Recession Proof

A friend of mine asked me if I think folks in the hood feel the recession. He was halfway joking but it made me think about it. What does it really mean to be in a recession? It’s like traffic. I just don’t get it. It should be free-flowing no matter how many people are driving. And what about money? The money isn’t gone. It hasn’t disappeared. It just isn’t flowing freely to everybody.

These questions crossed my mind, and then Sunday morning I woke up, walked into my living room and found the TV still on. Joel Osteen was almost done with his sermon. It was titled “Thriving, Not Surviving.” And he touched on the negative talk about the recession. He reminded me of something I’m really working on, which is reprogramming myself to know that as long as God’s presence is all around me I should never want for anything. I’m still working with this one!

Have you ever joined an organization for a particular cause that works towards the betterment of black folks? I’ve worked with a few – some broke and couldn’t pay me a dime while others were very prosperous and only paid me a dime, and all in between. There are a couple of things I’ve learned working with my people on saving our people. One is a collective acceptance that healing our people condemns us to a life of impoverishment. We struggle to uplift our folks and then we go home and struggle to pay our bills. But we’re not supposed to complain because we’re working for a greater cause. And, God forbid if we actually make a come up, some of our brethren will label us a sell out because those who are really down for the ‘struggle’ aren’t rich.

The second thing I learned is that there are those who recognize this sickness, and are more than willing to take advantage of it. They sell us the pipe dream of how ‘we’ are going to save our community. We do the work. We make the sacrifices. We get the high blood pressure. We opt out of our non-paid vacation and we dare don’t complain. And they get the credit. They pocket whatever minuscule or large profit made. They tell us more work needs to be done. And when we quit from being burned out, they recruit somebody just like us who only wants to make this world a better place but doesn’t understand that they deserve a piece of it too. Ahh, memories!

One of the things I’m learning is to stay in my lane. It ain’t my job to stimulate the economy so I’m not worried about it. But since I’ve had a recession going on in my life for years and years, I’m working on stimulating my mind to think differently.

As a journalist, I remember interviewing this very successful entrepreneur who lives in New York. She had a few hustles: a nice restaurant, custom bath products and an interior design business. She also loved working with different community organizations. One of the things she told me was that she refused to be downtrodden while helping her people. She said somebody has got to write the check. And she’s right.

One of the first interviews I did was with these two young black dudes (cute too) who pulled their money together and bought a barbershop and a clothing store. It was located in a shopping center so they’re methodology was for customers to cash their check (at the check cashing venue next door), get a cut, buy something for the club and be on their way. They had a DJ in there on Saturdays and the place was always packed. One of the owners told me, which I often think about, “If you hang around nine broke people, you’ll be the tenth.”

I can say one commonality among all of the people I’ve interviewed, whether a celebrity or a successful entrepreneur, they all weren’t working to survive. And I know for sure some of them aren’t thinking about this recession. They’re so driven by their vision they don’t care what’s going on around them, they’re going to afford the lifestyle they feel they deserve. So why should we settle?

I think this struggling to survive is some leftover psychosis from slavery because it’s so prevalent in our community. Most of us aren’t used to having a lot. I remember moving to Atlanta was a culture shock. I never saw so many black folks driving luxury cars and living in really big expensive homes. We see the culture shock all the time in hip hop. A co-worker and I were watching TV and a rapper with all this jewelry came on the screen. My co-worker said, “Nigga ain’t neva had nothin’.” We’re (well, some of us) aren’t used to having things that when we get it, we want it all. I want it all, but I don’t want to accumulate it out of fear of losing it. I want it because I deserve it. It is my blessing to have.

I’m dreaming of a day when we all recognize that we were born with the blessing of prosperity whether we realize it or not. It’s right there waiting for us to claim it.

Envisioning you with much love, light and fulfillment. See you next week.

Yaminah Ahmad is editor-in-chief of The Atlanta Voice and contributing editor to Collective Voices, a newspaper published by the non-profit, SisterSong: Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective. More information on the group can be found at Ahmad can be reached at

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