They don’t call it “Black Friday” because they love Black people; they call it Black Friday because many businesses are pushed into the black (from the red ink of losses to the black ink of profits) on that day or into the holiday season. In just the three days from Black Friday until Sunday, November 26, online sales jumped by more than seven percent, according to one of the credit card companies that tracks spending from credit receipts. Even with economic anxiety, people are spending money.
If your email inbox is anything like mine, you are barraged with ads and promotions offering 25, 50, and even 75 percent off. These retailers aren't giving anything away for free. A 75 percent offer means they had marked the product up by three times what it cost them to produce it to get their retail price. The original tag may have said $99.99. Trust and believe that the item didn't cost more than $25 to produce unless it has been sitting on the shelf for so long that it is cheaper to mark the item down than to use shelf space for something else.
Books are the same way. Booksellers mark books down when they need to make room for new inventory. But there is a big difference between giving someone a jacket and giving them a book, especially if the book is a gift for a young person. Too many children don't have books or access to them, and the gift of a book can transform a child's life. You can open a world for a youngster with a book that shows her other countries and offers him different ways of thinking (thus the scientific fiction genre and Afrofuturism many young Black folks are getting into). Vanesse Lloyd-Sgambati, founder of the African American Children’s Book Fair, which will be held in Philadelphia on February 3, 2024 (https://theafricanamericanchildrensbookproject.org/) ends her voicemail message with "buy a book" because she is passionate about the power that literacy has to enhance a young life. So, if you are playing Santa Claus laden with gifts, make sure at least one is a book. And if your funds aren’t challenged, bring at least one book to your cherished child and gift another child or two with a book.
COVID-19 and the ease and speed of online ordering have challenged the vitality of independent Black bookstores. But Mahogany Books, founded in 2007 as an online platform (www.mahagonybooks.com), now has two brick-and-mortar locations and thrives. In Oakland, California, Marcus Books, the first Black bookstore west of the Mississippi River, continues to thrive despite challenges. One recent list of independent Black-owned bookstores counts 89 (https://www.cntraveler.com/story/black-owned-bookstores) suggests patronizing them in person or online.
Independent Black-owned bookstores are now more critical than ever. As of this April, twenty-eight states have passed laws preventing teaching "critical race theory" (https://www.statista.com/chart/29757/anti-critical-race-theory-measures/), which can sometimes be broadly construed to include the simple teaching of African American history. Several initiatives have been introduced, with some implementing and regulating teaching, library content, and more. One disgruntled racist parent can cause a book to be removed from a library or banned from a syllabus. The American Library Association keeps track of the more than 1600 books that were challenged in 2022, with the thirteen most frequently challenged including Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye (https://www.statista.com/chart/29757/anti-critical-race-theory-measures/). Rabid parents want to keep these books out of the curriculum and ban them from libraries. That's why every home needs a library, and every child needs to have their own books.
The culture wars are here, and with the 2024 election, they will likely start sizzling. There's a big battle that groups like the American Library Association, the National Education Association, and other organizations, including civil rights organizations like the National Urban League, are taking on through the Freedom to Learn Campaign (www.freedomtolearn.net). This cause is good trouble! At the same time, we can provide education child by child. Buy a child a book for Christmas! Talk to her about it. Give a book to a child you don't know. Give a book, give a book, give a book.
Dr. Julianne Malveaux is an economist, author, and educator. Surviving and Thriving: 365 Facts in Black Economic History is in its 2022 second edition. Copies are available at firstname.lastname@example.org.