“We want to do business where we shop.”
“We want to work in our community with major companies.”
“We want to be respected.”
That’s what the signs read on the picket lines when Black activists boycotted major grocery stores in the 1960s and ‘70s. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Operation Breadbasket, which evolved into the Operation PUSH/Rainbow Coalition, challenged neighborhood grocers like A&P, National Tea, Red Rooster, and even Jewel Foods back in the day.
These stores did not necessarily hire Blacks, or conduct business with Black enterprises, the food was high-priced, sometimes spoiled, and there were no Black-manufactured products on the shelves. Marches occurred and demands were made and eventually these stores began to act respectfully to their neighborhood customers and consumers.
But now, here we go again. Mariano’s has opened an incredible store in the heart of the Black community at 3857 South King Drive. They come to the community and will make millions, but claim to have a policy of “no advertising.” Is this shocking or what? Will Jewel take the same position as they open a new store on 61st and Cottage Grove in Woodlawn in 2018?
On a recent Friday morning, members of Chicago’s Black press met with principals of Mariano’s to discuss local advertising, along with two alderwomen. The corporate executives came to the meeting to address the concern and to discuss their policy and shockingly told us they did not advertise.
For them to ask us to do a song and dance to present Black people’s worth to them was totally uncalled for.
Dorothy Leavell of the Chicago Crusader almost fainted as we strongly suggested to them the benefits of advertising. And by the way, all that sat at the table were Mariano’s shoppers, part of their million-dollar consumer base.
Blogger Carl West of Truth Be Told, who was at the meeting, writes, “I don’t know if they accomplished their mission, but I can say that we didn’t get a solid commitment to do business at the conclusion of that over-hyped gathering.
“It was not a meeting I was in favor of, because I just wanted them to do the right thing without all the chatter. I expressed that they follow Whole Foods’ direction and admit they failed at doing business with the Black press and make good, immediately.
“So far, all Mariano’s has made good on are soft gestures. And from where I stand, those unconfirmed results are weak at best. Do I think they’ll finally meet our demands for them to be good community partners?
“They gave the usual ‘I am not interested really’ corporate answers to questions of whom they have hired and what charities they have donated to. But they flatly refused the business discussion.”
Doing Community Business
Why do whites break their own corporate rules when doing business with minorities? Is it unreasonable to ask a major store that has come to dominate your community, to do business with local community press? I don’t think so. There are different standards in doing business with Black businesses.
Carl raises valid questions. He writes, “They wouldn’t have invested over $30 million to build this elaborate grocery store on 39th and King Drive if they were not aware of the loot Black folks hold in their bank accounts, under their mattresses and in shoe boxes. So for them to ask (us) to do a song and dance to present Black people’s worth to them was totally uncalled for.
“How do large companies continue to come into the Black community and not understand the importance for them to embrace (us) as legitimate business associates and not charity cases? Because this issue that’s being raised is about strictly business and people of their ilk keeping their word and not referencing their charitable donations.”
The attending alderwomen suggested that this issue be resolved sooner than later. Each elected operative questioned Mariano’s position or lack thereof in terms of why they have not done business with the Black press when they advertise in other (non-Black) mediums.
In fact, Black media obliged Mariano’s with countless articles posting their opening and after the store welcomed Black shoppers to spend our money there. TBT News, the Defender, the Crusader, the Citizen, N’DIGO and WVON, collectively scripted “Works of Words,” highlighting Mariano’s victorious story solving a food dessert dilemma. Today, they continue to reap huge rewards (profits)!
Carl continues, “At the meeting we voiced our collective thoughts loud and clear. The only question with situations like this one is, have they taken us seriously and what do they really plan to do? Or are they just being great spin-masters attempting to avoid being good neighbors? They’ve already insulted (us) several times. Another being the usage of the old-age slogan, which they really uttered, saying that ‘we handed out turkeys last Thanksgiving and are quite willing to do so again.’
“The Black media is prepared to take Mariano’s and others to task – and continue slamming these grocers for their negligence and ignorance. Because as Ice Cube stated in Boyz in the Hood, ‘Either they don’t know, don’t show, or don’t care!’ I think it’s the latter! But they must care.”
It is time for business to be conducted in the Black community as it is elsewhere. Excuses are lame. B to B is the language of the day.