ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) – August is National Black Business Month, a celebration of black-owned businesses across the country.
Here in Alaska, the Alaska Black Caucus helped bring attention to the month by promoting Blackout Friday.
Every Friday in August, ABC asked people to spend money only at black-owned businesses. They kicked off the event earlier in the month with a soul food mixer at Roscoe’s Catfish and Barbecue.
Alaska Black Caucus President/CEO Celeste Hodge Gruden said, “Maybe culture isn’t something you don’t know, but you know it’s important to go to areas and communities you don’t normally visit”.
ABC also held a black-owned-business showcase in Roscoe the first week of August, giving other black-owned businesses in the city of Anchorage a chance to showcase themselves and their products. Some notable black-owned businesses featured in the event were Dana Mae’s Cookies and The Drip, a family-owned coffee shop that serves the Anchorage community with local flavor.
“We’re honored to be a part of it, and we have something every Friday this month; we’ll have deals,” Drip owner Raphael Moore said.
While businesses like The Drip and Roscoe’s were willing to participate here in Alaska in recognition of National Black Business Month and Blackout Friday, one black-owned business decided not to participate in Blackout Friday.
Derrick Green, owner of Waffles and Whatnot, decided not to participate in Blackout Friday this month. Greene opened Waffles and Whatnot in 2016 as a sidewalk food truck. He then opened his first store in Eagle River. After that store closed, he was able to open another store in Anchorage.
Green said the reason for not participating in Blackout Friday is that he feels one day is not enough.
“I don’t think one day is effective enough,” Green said. “I support recirculating black dollars within black communities, as other communities do very effectively, but I don’t think one day is enough to have a meaningful impact.”
“I’m beyond saying I’m going to shop at Target today because it’s Blackout Friday, we can do more,” Green said.
Green believes that this is not enough to keep the spotlight on one day because the black community has not changed its mindset.
“You’re either a consumer or a producer,” Green said. “And our community is largely a consumer, and until they change the mindset of being a consumer — it would be one thing if I own a restaurant and I go to Costco, just go to Costco, and buy stuff from Costco and resell it. I won’t.”
He says that the black community should change from consumers to producers.
Green growers make up 95% of the food in his restaurant, from his produce labels to the produce that goes into the produce bags.
However, others believe that highlighting one day of the week to ensure people generate dollars for black-owned businesses is a start.
“Slow progress is better than no progress,” Moore said. “You always hear the saying that a lot of progress has been made but more needs to be done. How is it going to happen if you don’t make any progress to make it happen?”
Moore says he knows that celebrating Blackout Friday and Black Business Month won’t change everything, but believes that if the black community starts here, it could be something big by next year.
“If we’re going to move forward as a black community as a whole, it starts with us,” Moore said. “It’s our responsibility to make sure we’re taken care of.”
Moore’s wife, Mitchell, says that growing up in Alaska, she never had conversations about supporting historically black colleges and universities or black businesses. His father owned a tow truck company and was never highlighted as a black-owned company.
“To know that there are a lot of black businesses here today, and no one is really making it known every day. So if this is a month that we really have to take advantage of it, then that’s what we’re going to do,” Michael Moore said.
Moores said they felt honored for the opportunity, and felt the program needed to help the black community and the Anchorage community as a whole progress.
Although the ideas are different, the goal is still the same: giving the black community the opportunity to change from consumers to producers. BIPOC or not, participating in the program helps create opportunities for inclusion and community development.
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