Insight News

Feb 10th

CNN: Black purchasing power exceeds $1.1 trillion

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img 1360If the African-American community were a county unto itself, economically it would be the 16th largest nation in the world.

A 2011 study concluded that the African-American dollar has a collective worth of more than $1.1 trillion annually. But with such collective wealth, many ponder why and how so many African-Americans languish in poverty and as a whole has an unemployment rate that is near double the national average.

Economist Nicole Kenney offers a sobering – if not downright frightening – conclusion. According to Kenney, while a dollar in Asian-American communities circulates on average for an entire month and a dollar in Jewish communities in America circulates within that community for approximately 20 days, the same dollar in the African-American community stays within its community for an average of a mere six hours.

As an upcoming installment of CNN's "Black in America" hosted by Soledad O'Brien, the provocative series will focus on African-American businesses and economic empowerment. One of the businesses to be featured is a start-up developed right here in the Twin Cities. Not so ironically, the business' mission is to connect African-American consumers to African-American businesses.

dscf6108The brainchild of Duane Johnson and Sean Armstrong, Tuloko ( is an internet-based search site listing and highlighting Black-owned businesses in various metropolitan cities throughout the country. As the duo explained, Tuloko is like an Angie's List or Yelp, but specifically geared towards generating traffic to Black-owned businesses.

"We as African-Americans only spend six cents of every dollar with Black-owned businesses," said Johnson, co-founder of Tuloko. "Economists say if we (African-Americans) double that to 12 cents, it could bring the Black unemployment rate down into the single digits."

The current unemployment rate for African-Americans is 12.6 percent compared to an unemployment rate of 6.6 percent for whites.

According to Armstrong, contrary to some people's thoughts, though there is a dearth of Black-owned companies, African-American entrepreneurs exist in varying business sectors.

"When we started the site, people said 'you're only going to have barbershops and soul food restaurants,'" said Tuloko co-founder Armstrong. "That's clearly not the case."

Tuloko, which is named as an amalgamation of the words Tulsa and Oklahoma, is an homage to the Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa that is often referred to as Black Wall Street for its concentration of Black wealth in the early to mid 1900s. The neighborhood was the site of a bloody race riot in 1921 and many attribute the riot to white envy of the vast wealth accumulated by the Black-owned businesses in the area.

Armstrong hopes to revitalize that type of economy within the African-American community.

"Together, we (African-American owned businesses) are the greatest employers of African-Americans," said Armstrong. "Through our site, if we can direct people to Black-owned businesses, we can help lower the unemployment rate and reduce poverty in our community."

Armstrong and Johnson met with a group of close to 75 fellow entrepreneurs and well-wishers this past Wednesday (Aug. 7) at the African Development Center, 1939 5th St. S., Minneapolis. CNN network cameras were on hand to capture some of the sights and sounds of the gathering.

An airdate for the latest installment of the series that debuted in July of 2008 has yet to be announced. This is "Black in America's" second trip to the area. In an earlier visit, CNN and O'Brien featured Eric Mahmoud, founder and CEO of Seed Academy, Harvest Preparatory School, Best Academy and Sister Academy.


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