By way of introduction, I am William R. Sands (you can call me Bill), CEO and creative director of ethniciti, in Columbus, Ohio. Having settled here in the heart of the Midwest many years ago after growing up in the south Bronx, I’ve made a career of understanding people’s needs and designing environments to make their lives easier and more fulfilling. For the past 30 years, I’ve worked with large-scale retailers from Minneapolis to Mexico City, from Rio de Janeiro to Helsinki, and done consulting for individuals in the heartland.
Not once have I been called upon to create a design or merchandise strategy directed to the modern African-American consumer. In spite of all the ongoing dialog surrounding diversity, as an African-American I find it literally impossible (I am not alone) to acquire quality consumer goods that truly reflect my lifestyle, culture, knowledge, and sense of fashion. I find this to be true not only in the Midwest, but in New York as well.
Why do you think that is? Clearly it’s not because African-Americans in the United States lack clout or spending power. We are, and will continue to be, a significant and rapidly increasing force in the American scene. The Black population is growing at a much higher rate than the general population, 28% compared to 20.9%. We have substantial purchasing power, $845.5 billion in 2007, projected to rise by 18% to $1 trillion in 2012. African-American incomes over $50,000 have increased at a higher rate than average, 13% compared to 8% for the general population.
So what’s the problem? Do the providers of goods and services not know, or don’t they care?
In some case they don’t know. African-Americans are not a homogenous group. While society in general tends to see just Black, we look at ourselves through more thoughtful and critical lenses. We recognize style, heritage, and upbringing as ways to determine our own destiny. I created the video “New Pride and Social Awareness” to help spread the word.
The group I call Young Blood Rising, are twenty-somethings, fashion leaders, trend setters, the cool people we all want to be like.
Piece of the Rock are smart, aggressive, professional, creative people who are defining the lifestyles and aspirations of the modern African-American.
Old School Steady are our older contemporaries who remind us of the struggle, the good times, the bad times and what can be.
Homeland Arrival are the diaspora, brothers and sisters from the African continent, the Caribbean, and South America who seek to prosper in a new place and find ways to contribute to the African-American experience.
In some cases retailers, manufacturers, and advertisers don’t care. They have not come to recognize the enormous opportunity to offer and promote products and services that appeal specifically to the modern African-American consumer. They continue to make the same mistakes that the fashion and beauty industry did in the 1980’s by overlooking the preferences of African-Americans. Out of that experience arose an entire industry dedicated to women of color.
Clearly with the election of Barack Obama, the country and the world are experiencing a renewed interest in the lifestyles of successful African-Americans. I am sensing a New Pride and Social Awareness. I am feeling a new opportunity to change the “systems” for the better on many levels.
In my blog, I hope to provide a forum for modern African-Americans, and others who appreciate the richness of our culture, to exchange ideas, concerns, information, and most importantly encouragement for those of us who have decided that enough is enough.
Let me know what you’re thinking.