One of the most often quoted economic observations about African Americans is our "spending
power" -- the sum of the disposable income of all African Americans. I recently read that at $800 billion, we would rank as the 16th largest economy on the planet. If this is true, why then do we experience such large gaps in economic
achievement in the USA?
Perhaps it is because we aren't empowered to leverage our resources to our best advantage -- to create wealth, to invest in growing Black enterprises, to build stronger educational institutions, to advance within the mainstream of our society.
I have observed the rapid expansion of Black participation in online activities -- including social networking, business-to-business activity, online retail activity, and the adoption of mobile devices. The numbers are impressive. Between 2000 and 2010 the proportion of Internet users who are black or Latino has nearly doubled-from 11% to 21%. At the same time, African-Americans remain somewhat less likely than whites to go online. I believe this is because we haven't recognized how to become empowered and how to empower others in this virtual environment.
What is empowerment?
Access to digital media is empowering on two levels -- Anybody is connected to everybody, and everybody is connected to anybody. Empowerment is a two way street.
This concept was popularized by the concept of"six degrees of separation" -- which refers to the unproven idea that everyone is on average approximately six steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person on Earth. What is true, however, is that social networking has shown that many of us have lots of contacts in common. By connecting a few dots, we quickly gain access to a significantly larger circle than our immediate friends. The result is what is known as a viral phenomenon. Our influence can spread as quickly as a flu virus.
How do we become empowered?
One other concept of Internet access is that we become a part of a very large network that is "held together by the kindness of strangers."
Not all of these strangers
are kind, but in an unregulated environment, trust is a very valuable
commodity. Over the years of my Internet usage, I have developed trusting
relationships with many people whom I have never met face to face. We exchange
ideas, conduct business, and collaborate on projects to help each other
succeed. When I help them succeed, I succeed. We become empowered when
we use our networks to enable others to be all they can
Many of us still approach online relationships in a proprietary fashion. We horde information. We protect "our networks." We hide our identity. We still associate value with price. The biggest networking phenomenon on the Internet is Facebook. The founders are billionaires. How much did you pay for your Facebook membership, or Twitter, YouTube, Google?
If those of us who seek Black economic empowerment want to achieve success, more of us need to leverage the "kindness of strangers" to our benefit. We can do that in three very simple ways.
- Always share good news. When you visit a website, or social networking page, or blog, or read an article that you consider valuable -- "share" it with your network. Pass it along to your email list. You are helping to enable a stranger who has shared something valuable with you.
- Always provide feedback to valuable sources. We all are inundated with information. Some is valuable. Some is a waste of our time. When you find valuable nuggets, always provide feedback -- "like" the post, "Comment" on the article, "Rate" the business, take a few minutes and "complete the survey." For your valued friends "write a recommendation." When others who value your opinion see your feedback, they will be empowered to trust your friends.
- Actively support your virtual economic network. Economic empowerment is a reciprocal activity. It requires buyers and sellers exchanging value in the marketplace. If Black economic empowerment is to become a reality, we must actively seek other Black entrepreneurs and consumers to move from a position of disadvantage to a position of advantage. When we actively share good news, and actively provide feedback, it becomes easier to grow our "quality networks" of empowered Black businesses and consumers.
CALL TO ACTION: You can help initiate a viral phenomenon of Black economic empowerment immediately after reading this article.
- "Like" the iZania Black Business Network at www.facebook.com/izanianetwork.
- "Share" this newsletter with your friends.
- Visit one of the featured businesses in our newsletter and write a review, rate the business, or recommend the business to a friend.
- Finally, watch for the launch of "iZania Market DEAL$" in the next few weeks. Our goal is to empower more Black-owned businesses during this upcoming holiday season.
Black Economic Empowerment can be a reality. It is up to us. Please join me.
Roger Madison, CEO
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