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Shopping Black: An empowering experience


Despite having spending power of $1 trillion, Blacks spend less money in Black-owned businesses than other racial and ethnic groups do in businesses owned by members of their groups/ethnicities, according to a 2014 report by Nielsen and Essence Magazine.

Margarita Anderson, social activist and author of “Our Black Year: One Family’s Quest to Buy Black in America’s Racially Divided Economy,” cited the following statistics regarding how various groups/ethnicities recycle their dollars within their communities:

“In Asian communities, a dollar circulates among the community’s banks, retailers, and business professionals for up to 28 days before it is spent with outsiders.

“In the Jewish community, the circulation period is 19 days. In predominantly White areas, (it’s) 17 days. Hispanics keep their dollars within their community for seven days.

“But in the Black community, the dollar lives in the community for about seven hours before it is spent outside of the community.”

Anderson, a lawyer and first-generation Cuban American, decided to buck the trend of spending her dollars outside of the Black community. The Miami native and her family embarked on a quest to exclusively purchase Black-made products and services for an entire year. Anderson called her economic case study, the “Empowerment Experiment.”

Anderson’s year-long “Empowerment Experiment” resulted in a landmark study conducted by Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Business which proved with the data from the Anderson’s journey how incremental support of Black businesses can rescue the Black community and improve the American economy as a whole. The study found that between half a million and a million jobs could be created, if higher-income Black households spent only $1 of every $10 at Black-owned stores and other enterprises.

“The million jobs will only happen, if collectively the Black community worked to invest more of their spending with Black-owned businesses,” Anderson said.

With several predominantly African American shopping districts around Los Angeles, those interested in conducting their own “Empowerment Experiment” have a wide-range of retail options. Here are just a few Black-owned businesses located in small shopping districts in Los Angeles where people can recycle your dollars in the community during the holiday season and beyond.

Leimert Park Village

For nearly five decades, Leimert Park Village has been home to artists, musicians, poets and entertainers, making it a haven for freedom of expression. The construction of the Crenshaw LAX Expo line has severely disrupted business not only on Crenshaw Boulevard, but on the surrounding streets as well, including in Leimert Park Village. Merchants that remain open in The Village carry an eclectic range of African-inspired merchandise and specialty items.

Eso Won Bookstore has been in and around Leimert Park Village for more than 25 years, opening its first location on the corner of Slauson and Crenshaw in 1990.  Eso Won carries books that span the African diaspora, including history, contemporary fiction, biographies, autobiographies, memoirs and much more. Co-owner Thomas Hamilton says two of the bestselling books this holiday season are Ta-Nehisi Coates’ New York Times Bestseller, Between the World and Me, and Walter Mosley’s latest Leonid McGill novel, “And Sometimes I Wonder About You.”

Eso Won also carries a large selection of coffee table books that are perfect for gift giving.

Laura Hendrix, who co-founded Gallery Plus with her now deceased husband O.B., has been in the Village for 28 years. As the name implies, Gallery Plus specializes in custom framing and gifts. Gallery Plus merchandise includes presidential commemorative items, throw pillows made from African fabrics, calendars, African masks, posters and framed and unframed artwork.

Other retail merchants in Leimert Park Village include Queen Aminah’s (African art and fashion), Sika (jewelry) and Zambezi Baazar (gift store).


Just east of the intersection of Slauson and Overhill is a block of upscale African American merchants that carry everything from Bibles and hats to women’s ready-to-wear and fancy baked goods.

Since 1991, Windsor Hills Christian Book Center owner Shawn Webb has been supplying spiritual sustenance to individuals and religious institutions. The bookstore’s top sellers are “Jesus Calling,” books by Joel Osteen, devotionals, “The Bible Promise Book for Women” and a variety of Bibles.

Retailer Francesca Anuluoha has been in business for more than 44 years, first as the owner of Africana Imports on Crenshaw Boulevard and now with her two daughters, Nyambo and Kay, in the newly revamped Kutula by Africana on Slauson. Nyambo describes the selection at Kutula by Africana as contemporary design made with traditional African fabric. The fabric is sourced from different parts of Africa, and the outfits are designed for all age groups and occasions, including family reunions and galas.

“Ankara fabrics are really popular and making a resurgence,” said Nyambo. “It was first introduced in fashion in the 1970s, and now we’re seeing it for a whole new generation . . . a lot of our clients are coming in to purchase outfits made from Ankara for Kwanzaa and Black History Month.”

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, and wife of England’s Prince William, may not be a household name in the Black community, but the stylish “fascinator” hats she’s known for wearing are top sellers at One of a Kind Hats. “We can’t keep them on the shelf,” said owner Meeka Robinson Davis. “Our hats can be custom made or off the shelf. Custom-made hats take from three days to one week to make.” A staple in the community for 30 years, One of a Kind Hats was originally located on Crenshaw Boulevard before moving to Slauson Avenue. In addition to hats, the store carries accessories, such as jewelry and scarves.

CJ’s Elegance is another long-time merchant on Slauson, originally opened in 1963. “We are the ultimate boutique,” said a store representative. “You’re not going to see a lot of what we have [anywhere else]. When you come in here and shop, you’ll be able to wear it in confidence that you’re not going to go somewhere else and see somebody else with it on.” CJ’s also carries a limited assortment of gifts for men.

Bonnie B Bakery opened in March 2015 and is one of the newer additions to the Slauson Avenue retail community. The boutique bakery offers an array of upscale baked goods for every occasion.

For the holidays, Bonnie B Bakery has a special three-tiered boxed gift set that is perfect for business colleagues or clients. The bottom tier is filled with a dozen assorted cookies—chocolate chip with nuts, oatmeal raisin, soft lemon, and chocolate chip with no nuts; the middle tier is filled with eight BBB’s signature twist cakes: lemon and chocolate spice. The top tier is filled with decadent chocolate brownies.

Bonnie B Bakery also offers three types of ready-made breakfast packages that can be purchased in advance for next-day heating and serving.

Audacity Studios is another newcomer to Slauson Avenue. Owner Mark Campbell describes his establishment as a “21st-century haberdashery and grooming salon exclusively for men with discriminating taste.” In addition to men’s ready to wear, Audacity Studios has a “made-to-measure” line coming out in January and a catalog for custom orders.

“We have business dress, business casual, formal, knit sweaters, shirts, slacks, and fabric swatches for the coming season’s slacks. We also have accessories—belts, bags and satchels. When new clients come in, we sit down and do an in-take and talk about what you like, how you currently dress and go forward from there,” said Campbell.

The other part of Audacity Studios is the grooming salon which is equipped with four barber chairs and estheticians and manicurists for manicures and pedicures. “Head to toe, we’ll be able to take care of the needs of our clients.”

Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza

The exquisite Jendayi Collection specializes in unique, symbolic, culturally- inspired fine jewelry.  Owners Monnae Michaell and Wasir Salaam had a vision to create jewelry that tells a personalized story through the use of Ghanaian Adinkra and Chinese symbols. Designs can be made with white gold, yellow gold and platinum and are designed and customized by the Jendayi Collection’s in-house master craftsman. Customers can select the symbols that have meaning for them along with precious metals and gemstones and even save money by re-using their own materials.

Pico Boulevard/Hauser

On Pico Boulevard just east of Hauser Avenue, another small enclave of African American retailers resides.

“I love bringing things from around the world to people and giving them a bit of culture from around the world,” said Gail Hawkins, owner of Cultural Interiors. “I firmly believe that if each of us learns something about a different culture, we’ll learn to appreciate each other much better because we’re not so focused on ourselves.”

Cultural Interiors has a unique selection of art from across the nation. Artists actively seek out Hawkins to display their work to a discerning and appreciative clientele. “Today, a young man from the Congo came in, and he brought pieces that he thought I might be interested in. Jewelers come to me from Santa Fe, from New York, from Boston. I also have artwork from some local jewelers.”

Hot sellers for Cultural Interior this season are Baily’s Button Beauties by Jewel. “These are gorgeous dolls in all colors, so you get anywhere from deep, deep chocolate to our light, light vanilla,” said Hawkins.

Cultural Interiors is one of two retailers on the West Coast carrying Vintage Teawork, specialty teas inspired by wine varieties. The six flavors—White Tea Riesling, Green Tea Sauvignon, Oolong Chardonnay, Rooibos Noir and Black Tea Merlot—were created by Brandon Ford, an African American artist from Ohio.

Marcia “Pinky” Charles is the proprietor of Pinky Rose Boutique. Charles designs, manufactures and sells her signature “Nadda dress,” a unique line of chic clothing that has the appearance of a dress, but is “not a dress.”

After working as a successful buyer for many years, Charles was inspired to design the Nadda dress clothing line after gaining weight. “If you dress women long enough, you can become a designer because you always have to recreate something on them to get a [good] fit. Most clothes are ready-made, it’s not made to fit.” said Charles. Once in the store, Nadda dresses immediately sold and saved Charles’ business and the store.

Charles notes that most people already have a style, and they don’t get away from that style, but she likes to introduce them to a new way of seeing themselves. “I’ve heard many times over the years, ‘Pinky, I would have never picked that out.’ But I say, just trust me, please, just try it on. Ninety-five percent of the time, they come out of the dressing room and say, ‘Wow. I would have never picked that out.’ “


There are a number of Black-owned retailers that call Inglewood home. One of the newest, Ward and Parish is an upscale clothier opened in August by a creative team with more than 25 years of retail experience. Located on Manchester Avenue just west of La Brea Avenue, the store has grown from solely an online boutique and is gradually evolving into a national brand. It features men’s casual clothing and specializes in contemporary ready to wear.

Zahra’s Book ‘n Things on La Brea one block south of Centinela Avenue has been selling books, calendars and other gift for yeas.

Just down the street north of Centinela Avenue, New Style Web offers a variety of shoe styles for the discriminating shopper.

Margarita Anderson described her year-long journey into shopping Black as “very hard, because “I tried to do it 100 percent, but there are little things that we can do to increase our spending with Black-owned businesses,” Anderson said. “Once you get started, it gets easier and easier.”

To view Margarita Anderson’s talk on reasons to shop in the Black community, visit

Christmas in Africa

By William Covington

OW Contributor

As we celebrate Christmas in the United States, other nations not only celebrate differently, some acknowledge the holy event on different dates. Our Weekly took a look at the celebration in several cultures across the Black Diaspora.

Christmas in Ethiopia

In Ethiopia (and especially the Ethiopian Orthodox Church), followers still use the old Julian calendar and celebrate Christmas on Jan. 7. The Christmas celebration in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is called Ganna and most Ethiopians go to church on Christmas day like other Christians.

But the celebration actually begins on the day before the holiday. That day many people fast. At dawn on the morning of Ganna, people dress in white. Most people wear a traditional garment called a shamma. This is a thin white cotton piece of cloth with brightly colored stripes across the ends. It’s worn during Christmas like a toga.

However, if you live in a big town or city, you might wear ‘western’ clothes and attend an early Ganna mass, which starts at 4 a.m.

Most people who live outside big cities live in round houses made of mud-plastered walls which have thatched cone-shaped roofs. Sometimes houses in the country are rectangular and made of stone.

The design of Ethiopian Churches is typically similar to the houses. In the country, they are often very old and have been carved out of rock. In cities, modern churches are built with seating situated in three concentric circles.

According to former resident and student Zewditu Ejigu, the choir sings from the outer circle. Everyone who goes to church for the Ganna celebration receives a candle. During the service, the people walk around inside the church three times in a solemn procession, holding the candles. They then go to the second circle to stand during the service. The men and boys sit separate from the women and girls. The center circle is the most important and holy place in the church and is where the priest serves the Holy Communion or mass.

It’s also a belief that one of the Wise Men who visited Jesus came from Ethiopia.

About the time the Ganna starts, the men and boys play a game that is also called ganna. It features a curved stick and a round wooden ball.

Traditional Christmas foods in Ethiopia include ‘wat,’ a thick and spicy stew that contains meat, vegetables and sometimes eggs. Wat is eaten on a ‘plate of injera’—a flat bread. Pieces of the injera are used as an edible spoon to scoop up the wat.

Twelve days after Ganna, on Jan. 19, Ethiopians start the three-day celebration of Timkat, which celebrates the baptism of Jesus. Children walk to church services in a procession. They wear the crowns and robes of the church youth groups that they belong to. Adults wear the shamma. The priests wear red and white robes and carry embroidered fringed umbrellas.

Musical instruments are played during the Timkat procession including the sistrum, a percussion instrument with tinkling metal disks that resemble a vertical tambourine. During the process, a makamiya, a long T-shaped prayer stick, is used to keep the rhythm. It is also used by the priests as a stick to lean on during the long Timkat church service.

Ethiopian men also play a sport annually at Christmas called yeferas guks. It’s played on horseback and the men throw ceremonial lances at each other (sounds rather dangerous).

People don’t give or receive presents during Ganna and Timkat. Sometimes children might be given a small gift of clothes from their family members. The celebration is more a time for going to church, eating lots and playing games.

In Ethiopia in the Amharic language, Father Christmas or Santa Claus is called ‘Yágena Abãt.


People in Ghana celebrate Christmas from the 20th of Dec. 20 through the first week in January with lots of different activities. Many people travel to visit their relatives and friends in other parts of the country, said insurance expert Olugbenga Akinbade. More than 66 languages are spoken in Ghana and all these language groups have their own traditions and customs.

Christmas Eve night is the time when the celebrations really begin. It starts with church services that include drumming and dancing. Children often perform a Nativity play or other drama. Then choirs come out to sing while people dance in front of the priests. Songs are primarily sung in the languages that the people understand best. This makes them feel as if God speaks their language. Sometimes these services and dancing go on all night long.

Some people celebrate Christmas Eve with fireworks and parties.

On Christmas day, churches are very full and people come out dressed in their colorful traditional clothes. On Christmas morning after the church service, people quickly go back to their houses to start giving and receiving gifts.

Traditional food served during the celebration includes stew or okra soup, porridge with meat, rice and a yam paste called ‘fufu’.

During the Christmas period, children’s parties, employees’ end-of-year parties etc. are primarily celebrated in hotels, at beaches, in school parks and community centers. Some Ghanaians also go to church on Dec. 31 to thank God for sending Jesus and to pray for a good and safe New Year. People may also use that time to remember those who died during the previous year and pray that the difficulties that they may have encountered over the year don’t carry on into the New Year.


In Haiti at the beginning of December, people start looking for Christmas trees, explains make up artist Inga Rousseau. They might cut pine branches or go to the market and get trees brought in from the mountains. The trees are decorated with bright ornaments. A large nativity scene often rests at the bottom of the tree. Churches and other organizations also have trees on display. People also decorate their homes for Christmas.

French is the main language spoken in Haiti, so Happy/Merry Christmas is ‘Joyeux Noël’. Some people speak Creole and the typical greeting is Jwaye Nowe.

On Christmas Eve, children place their newly cleaned shoes, filled with straw under a tree on the porch. They hope that Santa (called Tonton Nwèl) will remove the straw and put presents in and around the shoes.

Often, lots of houses in neighborhoods are open with all lights on until about 3 a.m. Children are normally allowed to go out and often the parents don’t know were they are in the early morning—the older children are expected to look after the younger ones. And children of all ages are also allowed to drink ‘Anisette’, which is a slightly alcoholic drink that’s made by soaking ‘anise’ leaves (source of the star anise spice) in rum and sweetening it with sugar.

Some people go to a midnight mass church service, or might go out carol singing. After the mass, people go home and eat the main meal called ‘reveillon’ (a French term meaning ‘to wake up’ and is what the main meal is also called in France). The meal normally starts in the early hours of Christmas morning and lasts until dawn.

Christmas Day is much quieter with people sleeping off the celebrations from the night before! However, there will be more eating and playing with the toys.


Christmas is a very special time in Jamaica and like a lot of other countries, radio stations play carols all through the period, explained ErwinWilson, owner of Ultratech Auto in Los Angeles.

Lots of people paint their houses and hang new curtains and decorations for Christmas. Most families spend Christmas Day at home with friends and family members.

The Christmas day meal is usually prepared on Christmas Eve. The traditional Jamaican meal includes fresh fruits, sorrel and rum punch and meat. The Christmas Day breakfast includes ackee and saltfish, breadfruit, fried plantains, boiled bananas, freshly squeezed fruit juice and tea.Dinner is usually served in the late afternoon and may include chicken, curry goat, stewed oxtail, rice and peas.

Jamaican red wine and rum fruitcake is traditional and is eaten in most homes. The fruits in the cake are soaked in red wine and white rum for months before Christmas.


Madagascar is an island off the east coast of Africa, so it is very warm at Christmas time. However, even though it’s hot, common decorations include holly, robins and snow even though none of this exist in Madagascar, says event planner Akany Soafonenako.

The official language of Madagascar is Malagasy. ‘Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year’ in Malagasy is ‘Mirary Krismasy sambatra sy Taona vaovao tonga lafatra ho anao’.

Most Malagasy only exchange small presents. In Madagascar, Santa Claus is called ‘Dadabe Noely’ and most people go to church on Christmas Eve. The services start about 5 p.m. and last until after midnight. Different groups in the church, especially children, perform songs and plays celebrating the birth of Jesus. People also go to church on Christmas Day as well. After the Christmas Eve or Christmas Day service, churches give out sweets or biscuits attending.

On Christmas Day, people (even strangers) greet each by saying ‘Arahaba tratry ny Noely’ which means ‘Merry Christmas’.

Malagasy families like to eat Christmas dinner together in large groups and dress up in the best (or new) clothes. The meal is normally chicken or pork with rice followed by a special cake. Some rich people go to restaurants for Christmas dinner, but most people stay at home with their families.

A special Christmas food in Madagascar are fresh lychees, which are bought from shops and street sellers, fresh from the trees.

Poinsettias also grow as large outdoor shrubs in Madagascar and don’t just flower at Christmas! They are also the national emblem of Madagascar.


Christmas in Nigeria is a family affair according to Chris Omodunni. It’s a time when lots of family members come together to celebrate and have fun. Most families that live in cities travel to the villages where their grandparents and older relatives live.

Many different languages are spoken in Nigeria. In Hausa, Happy/Merry Christmas is ‘barka dà Kirsìmatì’; in Yoruba it’s E ku odun, e ku iye’dun; in Fulani it’s Jabbama be salla Kirismati; in Igbo (Ibo) E keresimesi Oma; in Ibibio it’s Idara ukapade isua and in Edo it’s Iselogbe.

Many families will throw Christmas parties that will last all night long on Christmas Eve. Then, on Christmas morning, they go to church to give thanks to God. Homes and streets are often decorated. Most homes will have an artificial Christmas tree.

Children love to play with firecrackers at Christmas. The church choir may visit the church congregation in their homes to sing Christmas carols. Christmas cards are sent to friends and family members. Presents are exchanged among family members, and some families may take their children dressed in new outfits to see Santa Claus.

In addition to serving turkey, a traditional Christmas meal in Nigeria may include beef, goat, sheep, ram or chicken. Other dishes might include pounded yam, jollof rice, fried rice, vegetable salad and some type of stew.

Trinidad and Tobago

Christmas is a very social time in Trinidad and Tobago with most people having parties, says Dominique Makkar. Both children and adults go from house to house between neighbors and relatives for food and drink.

The radio stations play Trinidadian Christmas carols and songs as well as traditional and contemporary carols from the U.S.A. A special Trinidadian music, Parang, is also played. Parang is an upbeat Venezuela-Trinidad hybrid.

Most people paint and make repairs to their houses and hang new curtains and decorations (especially lights) for Christmas. Often, this is the time that most people buy new electrical appliances and furniture. Most families spend Christmas Day at home with friends and family members.

The Christmas day meal is usually prepared daily throughout mid-December, and into the new year. The traditional Trinbagonian (people who live on either of the islands) Christmas meal includes apples and grapes, sorrel, ponche-de-creme (a version of eggnog), ham, turkey, homemade bread, ginger beer, pastelles (a version of tamales) and local wine.

Trinidadian Christmas fruitcake is an item that is traditionally cooked in many households and is eaten in most homes. The fruits (such as raisins and sultanas) in the cake are usually soaked in cherry wine, sherry and rum for several months before Christmas.

New Year’s Eve is known as ‘Ole year’s night’ in Trinidad, and people love to let off fireworks to celebrate the coming of the New Year.


According to Mutale Chilufya, a student at the Eagle Internatioal School who lives in Kitwe Copperbelt, many churches in Zambia have nativity plays and a crib in the church. One or two days before Christmas, Zambians like to go carol singing around the local streets for charity.

On Christmas day, children are encouraged to bring a present to church for children who are in the hospital or might not get a present because they are less fortunate. After church on Christmas day, it is a custom that all the children go to one house and all the adults go to another house to have a party and to eat.


For most people in Zimbabwe, Christmas day starts with a church service. Afterwards, everyone has a party in their homes and people go from house to house, visiting all of their family and friends. Sometimes, this can take all of the rest of the day. At every house, you have something to eat, exchange presents and enjoy the party.

A lot of people get their biggest stereo speakers out and put them outside the front of the house and play their favorite music very loudly! It is not only Christmas music that is played, but also the latest pop tunes and old African favorites.

Everyone wears their best clothes for Christmas. Children in Zimbabwe believe that Santa Claus brings them their presents early on Christmas Day, ready to show their friends at church and at the parties.

Only the main room in the house is decorated in Zimbabwe. Although some Zimbabweans have a traditional ‘European’ Christmas tree, they typically decorate the room with plants like ivy. This is draped around the whole top of the room.

Christmas carols are sung during the Christmas Day morning service and in services leading up to Christmas. There are also sometimes carols sung during Candlelight Services in city parks.

The Christmas Cards that are used in Zimbabwe sometimes have African pictures on them, such as wild animals, but most are imported so they have the traditional ‘snow scenes’ and pictures of the Christmas story on them.

The special food eaten at Christmas in Zimbabwe is Chicken with rice. Chicken is a very expensive food in Zimbabwe and is a special treat for Christmas. This is often eaten at the Christmas Day parties.

Santa might sometimes arrive at big stores in a Fire Engine. The streets in the big cities also can have colorful Christmas lights.