Three people standing in front of HUB

Gaye Warren, Asad Shabazz and Sharon Gordon of the HUB

Black Americans spend over $1.2 trillion dollars every year – making Black America one of the largest economies in the world. Out 196 countries, Black America would rank 15th. However, currently only 3-5% of Black dollars are spent with Black businesses. This revelation is stated on the, a website promoting the new Black Power movement as an “economic revolution.”

There’s a resurgence of Black rights movements some of the largest and most militant since the 60s-70s? Proclaiming that Black lives matter is not only a demand for justice following police abuse and murders of Black citizens, but a call to the general society for economic justice in the Black community.

“We’d like to see people continue to see the correlation between economic empowerment and the fight for justice and equality,” says Sherri Hamilton, founder of the Blackout Coalition, and local Columbus journalist/activist. Sherri and her husband Lawrence “Butch” Hamilton, producers the news site Black Central, launched the Blackout Coalition a year ago because “…after decades of marching about outrageous injustice from police brutality to voter suppression, mass incarceration, unemployment and low wages, high interest loans, education inequality, genetically modified food and environmental destruction… our conditions remain the same. It’s time for something new. It’s time to realize our power. We have the power to change the world!”

Michael Vinson, a member of the OSU-based Effective Steps Toward Resistance movement that emerged after the Ferguson murder and other police killings last year, also wanted to confront economic issues in society. This led to the inception of the local “Economic Empowerment and Resistance Task Force.” He describes the Task Force as “a grassroots organization for poor and working class people.” They advocate for “alternative economic models that challenge the capitalist system” and “work to convert people power into economic driving forces that advance our social justice movements.”

One promising example of Black economic empowerment and entrepreneurship is the new HUB (Horizontal Urban Business) Community Development Corporation that opened its doors on October 15, 2015at 1336 East Main Street.The non-profit HUB touts itself as a business incubator. Housed in a building that was formerly a movie theater, then a community health center, the 20,000 square foot building now holds 18 private office spaces, two conference rooms, two workshop rooms, as well as printing and copying services.

Longtime local activist and HUB founder Asad Shabazz is quoted in the HUB News saying, “Columbus needed a place that would be the answer to workforce development and economic empowerment of the community by addressing three major issues at the same time…jobs, business development and education.” Their website announces that, “The HUB CDC is about the empowerment of people who do thirst for growth and have a spark of light within them that needs to be illuminated. It’s about the audacity, optimism and drive of the people who believe they can change their lives, but lack the support and the appropriate administrative management mechanism, understanding and cultural competency to help them to overcome all of their challenges.”

These are only a few of the local efforts to understand, confront and overcome the persistent barriers to Black America’s control of their dollars. There is something for everyone, the intellectual, the Black small business owner, and the economic activists.

“A recent study revealed that if African-American households with an annual income of $75,000 or more increased their spending with Black businesses from 3% to 10%, it would create 1 million jobs in our community,” reads the website.
   The Blackout site encourages Black readers to “invest” and “divest”: “support Black-owned businesses” and “Do not shop/do not buy/withdraw your money from corporations, businesses and institutions that play a role in the destruction and decay of our communities. Commit and spend your money with Black businesses or don’t spend at all at least one day a week.”

Sherri Hamilton describes how the Blackout coalition was formed: “During the summer of 2001, a Facebook Event was created for ‘Blackout Monday’ to take place on September 8. In three weeks, over 40,000 people signed up to participate in this day focused on spending money with black businesses only or more importantly not spending with businesses that disrespect the black community.”

“With the overwhelming response to that one-day event, we decided it made the most sense to keep the movement going,” she explains, “We started a new hashtag and encouraged people to purchase from black businesses only #eachandeveryfriday. The Blackout Coalition is led by the organizations that worked hard to promote the original initiatives: Black Central, Buy Black Economics, Black Knowledge, Black Wall Street 2.0, I Am Me Naturally, and the Just-us League.”

Hamilton “…was raised in a household with parents who were dedicated to the empowerment of all oppressed people, with primary focus on the black community. I am dedicated to this endeavor, because economic empowerment is the missing link in our fight for freedom. Marching alone has not worked. Voting alone has not worked. Our spending power is tremendous, but we have little to no economic power as a community. It’s similar to spending thousands of dollars a month on a luxury apartment. You may have nice things, but at the end of the day you don’t own or control anything!”

“Many people are outraged by the ills of our community: mass incarceration, police brutality, joblessness, poverty, school to prison pipeline, etc. Moving forward, we hope that people will realize that strengthening our businesses and institutions is a critical element to turning these issues around,” Hamilton asserts, “Every other community supports their own. We must realize that our community can only thrive when we circulate our dollars internally.”

About their success, Hamilton announces, “Since the launch last year, thousands of individuals, businesses and organizations have joined. With over 80,000 black households participating, I’m proud to say that we’ve circulated over $120 million with over a $200 million economic impact. We’ve seen a huge increase in people talking about economic empowerment in the past year. We’re not trying to claim that our efforts are solely responsible for it, but we’d like to think that what we are doing has helped. The challenge lies mostly in encouraging people to fight through the occasional inconvenience and pricing that can’t compete with large retail outlets. When people understand the bigger picture, they are more willing to make the sacrifice.”

The Economic Empowerment and Resistance Task Force

Michael Vinson’s inspiration to organize a task force on economic empowerment and resistance simply begins with the fact he is “…a member of the poor working class. I have spent my entire life hovering the poverty line.” He is dedicated to this movement “because my people are suffering…because we are facing extinction. I do this for Tajai and Tamir Rice. I do this for my people locked away in Uncle Sam’s concentration camps. I do this for oppressed people all over the world.”

Task Force member Elder Rahanni Aanika says he is involved “because when I look at the world I don’t see Black people controlling the means of production and distribution.”

“The task force is a group of people that are developing a collective ideology and alternatives for those that are opposed to the capitalist system,” Aanika explains, “We define capitalism as a way of organizing the economic activities of a society in terms of its class relations (i.e. who owns and controls the means of production and distribution) and its central mechanisms of economic coordination via so-called free markets.”

Member Charlotte Owens puts it this way: “I had become aware that capitalism depends on having excess labor, resulting in some people being left out. The insecurity and fear of poverty drives people to target other groups as inferior, so that they and their own group are more likely to have jobs. Therefore, all our oppressions, whether racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia, etc. are tied into our economic system targeting some people for economic disadvantage. Knowing this, I am looking for an economic system that includes and serves all people, instead of our current one where people are subordinate to the economic system.”

Member Simone Morgen, Chair of the Democratic Socialists of Central Ohio, thinks “…this effort can illuminate other ways to empower communities, and break the grip of the standard capitalist model, which serves only those at the top with ready capital.”

Owens says the group is “…looking for ideas and current examples that are more consistent with our values. We have visited with two cooperative businesses, and we have also presented public programs, at Rootscamp, and, since then, on participatory budgeting. Currently, we are studying the open cooperative movement.” Morgen notes that open cooperatives “expand the reach of cooperatives beyond the immediate workers and participants to the community as a whole, in terms of how they affect others and the environment.” Aanika states that, “The Task Force has taught me that Black people have a long and rich history of cooperative ownership in this country that has been traced back to the 1700’s.”

“It’s hard creating a plan to save the world when most of my energy is consumed in the struggle to survive,” Vinson laments, but sums up the year’s work: “Our main accomplishment is that we’ve managed to create a sense of community within our core group.”

The Task Force meets frequently at branch libraries around central Ohio. Check the Free Press Activist Calendar for details.


“Our goal is to create the New Black Wall Street right here in Columbus, Ohio at the HUB. We must stop worrying about what others think about us, but be more concerned about what we think about ourselves. At the HUB there is a mindset of success for us while helping others to succeed, as well. Whatever you need is at the HUB and if it isn’t already here, then it is on its way.” So states Gayle Warren, owner of Warren Wealth Enterprises, a HUB tenant.

In addition to office space and access to equipment, the HUB provides technical support, networking opportunities, business mentors, communication and mediation training classes, and job and health fairs. “We believe that, in most cases, there is no absence of good opportunities, however, the problem is typically a crisis of access and readiness, specific skill sets, and adequate transportation,” the HUB website reads.

The HUB not only helps individuals gain employment, but encourages small business development and education. The HUB philosophy is: “We believe that if an individual starts a small business, he/she is in fact ‘working.’ However, if they find gainful employment he/she is also ‘working.’ In either situation these individuals need education (training) in order to be successful. Furthermore, when HUB members are cradled in an environment which provides them with barrier reduction supportive services and resources and instilling the entrepreneurial “spirit,” they are more likely to approach each opportunity with pride and ownership.”

HUB membership ranges from $10 to $350 per month. Ten dollar members receive discounts on workshop and conference room rentals, programs and workshops. Private office space, printing services and more come with the $350/month dues.

The HUB held a couple free food giveaways for the community last year, offering fresh produce to an area of the city known for being a “food desert.” Also, once a month they will host a “Wealth Wednesday Networking Lunch Mixer” where HUB tenants and business owners will network to share services and resources and “circulate our dollars with one another” says Warren in the HUB News. The HUB’s free Black History Month Job and Opportunity Fair will be February 13, 2016 from 12-4pm.

The future

The members of the Economic Empowerment and Resistance Task Force have their own visions of how our capital city could benefit from a more equitable economic system. Owens would like to see Columbus emulate successful cooperative movements around the country: “Cleveland has a powerful model of creating cooperative businesses, the Evergreen Cooperatives, bringing jobs and economic empowerment to people in low-income neighborhoods in the university district. What helped bring it to fruition were anchor institutions, including those of the University Circle. Columbus could benefit greatly by having institutions interested in the model and committed to improving the economic stability of low-income neighborhoods. New York City has allotted funding to help their residents create cooperative businesses. Columbus could follow such examples.”

“I would like to see symposiums that allow us to discuss and debate the socioeconomic issues impacting our community,” Elder Aanika adds, and is adamant that, “Our community should receive reparations. We need an economist to give us a class and caste class analysis of the capitalist system that takes into account the slavery of African people. We need a political scientist with a comprehensive historical analysis based on the enslavement of African people in this country that also embraces the rich legacy of our resistance. Only then will we sit at the table with Europeans and discuss the terms of our liberation.”

Vinson’s ideal future is this: “I’d like to see Columbus become a self-sufficient city by 2050 and I have radical egalitarian and emancipatory vision for how to get there. I’d like to see Columbus reduce its emissions by 10% per year starting yesterday. I’d like to see the city change its name from Columbus to a name that honors indigenous people. I think it’s shameful that Black people have to live in a city that is named after a slave trader and shameful that the capital of this country is named after a slave trader. I’d like to see Black people reclaim their agency by acknowledging the paralyzing effects associated with the harboring of a messiah complex. I’d like Black people to support the release of Nate Parker’s 2016 film called The Birth of a Nation. I’d like to see Black people abandon their blind allegiance to the Democrats and start building a political party that is independent of the two-party system.”

“Sun Tzu said ‘If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles,’” he concludes.

Hamilton tells the Free Press of her hopes for the future: “I’d like for people to understand that when black people are standing up, it doesn’t have anything to do with hate. It has to do with respect for ourselves and our unwillingness to accept the way we’ve been treated for centuries. It means that we are about the business of saving ourselves and making a better life for those that come after us. Somehow, fighting against oppression is interpreted as being violent. Time after time, we hear the media and officials link protest to violence when really, those are isolated instances of frustration. The majority of protests are peaceful. Yet when an armed group of white people break into federal property, refuse to leave and say that they are willing to kill or die, they are not referred to as violent. Instead of being brutally arrested, the police don’t even confront them. These blatant double standards are very troubling. It is our hope that we can turn things around sooner rather than later.”

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