Milwaukee, what has happened to your Inner City Businesses? We at CAASSH (Community Actuated Association Strategic Spending Habits) are a community-based consumer’s organization. Our aim is to help consumers empower themselves. Notice, we said, “help.” The consumers had the power in their hands all the time…and we still have that power.
CAASSH recently conducted a survey of some of the businesses in the community and the relationship African Americans have with our immigrant brothers. Basically, our business district is desolate in comparison to business districts outside our community.
Though there has been a sporadic encroachment of people of European Descent in our community, White fear of “Brother Darkness” who hasn’t vacated his central city stronghold, keeps them relatively outside our community and in their own, particularly at dusk.
(Let me interject here. The youth vandalism problem in the suburbs far exceeds the problem in the Inner City.)
During a stroll along Dr. Martin Luther King Drive we would occasionally encounter young Black men walking the streets. Most young men, from our observation, seem content with maintaining a low profile. They know they’re being targeted by law enforcement, the court system, and the prison industrial complex.
Their “invisibility adds to the seeming desertedness of the street, compounding the evidence of a Black Family Drought. The drought has negatively impacted its residents spiritually, culturally and economically.
The residents with so-called money fled the Inner City for suburban oasises of the fringes of Metropolitan Milwaukee, seeking the good life. We want to escape the stigma of the Ghetto. We want our children to attend better schools and we want a better life.
But a funny thing happened. When we arrived in suburbia, guess who we found? Us! We traded the old Ghetto for a new Ghetto. In fact, there was nothing but a bunch of “us” out there.
Nothing reflects the polarization between Blacks and Whites than suburban education. There is a great deal more hostility towards our children in these schools. There is prejudice in grading, not to mention the fact the alienation and attacks on our children’s self-image is so relentless they begin to question whether they are able to compete with their White counterparts.
In moving up in the world, the escapees from the Inner City are hanging on by the thread. Though we’re making more money, we’re also spending more…and in a hurry, seemingly hell-bent to give it right back to the wealthy.
It’s part of the old divide and conquer move. While we may be in “check,” we’re not in “checkmate.” check. Our expenses have increased incrementally with our income. Thus, we find ourselves in more debt than before when we were struggling to make ends meet.
The reason. We are in a hurry to show off our new status. We’re trained to buy expensive clothes, cars and property – in that order — never really accruing any wealth.
To keep from falling further into the abyss of self-indulgence and putting ourselves in checkmate, we have to take control of our situation. This situation is worse than sharecropping. The banking, corporate and municipal manipulators pulls the strings and arrange the playing field in such a way we have to pay three, four, even five times the inflated value of their leftovers.
What’s left are a nervous, angry, and fearful people afraid of failure. So we put others in our community down, hoping that we are not discovered as being in the same boat as they are. We desert our community and our community businesses. Even those of us who haven’t abandoned the Inner City have stigmatized our own businesses and break our necks to go take our money back to “Massa” or any facsimile thereof.
After a while, we get tired of running way out there to spend our dollars; so in comes “Mr. Anybody”—as long as “anybody is not African American—doing us wrong in the Inner City. It’s the Post World War I Geneva Conference all over again, where the spoils are divided among the conquerors and franchises given to foreign nationalities who get a “step-up” off of our backs – and we oblige willingly.
I know it hurts to look into the mirror sometimes; but why do we keep taking our money to people who don’t give us a fair shake, let alone don’t respect us?
In conducting our survey, we went into several King Drive businesses: two different JJ Fish Shops, a Fast and Friendly store, a Red Snapper fish restaurant, a Currency Exchange, Lena’s Foods and a Family Dollar store.
We bought something in each store and appraised the clientele frequenting those businesses. In each store there was a 100 percent African American presence in each business except in one of the JJ’s where there was a White woman accompanied by a African American male and what we believed to be there child dining at one of the tables.
With the exception of Lena’s and Red Snapper, the employees did not look like their clientele. The employees were Hispanic and Somolian .
We checked the oil used used to cook the food in all the restaurants we surveyed. Not one used oil with trans fat (polyhydrogenated oils). That’s a good thing.
The fish at JJ’s was fried hard and seasoned with a lemon pepper. Many lemon-peppers contain MSG seasoning, a cancer-causing element. They would not divulge the ingredients used in their seasonings. If it was fresh, I couldn’t tell because it was hard.
On the other hand, Red Snapper’s fish was fried with a very tasty breading that was crispy and very fresh. The small fish order was $5.75, during lunchtime, while at JJ’s it was $7.89. Lena’s Supper Market had friendly service and its prices were more than competitive with such stores as Pick N’ Save and Sentry. But Lena’s is owned by African Americans and has a large church base.
Fast and Friendly’s was over run with customers. They offer their patrons fresh meats from their Hispanic butchers. They also offered check cashing, lottery access, and a reasonable amount of fresh and good looking fruits and vegetables and they buy gold. It is a mid-size store – a step up from the corner store.
By far, the most thriving businesses in this cross section of our survey this week was Lena’s and Fast and Friendly. Lena’s employees were representative of its clientele. We at CAASSH (Community Actuated Association Strategic Spending Habits) ask you to investigate and decide for yourself. Be a CAASSH Consumer and Spend where you can Win. Support Your Community Business Women and Men.
The views expressed by Ms. Abdullah in her column are entirely hers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher or management of the MCJ.