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.” The website also says inherent in Ujamaa is the “obligation of generosity, especially to the poor and vulnerable.” 

 For my family, this principle emphasizes the importance of us supporting Black-owned businesses, helping each other thrive economically, and giving back.

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Ways to Give Back

Giving back is simple. In our household, we go through our clothes often and always donate clothes that we no longer need to Goodwill or a homeless shelter. Or, if I have a friend who is pregnant, I’ll give our extra baby clothes to them. I also donate excess, unopened beauty and feminine products. Giving back can be as simple as donating food in your pantry that you no longer need.

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Ways We Support Black-Owned Businesses

It’s not hard to support Black business owners either. Think of all of the services you pay for on a daily basis. If we all made a conscious effort to even hire Black-owned companies for half of those services, our Black community would probably be so much better off.

From our electrician to authors of our children’s books, to our doula, to the maker of our soy candles, these are just some of the ways we support Black-owned businesses in our community. Something as simple as sharing posts from Black-owned businesses in your Instagram stories or tipping a little extra to a Black server, Doordash, or Uber driver is helping our community thrive. Then, there are the staples such as hiring a Black insurance agent or buying hair care products from Black-owned companies. 

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Where I Find Black-Owned Companies

Sometimes I find them through my network of friends and sorority sisters. Or, I’ll meet them out in the community at markets or events. Oftentimes, I search for providers or products on social media using related hashtags and look for the Black-owned companies that come up in my search. Depending on how expensive the service or product is, I check reviews and if I like it, I pay for it. 

 When we travel, I really enjoy supporting Black businesses. As the founder of the family travel blog, Blacktrekking, we like to visit black-owned locales on our trips. I’ll often reach out to the tourism board for the destination to find out what the popular Black-owned restaurants and museums are. I’ll ask for the location of the historically Black neighborhood so I can check it out myself. And sometimes, I’ll luck up and find an AirBnB with a Black host or owner.

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Creating Multiple Streams of Income

Ujamaa is also about making sure your own family is financially secure. In my household, we often discuss how important it is to work toward having multiple streams of income and to refrain from depending on a sole 9-5 job for your livelihood. It can be as simple as creating a product and selling it in person or online or dividend income from stocks purchased in the stock market.

 In my case, one of our streams of income is the two books I wrote, the children’s book“Kyler Treks to Ghana,” and the travel memoir “Blacktrekking: My Journey Living in Latin America.” I love writing and talking about travel so writing these two books came naturally to me. What I love about writing books is they are created once and can be sold forever. Our kids will even receive royalties off of them after we die.

Another stream I’ve found is offering paid workshops on Zoom about topics I have expertise in and then selling the recorded video using the digital content creation site, Gumroad, to others who couldn’t make the live event. 

 

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Share Helpful Financial Information

Perhaps even more important than creating multiple streams of income is sharing helpful financial information. My family is really into this! My mother, her brothers, my sister, and I are in a group text where we talk daily about finances and how to get ahead. 

 My mother, who is happily retired and loves trading, texts us almost daily about what’s going on in the stock market. She reads all of the daily financial news and alerts us of things such as upcoming IPOs, stock splits, etc. She teaches us how to use the Fidelity app and website to track our dividend payments or find the mutual funds with the highest rate of return for the year. 

 As a journalist, I also share helpful news articles that either I’ve written or come across as it relates to family finances. I also share these things with friends such as info about the status of student loan forgiveness or different mortgage assistance programs for first-time homeowners. One of my friends listened and used the first-time homeowner’s mortgage assistance program to buy a home and the value of that home has now doubled.

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Amassing Generational Wealth

My parents are concerned with not only my financial future but my children’s. My mother and father have set up a 529 college savings plan to assist my children with paying for college. We have as well. My mother has also set up custodial UTMA (Uniform Transfer to Minor Act) accounts where she buys stocks for my children and will be able to transfer the accounts to them when they become of age. She encourages her friends to do the same for their grandchildren, in an effort to increase awareness about methods for establishing generational wealth

 According to a study by the Brookings Institute, the median white household held $188,200 in wealth, 7.8 times that of the typical Black household ($24,100) in 2019. Wealth is the difference between a household’s assets and debt, according to the study. I suspect a lack of financial literacy may be contributing to this wealth gap disparity in the Black community. Combating this by sharing financial information, networking, and sharing our business success stories is so important. This is why Ujamaa is a priority to me and my family. When we support each other, we all thrive. 



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