Community leaders drive support for Philly-owned black businesses

In too many communities across the area, unemployment, violence and a lack of hope dominate the discussion. Coming up with creative, even controversial solutions, to address those problems is often necessary.

Fox 29's Bill Anderson recently spoke to a group that thinks issues within African American communities specifically need to be addressed by the people head-on within those communities. And they're trying to do so by holding themselves accountable.

"In the white community, a dollar stays in their community for 19 days," Michael Rashid of Philadelphia Community of Leaders told Fox 29. "It's re-circulated for 19 days. In our community, it's only circulated for 6 hours. So I get a paycheck at 12 o'clock on a Friday, by 6 o'clock that money has left the African American community."

"There are stories almost every day about crime and violence in inner cities but not nearly as many about solutions," Rashid explained. "So now one group believes that at least one solution is the African American community owning our challenges and the responsibility to address them. According to a study, unemployment in the black community is wiped out if we just spend nine percent of our dollars with black businesses."

Rashid is part of a group called the Philadelphia Community of Leaders. The group believes that at the core of many problems in African American communities is money. The "I Buy Black" card is one solution they came up with.

"This 'I Buy Black' card was taken from a movement that's going on in Detroit and other cities where they're promoting among our people spending money with our own people," Rashid explained.

Go to the website, buy the card and receive discounts at participating black owned businesses. The owners of Omega Optical, one of the 300 current businesses told Fox 29's Bill Anderson the benefits are pretty obvious.

"If we get more customers coming in we can definitely hire more people from the community," two local business owners told Fox 29.

Looking at the diversity in their store, it's clear that they don't view the "I Buy Black" card as being anti-anyone. They just want to do their part to help the neighborhoods in which they grew up.

"To that person who says 'Is it racial?' No, I'm just trying to help an underserved situation. The black community, we don't spend dollars among ourselves the way other cultures do."

So far about 1500 cards have been sold, but plenty of criticism comes from camps that see singling out specific races as divisive. Dr. Chad Lassiter thinks they miss the point.

"The argument becomes 'If someone had a 'Buy White Card' or put a sign up that said 'I support white businesses,' it would be a problem," Dr. Lassiter explained.

"You're damned if you do, you're damned if you don't. You're just plain damned," he said. "You have a cohort of individuals that say we're gonna do for ourselves, and now what you have is criticism but 'If you don't do for yourself, then people just say [you're] welfare kings and queens looking for handouts.'"

The community of leaders honestly doesn't care. They believe money means jobs, jobs reduce crime and lower crime improves communities. So, criticism or not, its intentions come from the right place.