The Future of Black America

What Cosby and Poussaint Won't Tell You

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Pepper Miller Pepper Miller
Drs. Bill Cosby and Alvin Poussaint are enjoying national attention from their appearances on Meet the Press and Oprah as well as articles in several popular publications including The Wall Street Journal. They are promoting their new book Come On People: On the Path from Victims to Victors, which is both a reprimand and self-help message to the Black community.

I cringed at the alarming stats which mirror those that I have also seen in the Urban League's 2007 State of Black America Report. Both paint a dismal, albeit truthful, picture of the alarming social and economic issues which primarily confront poor Black Americans.

I'm not too upset with the authors. (My concern is the order of information.) In fact, as a result of the book, Cosby and Poussaint encourage readers to not worry about White America's perceptions of the Black community, but rather, focus on taking responsibility and action for the Black community's current situation. I agree. However, besides the disturbing information, I couldn't help but wonder how Cosby and Poussaint's message will further impact the embattled Black consumer value.

Herb Kemp, my co-author of African-American cultural marketing book What's Black About It? Insights to Increase Your Share of a Changing African-American Market, had this to say about Cosby and Poussaint's book:

"I don't agree that it reinforces stereotypes... It speaks realistically to the condition of a specific segment of the AA community that many more fortunate black people, including the government, have chosen to ignore. ... The African-American consumer market is not one big homogeneous market, it is increasingly more segmented, affluent, and influential today than ever before in our history. I think more and more marketers today are realizing the advantages of this, and are targeting their spending based on a more segmented approach, whether it is by gender, income level, class, age, education, lifestyle, and or mindset."

Herb's comment is more optimistic about marketers than mine. For the sake of clarity, I want to add a few more nuggets that point to a positive future of Black America and Black consumer value:
  • Growing Black Consciousness Movement. It's quiet and understated. There are no fists in the air and no Black Power chants to speak of. This movement is fueled by Black mega churches that have strong agendas for Afro-centric centered learning, community awareness, truth, and social justice. Trinity UCC in Chicago is a perfect example of leadership and is a torch bearer for this movement. It is also church home to U.S. Presidential hopeful Barrack Obama, Conscious Rapper Common, and yours truly. Additionally, young Black people, who are realizing their "Blackness" later than Black Boomers, are being swept up by the thousands by Black social conscious Internet organizations such as They were mentioned in my Jena 6 Blog, as the new "Black"

  • The Power of the Black Female. As the Black community continues to work on elevating the fate of Black boys and men, the power of the Black female should not be underestimated. Target Market News indicated that total Black spending power totaled nearly $770 billion in 2006. In 2005, Black female spending power totaled $403 billion, and they are the means for reaching the Black consumer market. They are also more likely than white females to be the decision makers in their households, whether married or not, for purchasing items from several major categories including automobiles, real estate, travel, electronics, and financial services.

  • The "Thrivals." In 2004 futurist thinker and professor, Nat Irvin, identified and defined "Thrivals" as an emerging generation of Blacks who are dictating a new future for themselves free from the history of victimization and oppression. According to Irvin, they are also critical thinkers who are technically adept, worldly, sophisticated and entrepreneurially driven.
These are just three of the many insights that don't get the same attention as Come On People, yet are important enough to remind us that Black America and Black Consumers still have and will have value today and in the future.
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