by Jim Clingman 

Food Deserts

Why do we have Food Deserts? One reason is that we have deserted our own stores. Instead of taking care of ourselves, we complain about stores owned by someone else. We petition our politicians for a grocery store or seek private companies to open stores where we live, but seldom do we open stores ourselves. Even when Blacks do open new supermarkets we do not support them, and they eventually are forced to close. Think I’m wrong? Keep reading.

At the turn of the last century (1900) Black people began to form food co-ops and other collective purchasing programs to feed themselves and to leverage lower prices for Black consumers. Two of the first grocery co-ops were started in St. Louis and Chicago by B. G. Shaw and Robert Jackson, respectively, in 1919.

The most notable co-op was the Colored Merchants’ Association (CMA), founded by A.C. Brown in Montgomery, Alabama in 1923. With assistance from the National Negro Business League, under the leadership of Albon Holsey, the CMA became a national organization that encouraged Black grocers to unite. In 1936, Holsey stated, “…the CMA began to lose the confidence of the Black consumer.” Black Economist, Abram Harris, said, “Members always found it difficult to sell CMA brands. The Negro, like the White consumer, is habituated to the popular brands carried by the chains.” Source: Dr. Juliet E.K. Walker.

Desertion of Black stores by Black consumers led to market opportunities for outsiders to take full advantage of the Black food dollar. We became dependent upon others, and now we even request their presence in our neighborhoods. No better picture of that reality than Singletary’s Supermarket in Columbus, Ohio in the mid-1980’s. I wrote many articles about Singletary’s and even spent time there doing a product sampling program. Singletary’s was a brand new business at that time, clean, well-stocked, and more convenient to Blacks in the Mt. Vernon neighborhood than other grocery stores.

Author of “Tribes,” Joel Kotkin, wrote: “In Columbus, Ohio…Singletary Plaza Mart, the nation’s largest Black-owned ‘superstore,’ went out of business…due to a lack of community patronage. Although Blacks in Columbus spend $2.5 million each week on food, they couldn’t be convinced to spend less than a tenth of it, or $200,000, to keep Singletary afloat.” The Reluctant Entrepreneurs, INC Magazine, 1986. Desertion.

In 1995, in Lakeland, Florida, an interdenominational group of Black ministers took their church members shopping. A two month-old Black-owned grocery store was not doing very well in the community, so the ministers got together to help. The ministers took 150 people to the store, called Fresh Supermarket Foods. After two hours, the shoppers had spent $4,000.00, according to the owner, Mr. Frank Jackson. Paul Sanders, pastor of Greater St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, said, “At stake is getting more Blacks to support [one another]. We talk about power. But if we don’t have some businesses or some money, we can talk about power all we want and it won’t come.” Sanders continued, “If the store does not succeed, it will be because of a lack of community support.” Desertion.

Three other recent examples include Fresh Market supermarket in nearly 100% Black, Southside Chicago. Owner, Karriem Beyah, whose store was included in Maggie and John Anderson’s “Empowerment Experiment,” agreed that the awareness and enthusiasm the Anderson’s created was important, but Beyah added that his business may have suffered from being highlighted as an enterprise owned by an African-American. (He closed the store in August 2009) “If you’re under the radar, then maybe you won’t get that belief from customers that the other guy’s ice is colder than yours,” he said. But, “I’m not giving up.” (Beyah plans to open a new store this year, 2017.

Second is the 2014 closing on the last Calhoun’s Supermarket in Montgomery, AL., after losing money for “three or four years,” according to owner, Greg Calhoun, who made history as the first African American in the South to own a supermarket. At one point, Calhoun had seven stores in Montgomery alone, a majority Black city. ShaKenya Calhoun cried as she closed the doors one final time. “The market has just been oversaturated with grocery stores…With the lack of sales, there’s not an economic impact for us to be in business.”

Third, there’s the much ballyhooed Sterling Farms’ grocery store in New Orleans, co-owned by actor, Wendell Pierce, who wanted to bring healthy food to underserved communities. That store closed one year after opening. It drew national media attention when it opened, including a visit from Michelle Obama who was touting her Fresh Food Initiative to bring healthy grocery options to so-called “food deserts.”

What will it take for us to feed ourselves? We have the money; we just lack the mindset. History will not treat us kindly if we fail to act appropriately.


    Just to brush up your memory, “RICO” stands for ‘Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act’.  ‘Cartel’--at its most simple form--stands for those who have banded together as a criminal enterprise, plying their evil works to make money and eliminate those who may get in the way.  If you put these two terms together, you will better understand my column for the month.

    For far too long, we--the law abiding public--have been sold a bill of goods concerning criminal activity in our streets.  We now have paid hooligans demanding ‘this or that’ in the name of the most popular cause.  We also now have whole families who are involved in some of these protests, for the sake of a buck.

    Having real or cobbled families involved in crime is nothing new.  Many are familiar with the story of ‘Oliver Twist’ by Charles Dickens.  When I first ran into it back in my younger days, I could not get over one of the sub-plots involving the characters of ‘Fagin’ and ‘The Artful Dodger’, as well as the ‘family’ which Fagin brought together--and trained--to pickpocket the citizens of London.  Dickens reportedly wrote this work partly based upon a keen eye on his times, and partly out of his own experiences.

    Fast forward to today, where this story has grown some ‘real life’ legs.  Some parents--it may seem--are actively ‘training’ and ‘using’ their own children to prey upon others, much like the Dickens tale.  In short, we have parents in some of our communities--and in some of our churches--who seem to thrive upon turning their families into criminal enterprises, and raising up their children to become proficient in the ways of crime.  What is truly troubling?  Some of these ‘parents’ hold employment in pretty respectable fields, such as banking, retailing--and law enforcement.

    Why do some families turn to crime?  For the money, of course!  

    And, IF one of the children happens to get killed in the commission of a crime, the family can put forth ‘moral outrage’ against the cops; faulting society and God for ‘letting them down’ in this cruel and cold world, as they were trying to ‘feed their family’.  (Of course, we won’t mention the fact that the ‘crowd funding’ dollars can amount to some pretty cool cash for a child’s funeral).  Am I being cruel?  Some may say I am; but to paraphrase the words of Sherlock Holmes: “If you eliminate all the other variables, what remains IS the truth.”  

    The truth of the matter is there are more RICO parents and Cartel kids than we would like to imagine…and their numbers appear to be growing.  It matters little as to the racial identity of the families in question.  What does matter is that blight has grown and needs to be checked, and stopped.  It will take some courage from those of us who are counted as the ‘law abiding’ in society to stop this ‘crime train’.


    The best way would be to get back to setting ourselves on ‘shun’.  If you know a shady family, raising their own brood of Cartel kids on your block, you need to stay away from them AND keep your children away from them…AND explain why!  The Apostle Paul recommended this method to the church at Corinth, when sin was discovered in the church house.  The perp in question was sleeping with his father’s wife.  There were people IN the church who were--dare I say it--cheering him on!  Paul reasoned from the scriptures and called for the offender to be shunned…in the hopes that he would repent of his sins, and thus would come back to the church in humility.

    That’s the proper role of a good shunning…to get folks to repent of their sins and realize that God--nor his people--are amused by their antics.  Sure, the offending family may call you a host of dirty names.  In truth?  It will teach them that they are NOT living on the right side of life.  Lying, cheating and stealing are activities that need to be eradicated…NOT encouraged.  

    Yes, I know that I’ll get some haters trying to justify the actions of these crime families.  However, I believe there are more people who will support such a united front against home-grown crime.  We need to stop hanging out with criminals, and stop letting their sins spread throughout society.  After all, how can a community--or a people--hope to make progress when members of their own are hindering them?

    Ramey, a Minister, syndicated columnist and book reviewer lives in Indianapolis, Indiana.  To correspond, drop him an email at  © 2017  Barnstorm Communications.    
Lift up Christ and lay the sinner low. --C. H. Spurgeon

Letter to Editor

He is heavy and he is not my brother!!!

Civics 101: DO YOU WANT TO IMPEACH TRUMP? Please find the name of your U.S. Representative. Put their picture with name on your refrigerator so you know who and what that person is.  If he or she is a Republican, do all you can to “flip” them.  We need to flip 24. When we Democrats gain the majority in the U.S. House in 2018, we can take steps to impeach TRUMP. We can force the U. S. Representatives and Senators to vote yes or no on C-Span television for all of us to see.  They can’t hide because this revolution will be televised!!!


Civics 101: The mid-term election is in 2018, but local elections are right around the corner. We hear a lot of people say they do not get involved in politics. Our entire life in America is controlled by politics. We are not legally born until someone pays $10 for our birth certificate. We are assigned a social security number and pay taxes until our death, then pay $10 for our death certificate. Even after we are buried or cremated, a lawyer will be paid to settle our estate plus a fee to the Clerk of Court. We pay all the bills, so why not speak up by registering and voting? Learn how to play the political game or get played!!!

James J. Hankins—Wilmington, NC

4209 DeWitt Rd.
Wilmington, NC  28405
Cell— (910) 233-1968