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Do Black Moms Put Their Money Where Their Mouth Is?

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Kimberly Seals-Allers: As much as we black moms clamor that we want products that reflect our culture, and that we want children's books, clothes and more with images that actually look like our children, the question is: Do we actually support those products when they do exist -- or are we just talk? 

woman holding money

I'm starting to wonder.

Historically, we haven't done a good job supporting black businesses. One of our major problems as blacks in America is the fact that every dollar we make circulates only once in the black community. By comparison, every dollar the white community makes circulates ten times or more in their community, according to some research. 

When I traveled the country interviewing entrepreneurs for my book "The Mocha Manual to Turning Your Passion into Profit," I met several entrepreneurs who started businesses for black consumers, only to find themselves not well-supported by African-Americans.

When I launched my Mocha Manual maternity T-shirt line (which has slogans like "Chocolate Bun in the Oven") and, later, my new-dad tees ("Strong Black Father Under Construction"), I thought the response would be off the charts. After all, I'd received so many e-mails from people saying how they wished there were more products for pregnant African-American women, and how they wished we had more positive messages about black families and black fathers. Though the response has been great, it hasn't been what everyone on my business team expected. Why isn't there the support we envisioned?

One notable exception is Lisa Price and her company Carol's Daughter, and she received celebrity funding and support by way of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, Mary J. Blige and others. But as I think about other businesses that create products for African-Americans, I've wondered if we do actually support products that showcase us -- or do we just talk a good talk? My admittedly not-so-scientific survey of many of these businesses indicates that black moms aren't putting their money where their mouth is. This saddens me.

Black women have billion-dollar buying power, and we are often the key decision makers in our families. So why aren't we using that power to support black-owned businesses or buy kid products with positive African-American images? When we use that power to get the self-reflective products we deserve, we have to support them with our purses. 

Recently, I was approached by one of my favorite party-supply companies, Birthday in a Box.com. They have launched several African-American-themed party lines, from a black ballerina pattern perfect for little girls (which I love!) to a first-birthday party collection featuring a brown baby. The company has invested a sizable amount of money into producing these goods, only to face lackluster sales. They asked me if I had any idea what they were doing wrong. Umm ....

I have my own ideas as to why their great products haven't received the sales support they would like to see. But I was deeply moved by their sincerity and commitment. Birthday in a Box is hosting a survey just for black moms to elicit their feedback and insights on how they plan their kiddie/birthday parties, and to find out what types of African-American-themed party products they would like to see. I'm urging all black moms to click this link and answer the brief survey. You will even be entered to win a $50 gift certificate to the Birthday in a Box site. But more importantly, we can show at least one business that we do have opinions, that we will speak them and that our voices do matter. 

And then let's put our money where our mouth is. 


next: Help! My Kid's Role Model Got Arrested!
38 comments so far | Post a comment now
Courtney August 13, 2010, 8:31 AM

I get sick of hearing the racial lines being drawn still to this day! It amazes me we still have to deal with prejudices in the 21st century and this article is one good reason why. We are still constantly drawing a line between colors and shouldn’t…why does it still have to be black or white? I have never looked at a person by their color…only by them as a person…really sad!

Courtney August 13, 2010, 8:31 AM

I get sick of hearing the racial lines being drawn still to this day! It amazes me we still have to deal with prejudices in the 21st century and this article is one good reason why. We are still constantly drawing a line between colors and shouldn’t…why does it still have to be black or white? I have never looked at a person by their color…only by them as a person…really sad!

EllenMarie  August 13, 2010, 9:46 AM

A chocolate bun in the oven! oh Pleeeasse! How rediculous! Black people want you to seen their skin color less, but this keeps it front and center. This doesn’t show pride, but insecurity, and it so 20th century.

anonymous August 13, 2010, 11:40 AM

I don’t know the answer to your question, but a few years ago I found some Christmas paper with black families, etc. My whole family loved the paper, but I’ve never seen anything like it for sale again. I’ve always wondered why not.

Anonymous August 13, 2010, 11:56 AM

I guess Kimberly can’t complain that it’s all this white hatred against her race now since she’s stating that it’s black people that aren’t supporting one another instead of constant whine about white folks holding her down.

Anonymous August 13, 2010, 12:23 PM

Well, atleast I now know that it’s okay being a white person and only spending my money in white owed companies. I have my pride too! See, doesn’t that sound silly?

Angela of Neglected Princess August 13, 2010, 2:12 PM

Great, thought-provoking post. It’s a good discussion starter, too bad that the wrong people are jumping in! People that have NO IDEA what it’s like to be a Black person (parent, child, etc.) in America have a whole lot of nerve saying that Black people are whining. Say something positive and constructive or stay out of the discussion. At least have the guts to use your name, Anonymous.

BTW, @Ellenmarie, Black people do not want you to see their color less. That’s almost as ridiculous as someone (@Courtney) saying that they don’t see color. Yeah, right.

Michelle August 13, 2010, 2:34 PM

Great article. This issue isn’t about what race is better than another. It’s about products and businesses that support our values and culture.

The Party in a Box company isn’t necessarily black-owned. They’re just trying to reach another strong demographic. Wouldn’t it be great for little Asian, Black, Hispanic girls and boys to have party favors, dolls, and books that reflected what they looked like? I think so.

Also, given the T-shirt slogans you came up with, I can see why it didn’t go over well. I think you missed the mark. Women don’t want racially geared messages on their clothes. We just want to see models that look like us wearing clothes that we can actually pull off.

Anonymous August 13, 2010, 3:48 PM

I rarely agree with these articles, but this one I can understand. I see nothing wrong with wanting decorations or clothes matching your skin color. If a little girl dreams of being a ballerina, she might realize it’s possible if she sees a ballerina that looks like her. I think maybe the problem with sells might be access to it. You were able to find the website, but how long did it take for you to find it? I would just think a lot of the time people shop for price and whats easier to find. Just a guess though.

Monica August 13, 2010, 8:03 PM

I agree Anonymous 1 &2 need to stay out of the conversation if they don’t like the topic. But it happens all the time. Perhaps we need a moderator to delete their comments. Anyhow.

I think that its difficult to find products that cater to black families. I have never seen nor heard of wrapping paper with african american faces nor party supplies. So I agree with the last poster that maybe its just that the websites are not that visible or people just don’t know about it. If I had access to that type of product I would buy it.

Courtney August 13, 2010, 9:15 PM

To Angela of Neglected Princess - you don’t know me so don’t be making assumptions…this was just my opinion & honestly it is not just blacks that need business, but I think all Americans need business right now considering how our economy is at this time…

Victoria August 14, 2010, 11:57 AM

I don’t think it’s about drawing a line between the races but recognizing that races of color need role models and examples to look at, that look like them. It’s the easiest thing in the world to go online and find stores and companies that make white dolls, hair care products for white people, skincare products for white people, you name it, it’s out there. But you’ll be searching a longer time to find black/asian dolls (with eyes that are not so rounded out)/hispanic dolls, hair care products for people of color, party decor or wrapping paper that feature people of color on them. So I agree Anonymous before Monica’s post.

anonymous August 14, 2010, 12:42 PM

Yeah, Monica, great idea. Just delete any comments that don’t agree with your narrow, bigoted view.

Anyway, there is nothing wrong with having diversity in role models and skin products. But “Chocolate Bun in the Oven” shirts? It’s not like all the other shirts say “Vanilla Cupcake in the Oven.” That’s just plain stupid.

Kim C. August 14, 2010, 2:13 PM

Great post. I think companies should continue to market products to people of color that identify with them. How this turned into a race discussion I don’t know but I would ask Anonymous when was the last time they bought something for their kids that was in the image of African Americans, hispanics or Asians. I agree with the person who made the comment about aspiring to be the ballerina that looks like you and also with the person who introduce the price issue. I think people want the products but they seldom are going to pay a much higher price for them. I like what Birthday in A Box is doing and encourage them to continue to do it.

Natalee August 14, 2010, 2:44 PM

This article was not a very thorough discussion about the real problem. I think it’s very unfair to assume that black moms aren’t supporting black business simply because these particular businesses failed.
How about showing some data on the marketing strategies of these businesses. How are they marketing their items? Do they target in the right way? I am a very savvy shopper and when I was pregnant with both of my children I searched high and low for maternity tees with little brown babies on the front or baby shower items with brown babies. They are not easy to find and what you do find is available from mainstream stores anyway.
Also, I do have to say that what is available is not my cup of tea with respect to the sayings on the tee shirts. I would never wear a shirt that said, “Black Moms Rock!” I am a mom who rocks and anyone who sees me knows I’m a black one, so there would be no reason for me to wear a shirt saying so.
My need is for kid friendly items that depict my sons as they see themselves. My boys should see cowboys and superheros with brown skin on birthday cards and party supplies so that they don’t form false opinions about who can and can’t be a cowboy or a superhero.
I don’t need Afro-centric gear that separates me from the masses. I need ethnic-friendly gear that wants to include me.

olivia August 14, 2010, 3:51 PM

I really liked this article and it touched on some good points. The other comments posted here brought up some good views as well. We would like to see more products geared toward the African American community, but it should be conservative and marketed well so we can find it. Its like buying a black Santa at Christmas time. I see nothing wrong with wanting to buy products that reflect us. Why do you think Dora the Explorer lasted so long? Because it touched on a lacking market. Can anyone tell me if Little Bill is still around though? Just a thought.

Mrs. D August 15, 2010, 10:51 PM

Thank you for this article. I have always felt that I do what I can to support black owned and community businesses, but after reading your article I feel the need to look further into the services and products that I used to find out what is out there. I justed checked out the Birthday in a Box site and found items that I have been looking to use for my daughters birthdays next month. The site is great! Thank You

renae August 15, 2010, 11:50 PM

People are so easy to dismiss something they don’t and don’t want to understand. I see nothing wrong with blacks wanting to prosper from their own buying power. Whites already prosper from their own. Billions of black dollars go through the white market. Can the same be said for white dollars going through the black market? Blacks need to empower themselves just as whites have. It’s not about segregating themselves. It’s about seeing some of their own money work for them. If some people still can’t understand that I don’t know what else to say.

Kelle August 17, 2010, 1:53 PM

I wholeheartedly agree with Natalee. I try to buy things marketed towards “us”, but 8 or 9 times out of 10 when marketing is done towards Black people it has slang or broken English or hip hop type phrasing and —SURPRISE— I don’t speak that way. Why do we put OURSELVES in a box assuming we ALL walk around full of sass saying “You go girl!” while snapping our fingers in the air and moving our heads side-to-side. That’s why I don’t care for any of the 3 “Black Moms…” shirts I’ve seen. To ME a shirt that reads “Black Moms Rock” seems desperate. It seems that the wearer is trying to prove to White people (and others) that she is worthy of them. I don’t need or want anyone’s approval especially if it’s based on my race/complexion. I totally rock as a mommy, but not BECAUSE I’m Black. Imagine someone telling you in the kindest, sincerest way that “You rock… for a BLACK Mom”. Would that be fine by you? Does it seem cool?

Kelle August 18, 2010, 1:26 AM

Update: I looked into the Birthdayinabox.com site and found some things I adore! The Princess Amira and the Little Ballerinas party items will be perfect for my soon-to-be 6 year old daughter and my frat twin baby girls turning 2 next year. :)


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