Arts & Culture / Books / Economy / History

Maywood-born Author Publishes Guide to Black-owned Businesses, To Present During Dec. 30 Kwanzaa Event

green-book

The Negro Travelers’ Green Book, published from 1936 to the early 1960s, was responsible for helping black travelers navigate the country’s roadways safely. | PBS || Below left, Tequila Sahaya Shabazz has authored what might be called a Green Book for the 21st generation, The Neo-Green Book. || R. Amon Photography/Facebook

tequila-shabazz-photoThursday, December 22, 2016 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

In its heyday, The Negro Travelers’ Green Book was considered the “Bible of black travel during Jim Crow.” First published in 1936 by Victor Hugo Green, a black postal employee from Harlem, the Green Book was designed “to give the Negro traveler information that will keep him from running into difficulties, embarrassments and to make his trip more enjoyable,” according to Kathleen Franz’s and Susan Smuylans’ Major Problems in American Popular Culture.

Circulation of the book may have been discontinued shortly after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but one Maywood-born author says that the book’s disappearance doesn’t mean that something like it is no longer needed.

TeQuila Sahaya Shabazz, the author of The Neo-Green Book, said in a recent phone interview that her book is a successor of sorts to the Green Book.

“This is the next generation to that book,” Shabazz said, adding that her work, which was published this year and is now available for purchase online and at select book stores (including Afriware Books in Maywood), provides information for consumers who want to shop at businesses that are black-owned, local and socially responsible.

“The Green Book published places where people could safely stop during their travels,” Shabazz said. “Today, we have to expose and highlight places that are safe to shop at. This is an economic war. There are companies we give our money to that fund the prison industrial complex [among other social problems that ensnare poor and minority consumers].”

Shabazz, 39, worked for 15 years in sales at various media companies, including the Chicago Tribune and PBS, before retiring in order to dedicate herself full-time to guiding people on ways they can “buy, give, love and live black.”

In addition to publishing the Neo-Green Book, which she plans on releasing quarterly, she also heads up the BRIJ Embassy for Black America, which Shabazz describes as a “cooperative of people who want to eradicate poverty and build wealth in black America.”

Shabazz said that she and her colleagues log how much money they’ve spent at black-owned and socially responsible businesses. They also conduct secret shopper visits to stores and analyze a businesses investment patterns, cleanliness and customer service, among other baseline indicators that businesses must satisfy if they’re to be included in The Neo-Green Book.

Neo Green.jpg

Shabazz said she’s been gathering data herself for four years and has worked intensively at data-gathering with her colleagues at BRIJ for roughly a year. So far this year, she said, they’ve invested over $700,000 into businesses within black communities in metro areas across the country, including Chicago, Gary and Cleveland.

Shabazz will present a keynote address on Dec. 30 during the annual Kwanzaa celebration hosted by Afriware Books, 1701 S. 1st Ave. in Maywood. The event will be from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m.

The timing is particularly ripe, considering the village’s recent woes. Shabazz, who grew up in Maywood and the West Side of Chicago, said she was shocked to learn that Aldi was Maywood’s only full-service grocery store and dismayed when she discover that it would be closing on Christmas Eve.

How, she was asked, might she translate her philosophy of economic self-sufficiency to some of the residents of her hometown?

“First, you have to analyze your capital base,” she said. “It’s going to be hard work. It’s not easy and won’t happen overnight. But you have to know what human capital — what knowledge, skills, resources and tools — you have access to immediately.”

Shabazz said that Maywood residents should look to places in Chicago, such as sustainable farms and cooperative grocery stores, for examples of what economic independence looks like and for potential investment opportunities.

“How do we open grocery stores owned by the community and in which the community invests and receives the profits?” she said, adding that the key isn’t to protest or to pressure large private and public institutions.

“In the city, there are many areas without grocery stores, but people have created mobile grocery stores and opened up stores of their own,” she said. VFP

For more info, or to purchase Shabazz’s book, click here

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