Saturday 27th June was a historic day for the black British community.
When I saw #BlackPounDay trending on twitter on that Saturday afternoon, I felt elevated. It was as if my whole body felt immense joy, and I had the biggest smile since my daughter was born.
For years, going back to even my late teens, I have talked with other brethren about the importance of supporting black businesses and creating a black economy in the UK, the same way the Jewish and Asian community have. Most of the time, this conversation would fall on deaf ears and we continued talking about football, music and girls.
Many of us black people in the UK generally tend to be more focused on bettering our own individual lives and the lives of our immediate family and friends. For a very long time, especially in my younger years, the black British community never really saw itself as an actual community. Instead, we were a disparate group of people, African or Caribbean, who just happened to live in the UK at the same time. That was it.
But the viral sensation of #BlackPoundDay, a movement started by ex-So Solid Crew member Swiss, has shown that there has been a massive shift within the collective psychology of the black British community. It's taken decades to reach this point, but finally, the black British community is a functioning community of black people in Britain who finally see themselves as one group regardless of their heritage. Last Saturday, we came together all in the name of the black pound.
The black British identity has fully come into its own
It is too simplistic to attribute the success of #BlackPoundDay to the #blacklivesmatter movement and the death of George Floyd, which rocketed the whole #blacklivesmatter movement to the global stage. Of course, both have certainly given more urgency and relevancy to #BlackPoundDay, but it would have eventually existed even if racism had not become the current cultural zeitgeist.
Put simply, #BlackPoundDay was inevitable. As a black Londoner, born and bred, I had witnessed the divisions among the black community, both culturally and geographically (e.g. postcode wars). Then, as is always the case with black people, I started to see black people come together in the form of music. We started to hear a black British sound which started with garage, then grime, followed by UK funky house (RIP), bashment, drill and afrobeat.
From my research, back in the 60s, 70s and 80s, African and Caribbean kids did not go clubbing together. African and Caribbean music was not played in the same clubs in London as it is today. But by the 90s, African and Caribbean kids had all grown up together in the UK, so we now shared a Black British identity that overshadowed our Caribbean or African heritage, even if we did not admit it to ourselves.
Today, millennial black people listen to the same black British music, speak the same black slang (wagwan fam) and share the same black British jokes regardless of our heritage. We now have a recognisable black British identity.
So, with this fully realised albeit quietly acknowledged black British identity, the idea of a #BlackPoundDay was able to garner the serious traction and galvanise an entire group of people to spend on black businesses. We we’re supporting our own.
More work to be done
#BlackPoundDay will undoubtedly become a cultural fixture the same way Black History Month is. The economic empowerment of black people in the UK is what will create a visible and large black middle class, facilitate social mobility within the black community and thereby lift most of us out of poverty.
The next #BlackPoundDay is set for August 1st. Like I did last Saturday, I will spend my money on black businesses and will do my best to do this as often as I can – not just on a specific day.
But to create an actual black economy in the UK, we will need to do more than support a few black businesses. We need to diversify the types of black-owned services we provide, and we need to ensure the current and next generation of black boys and girls have the right skills to thrive in the economy.
There are many black hairdressers, black cake shops, black nail shops, black fashion retail shops, black barbers and black event services. Trust me; I will continue to support these businesses in any way I can and as consistently as I can.
But we cannot limit our burgeoning black economy to only these types of services. We need to start creating black companies which offer services and products that are in high demand.
For example, a franchise of black supermarket retailers like ASDA which sells African and Caribbean products from all over the world. Or a B2B software service where most shareholders and employees are black British people. Or imagine a chain of properties purchased by a collective of black people, akin to a housing association, which are lent exclusively to other black British people.
All of that is a pipe dream right now. We are probably another 30 years away before we reach that. However, there is no reason we cannot start building the foundations now.
We can mentor and encourage our black children to equip themselves with skills that the economy needs such as IT and healthcare skills. We can even launch a national black trust fund which requires black people in the UK to contribute a small percentage of their salary into it. Black entrepreneurs in the UK could access this trust fund to obtain capital to fund their business, or black parents could access it to send their most gifted children to the most prestigious schools.
Now is the time for the black British community to capitalise on the powerful #blacklivesmatter movement happening across the globe and rally together to grow our wealth collectively.
Let #BlackPoundDay be only the start of a revolution that will not only be televised but economised as well.
Visit the #BlackPoundDay website and find a large directory of black-owned businesses: https://blackpoundday.uk/