A year ago our store did not exist.
One year ago we were just two siblings with an idea, lots of creativity, a passion to see change in our community, and access to a loan. During challenging days when I feel a bit of a failure for not being able to return every phone call or stock the shelves with every fruit or vegetable that might be requested that day, I try to remember this. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Or a year. Even LeBron took two years to win his title.
A lot can happen in a year.
I’ve been reading a lot lately. Well, not as much as I used to. I don’t really have time to do anything I used to do as much as I used to. But still, I am managing to eek out a few pages of reading and writing every now and then. Last night I settled into my couch and started reading Our Black Year. I had heard a few things about how the author and her family decided to spend a year patronizing Black-owned businesses as a way to highlight the economic disparity that exists in this country today. Little did I know that the first chapter was going to be all about grocery stores. Actually, the first chapter illustrated the difficulty in finding a Black owned grocery store in Black neighborhoods and the difference in quality that exists between the stores found in the ‘hood and those out in the suburbs.
While we are technically a convenience store and not a full on grocery store (yet:), this chapter resonated with me because all the descriptions Maggie gave about food deserts and the types of stores Black communities have become accustomed to are the exact reasons why Alphonzo and I decided two years ago to design this new concept store. She mentions in her interview with Mother Jones: ‘I think all Americans should feel ashamed to know that there used to be 6,400 black-owned grocery stores, representing that melting pot or patchwork that is America, and now there are only three.’
What also struck me was Maggie’s frankness in explaining the dilemma around what happened as integration splintered the Black community. Why too few young Black people with advanced degrees and higher level incomes return to these blown out communities that were left behind to facilitate real change rather than attend cocktail parties, debutante balls, and charity fundraisers.
I have only completed the first chapter but already this book is resonating with me. I don’t want to put it down. (Toni Morrison got brushed to the edge of the side table. Frank Money and Lotus will have to wait this one out.)
This book is an inspiration and motivation to keep doing what we’re doing.
© 2012 The Boxcar Grocer.