Monday, January 16, is the day we honor the life of civil rights hero, Dr. Martin Luther King. Some of us will use this day as a day of volunteer service, others will visit museums honoring people of color and still others will attend marches and community events. And some will do nothing at all. As part of my own effort to celebrate Dr. King – I offer an approach that allows us to honor him everyday single day.
Achieving economic and social justice in America continues to be a complex challenge for politicians, activists, and local citizens. The social activism led by Dr. Martin Luther King in the 1960s started with protests against racism, but also focused on the plight of the poor, unemployable, and unemployed. Unfortunately, near 60 years later, many of the problems Dr. King identified as focus areas still persist today. So what does it mean to continue the economic justice legacy work of Dr. King in 2017? And how might we, the young, able bodied and engaged parents of this country practice what I call, Every Day Economic Activism?
I believe Economic Activism begins with you --everyday. It starts with taking full responsibility about how you spend your most important resources –time and money. It doesn’t matter if you have a little money or a lot—this is the time to be more conscious of every dollar you own and every minute you have on this earth. Both of these resources must be put to their highest and best use at all times. There is so much work to do and we all have a part to play in the quest for equity in all schools, healthcare systems, throughout the business community, and throughout the justice system. Here is my list of 4 strategies for Every Day Economic Activism.
1. Live within your means: As a parent, you can put this strategy in practice today. No matter if you make $10,000 or $100,000 a year –spending more than you make is a very bad idea. It is just that simple. Learn to be responsible with your money. Buy a drink when you are out –but don’t buy the bar. Keep gift giving expenses to a minimum. There is nothing wrong with splurging, but splurge within reason. Develop a budget for yourself and stick to it. Need to know how to start budgeting? Click here.
2. Support businesses that support you and your community: According to a 2014 Neilson report on the African American Consumer, the buying power of African-Americans is $1 trillion and expected to grow to $1.3 trillion in the next few years. Curious about how much a trillion is ? –click here. The sheer magnitude of that number is powerful. And this economic spending power should not be taken lightly. Use it to your own advantage. Only support businesses and establishments whose values resonate with your own ideas, values, and principles. Business that don’t align with your personal priorities simply don’t deserve your time OR your money. Any business that that does not respect you as a consumer, or creates an environment where you feel mistreated or uncomfortable should be boycotted indefinitely. Don’t spend your time arguing and talking about it –just simply take your business elsewhere. Voting with your feet (or boycotting) is one of the loudest and most effective protests of all.
3. Maximize your earning power through career advancement and/or entrepreneurship: Benjamin Franklin once said “An investment in knowledge pays the most interest.” I could not agree with him more. Strive to understand the career path in your chosen field. Set ambitious goals and work toward progressive promotions. Committing to your personal career advancement helps to drive your earning power which in turn will help you build wealth for your family. Building wealth for your family ensure that you will be able to absorb financial shocks of life, save money for your childrens’ college funds, and adequately prepare for retirement. In addition to your full-time job, explore entrepreneurship in an area that you are passionate about.
4. Become a life-long learner of financial literacy: I believe that all parents should strive for two things: gaining financial education --gaining the knowledge of financial products and attaining financial capability, the ability to use math numeracy and critical thinking skills to make good decisions with the acquired financial knowledge. Parents arm yourself with unbiased information from reputable sources. Sign up for my newsletter on my blog www.smartchoicemoms.com, for helpful money principles, tips, and simple common sense money lessons for you and your family.
So what do my 4 strategies have to do with Dr. King ? Everything actually. Dr. King understood the importance of economic justice and the power that it affords. Dr. King’s last campaign before he died on January 15, 1968 was about fighting poverty and achieving economic justice for all people. It was called the Poor People’s Campaign. According to the King encyclopedia at Stanford, “King believed that African Americans and other minorities would never enter full citizenship until they had economic security. These steps will enable you to honor Dr. King’s legacy within your own family by ensuring your own economic stability and security now and for years to come.