Ten years ago, I took my cat Diddy to get neutered, which was a very interesting experience. I went to the Lurie Spray/Neuter Clinic and it is located in the Little Village, a predominantly Mexican neighborhood I had never visited before, and for me, it is always cool when I discover new places, people, and things. It was early in the morning when Diddy and I arrived, so everything was quiet but when I returned to pick him up, this unassuming looking neighborhood had turned into a bustle of activity.
Carts selling Mexican corn, tacos, tamales, burritos and stews were on every corner and stores selling colorful areas rugs were on every block. People of all ages walked about their business briskly and I did not see any men loitering on corners shouting out “Loose Squares, loose squares”. It was so vibrant to my eyes and it was beautiful to behold. However, on my drive home, I couldn’t help but notice the drabness of the predominantly African American neighborhoods I am familiar with and couldn’t help but compare them to the neighborhood I had just left behind. Like a light blub, it clicked in: the vast majority of the stores in Little Village were Mexican owned and only a pitiful few in my neighborhood and other Black neighborhoods are Black owned. We as a people have gotten far away from our collective roots and it is destroying our communities.
I remember the stories my mother used to tell me about coming to Chicago during the 1940s to attend high school and the various Black owned businesses that were abundant on the South Side. I used to marvel at her because by the time I had arrived, only a fraction of those stores were still open and by the time I had arrived at teen hood, those stores were relics of the past, boarded up in shame.
These days, instead of opening businesses, some Black folks, not all would rather invest their monies in over-priced clothing that will soon be out of vogue, chintzy jewelry that is also over-priced, and cars that are wrecked quickly due to drunkenness. These statements I am espousing are not stereotypical prater but actual real life experiences of people I know personally who wasted several thousands of dollars, inherited and earned on stuff that cannot make more money.
In a time when the African American unemployment rate is still high as compared to other races in this country, it is time to invest our monies into businesses that will sustain our communities. We can not depend on the largess of others but need to depend on ourselves. If I can manage to save some money, I would like to start a bookstore that caters to needs of Africans and African Americans since most bookstores only have a minuscule section dedicated to books of Africans and African Americans. I would not only sell books but CDs, coffee, pastries and African art. This bookstore will eventually be located in every city throughout urban America and would become renowned as centers for the African and African American Diaspora and if Borders can do it, so can I. Our communities are missing that sense of vibrancy that I noticed in Little Village. Our neighborhoods have lost its flavor and we need it back if we are to succeed in today’s society. Collective Roots is coming to America as soon as I find a job, save some money and get my credit score up. Watch out.