If you do a Google search for Blackout, you will probably turn up information on Britney Spears’ presciently titled new album… but today, November 2, is supposed to be about a different kind of blackout.

Raleigh NC attorney and radio show host Warren “The People’s Attorney” Ballentine sent out a call-to-arms for all of black America to keep their wallets in their pockets today.

This from AOL Black Voices — “African Americans have been told not to spend anything on Friday and some have gone so far as saying don’t show up for work either.

Dude, if I could just NOT show up for work today on account of a blackout, I would be totally down with that. But I still need to have a job come Monday. Hi-ho, hi-ho.

Today is slated as an economic “day of solidarity” leading up to a rally on November 16 on the Justice Department in Washington.

This from CNN — “The inspirations for the boycott are many: a flurry of nooses hung in public places; the case of six teens charged as adults with attempted murder in Jena, Louisiana, after a racially charged school fight; the conviction of Genarlow Wilson, a black teen charged with child molestation after having consensual oral sex with another teen; and the rape and torture of Megan Williams, a West Virginia woman forced to eat animal feces by six whites who berated her with racial slurs. Ballentine’s hope is that if elected officials aren’t hearing the voice of black America, maybe they’ll listen when money talks. His efforts have drawn the support of the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network and several other groups.

It is estimated that African Americans spend $2 billion a day, and I see the symbolic allure of an en masse avoidance of material things for a day – heck, some of us could use a day off from swiping those credit cards. But others, like Eugene Kane remain skeptical. “I can remember numerous economic boycotts called by black activists in my lifetime. Almost none of them ever have any real measurable result. The economic boycott was a strong form of protest in the 1960s; the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott virtually started the modern day civil rights movement and made Martin Luther King Jr. a national figure. But these days, it’s much harder to get people motivated to do something like a national boycott without months of planning. Like I said, I just heard of this. It really doesn’t seem like a credible strategy given the stated purpose. HOW do you persuade millions of black people – or any kind of people – from spending money on one particular day?

Good question – especially when pay day is today (ca-ching), and I forgot to drop off my rent check yesterday. I REALLY can’t afford to piss off my landlord in the name of symbolism, can I? So already, I can’t fully adhere to the rules of the blackout just because of timing.

I find the reasons behind the blackout to be compelling. In addition to opposing the recent proliferation of nooses, swastikas, and Jena 6 justice, it’s about issues that are affecting all kinds of people in this country, regardless of race. Also from CNN — “Ballentine… said he also is dismayed by issues like shoddy imports from China, the outsourcing of jobs overseas, the housing market’s flood of foreclosures and President Bush’s request for $196 billion in war spending and his veto of a children’s health insurance bill. The latter two issues are particularly disappointing, Ballentine said, because they send a message that the U.S. doesn’t care about its next generation. “I think it’s almost embarrassing that Congress puts together a bill that’s already funded and [Bush] says, ‘No, that’s too much for our children,’ ” Ballentine said. “In the same breath, you ask for $190 billion for a war?” Though the endeavor predominantly targets the black community, Ballentine said injustice is colorblind and he is “appealing to anybody who’s humanitarian, anyone who believes in justice.””

Hearing the larger explanation helped me to understand the goal even more. I think the theory of a day of solidarity is fantastic, and I’m very interested in discussing ways in which it could really be effective. However, all I can do today is try my best to limit my spending as much as possible. I should probably do that every day anyway. Mr. Ballentine agrees, and understands that participants will have to spend a little today anyways. But he urges that we “”Spend it with people or organizations that are actually doing things to help us and our community,” he said. “My hope is that we can all come together. Part of our healing is working together.“”

Are you participating in the blackout today, bellas and fellas? Tell me why, or why not?

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T.T. says:
November 2, 2007, 11:30 am
Well, I already purchased breakfast at Frullati and I have to go and pay for Race for the Cure, so I guess I will not be participating today. As well, I don't have lunch! Not going to work is not an option for me either...my program is 80% black.
warrior11209 says:
November 2, 2007, 11:38 am
Unfortunately not going to work was NOT an option here either. But I am NOT spending a dime today- nor am I making up for it tomorrow by buying items that I would have purchased today. I take my lunch everyday (I am cheap :-)- so I will not miss that- and I guess the gas companies will have to miss my dollar for the next couple of days. I have my whole family involved. I agree though , that in order for a boycott to result in change there needs to be planning, widespread distribution of info and the knowledge that a whole lot of folks will not participate.
dream of thunderkitty says:
November 2, 2007, 12:02 pm
I will be participating by default because I am a grad student and the most broke I've ever been. If I really had a choice I wouldn't actively participate because without the right amount of organization and or publicity; it will go unnoticed. I don't know if there was a lot of coverage on TV because I rarely watch tv these days - your blog is the first I'm hearing about this. My question though is should this be a blackout? Why not a nationout? These offenses should be offensive to everyone - the offenses committed by these broken citizens as well as Bush.
Demetria says:
November 2, 2007, 12:03 pm
Though I think the intention is admirable, I just don't see a one (or even three) day economic boycott doing anything substantial. I understand the idea of symbolism and planting the seed of economic empowerment in the minds of black folks, but I just think there are better ways to do it. I think a comprehensive, wide-spread (e-mails, door to door, websites, etc) financial literacy campaign would be much more effective. Let's learn how to be responsible with our money and put some thought into our future and who we decide to spend our hard earned money on. Let's put a financial literacy class in the curriculum of every high school. Let's learn better ways to deal with debts than ignoring letters and phone calls.
Bebroma says:
November 2, 2007, 12:31 pm
I knew nothing about this until the post, it was not on the local news here...I think for something like this to have any impact at all, it has to be very well organized and the word would have to get out months in advance so that people could plan for this type of thing. Also, what about the black-owned businesses on a day such as this? I think the businesses owned and operated by chains or others might not even notice, especially if it wasn't in a primarily black area, whereas black neighborhoods might be hit hard economically, unless of course the exception was made for them, as mentioned.
Niki says:
November 2, 2007, 12:34 pm
I co-sign with Demetria. I think econic empowerment for black people has to be a holistic thing that goes way beyond avoiding the Dollar Menu at Mickey D's for a day. We all need to learn how to manage our finances better and pay more attention to where we place our dollars. As far as the broader issues at hand, I don't think this makes much of difference. I liken it to the emails that were sent out about not buying gas on certain days to protest rising gas prices. A lot of people drive to work or school or run errands that way, and even if you take public transport, those vehicles need gas too--so it was pointless. People need to get where they are going, so the oil companies can jack gas prices up to over $3-4 a gallon and they know people will pay because they have us over a barrel (quite literally!).
Niki says:
November 2, 2007, 12:35 pm
That was suposed to say "economic"..
Bebroma says:
November 2, 2007, 12:44 pm
I think having those with qualifications who could act as financial advisers maybe volunteer a bit of time at the libraries would be great...they do it already where I live, anyway, when it comes to tax preparation, you can get your taxes done at the library for free if you qualify. I think a lot of black people are interested in managing their finances and investing, but are unsure where to start, or don't think they have the funds for a financial adviser.
kay-oh says:
November 2, 2007, 12:50 pm
I co-sign all above comments and also add that boycotts such as the Montgomery bus boycott were not only well planned, but served a specific purpose. Government endorsed racism was the issue. Blacks shut the bus system down to send a message that they would not spend their dollars to use public transportation while simultaneously having the government tell them what seats those dollars would pay for. With the exception of the Jena 6 and Gernarlow Wilson, all of the other acts (nooses, torture, etc) were carried out by individuals. If someone has hatred in their heart, no boycott will change those feelings or what acts an individual carries out based on those feelings. I think that we as a people need to educate ourselves on spending, budgeting, investing, and borrowing money. We need to stop depending on the government to secure our futures and the futures of our children. The Civil Rights Movement was about more than boycots. It was a community-driven grass roots movement. People looked out for themselves and one another. Unless we as a people decide to be more community minded,not much will change.
Mona says:
November 2, 2007, 1:29 pm
My concern with this Blackout is the same as Kay-oh's. I saw something about this in a few chain emails, but beyond that, there was nothing else. As we had in Montgomery, Selma and Tallahassee, we must have unity of thought AND action. Until we're at least moving in that direction, initiatives like this Blackout won't command the attention that it deserves, it won't be taken seriously (by our own or by the masses).
toni says:
November 2, 2007, 1:50 pm
i am not supporting the blackout. in years past the call for the blackout was on the weekend after thanksgiving as it can have a huge financial impact. i will continue to support that effort. also, with the movie American Gangster coming out, i feel that once again we can use our black dollars to support hollywood continuing to make films that show our experience.
bygbaby says:
November 2, 2007, 1:58 pm
I am not supporting it. I was organized late & information did not go out in an effective manner. With that said, I just got back from the mall & look forward to rocking the burgundy velvet blazer I just copped at Macy's. Bygbaby
Denise says:
November 2, 2007, 2:46 pm
Well, dang. I've blown this with the lunch I bought and the pre-ordered movie tickets. I, like many, didn't know about this unitl I read your blog Afrobella. I feel bad, but it truly wasn't publicized well.
ceecee says:
November 2, 2007, 3:16 pm
I actually heard about it before today, but I'll support it when somebody speaks up for the women too. Has anyone heard anything about Stepha Henry? Why aren't we protesting the lack of attention about Stepha Henry?
sunsail says:
November 2, 2007, 4:03 pm
Blackout? what blackout??? **Munches on cheeseburger and fries bought at lunch*** Just when I was feeling "not black enough" for not knowing about it, I noticed a whole bunch of other folks were not aware of it, either. I cosign w/ everyone above.
My says:
November 2, 2007, 4:58 pm
I AM TOTALLY AGAINST THE BLACKOUT. Instead of just doing a blackout one day, it should be done everyday! Why are we even sitting around begging for equal rights here in this country? We should be supporting each other, that is what builds a greater community. I am just so sick of seeing my people beg, beg, and beg. That is exactly why we do not get any respect here in this country. When are we ever going to learn and be more responsible. As long as we have been in America and freed, we should have had our own nation by now and not have to worry about what the majority is doing in this country. Of all the days in the week, why choose Friday to do it? It seems like Friday's are usually slow days anyway... ex. business close early, etc. It would seem like if you skipped work on Friday, no one would miss you. Why not do it in the beginning or midweek, such as Tuesday, or Wednesday? Maybe even Monday? Great Post Bella!
Dj says:
November 2, 2007, 7:44 pm
I didn't spend one cent today and I'm happy.
Jennifer says:
November 3, 2007, 8:20 am
Anything I didn't buy on Friday, I would just buy on Saturday. So that's a blackout...how? Don't people understand that the bus boycott lasted for over a YEAR?
Ann Brock says:
November 3, 2007, 2:22 pm
Bella, when I found out about it, too late.
Born Jamericuban says:
November 5, 2007, 7:21 am
I don't understand the point; it seems like it would have the same effect as when people do the "Don't go to the gas pump" Days. Whatever you WOULD'VE spent, you will spend the day before or the day after, so nobody is losing any money, therefore not making any real impact at the end of the week. *shrugs*
Nikita says:
November 5, 2007, 1:47 pm
Other than a .60 candy bar from the vending machine, I did not buy a thing Nov. 3rd. Now, I think it would be more effective if we most folks not purchasing or buying something from a particular industry would give a really BIG wake up call.
Linda Love says:
November 5, 2007, 3:01 pm
Thank you for letting me know about the "Blackout." I watch the news every morning and to my knowledge it was not covered. Although I did send my son out to purchase a few groceries this morning I intend to support the "Blackout." I agree with others that we need to support our community by spending our money in our own community, we also can benefit from financial literacy and whatever we do the impact needs to affect the economy significantly. I love the fact that we never give up and continue to keep trying to impact the society we live in. Peace & Love.
Tiffany says:
November 5, 2007, 3:21 pm
I am currently unemployed but I did not make even the smallest purchase that day.
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January 17, 2011, 5:08 pm
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