This Christmas season, Black people are being challenged to do something untraditional and extremely out of the ordinary – boycott Christmas.
#BoycottChristmas has become a progressive movement, coming on the heels of the very successful “Justice Or Else!” gathering in Washington, D.C., which marked the 20th Anniversary of the Million Man March. Nation of Islam leader, Minister Louis Farrakhan, challenged all Americans, especially Black Americans, to come together and perform a nationwide boycott of Christmas – not boycott the Christmas that honors the birth of Jesus Christ, but a boycott of the Christmas that has removed “Christ” from Christmas in America, and the Christmas that has focused more on materialism and gift-giving, than it has on Jesus.
Christmas is supposed to be about celebrating Jesus Christ – a sacrificial man, who honored God, loved people and met the needs of those who needed their needs met. Many people, including African Americans, go broke trying to buy gifts for people that they oftentimes can’t afford and tend to give credit for those gifts to a jolly White man from the North Pole.
The major Christmas holiday spending season typically takes place on the day after Thanksgiving and lasts through New Year’s Day.
The question being asked of Black people is if they are able to part ways with the material focus during Christmas in order to send a message and make a bold statement to America that injustice and racism will not be tolerated. Many are hoping that is the case.
The night before his assassination, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, in which he called for an economic boycott of several major companies in America and he also called for Black people to “redistribute the pain” that had been and was being inflicted upon us for years.
Many people believe this call to action and rhetoric is what really got Dr. King killed, because he was seeking to galvanize Black people in a way that showed the economic power and strength of the Black community – similar to that of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which he led.
Dr. King challenged Black people to remove their monies from non-Black banks and place them in banks that supported Black people. He also encouraged Black people to invest in themselves through insurance and supporting Black businesses.
This kind of radical talk, by Dr. King, of a full-fledged economic withdrawal plan was disturbing to non-Black people who consistently relied upon and traditionally benefited from the Black dollar with no expectations, and in most cases, with no consequence for their ill-treatment of Black people. Many companies enjoyed getting the benefit of the Black dollar, but chose to turn a blind eye to the issues Black people were facing.
Holding a boycott, especially an economic boycott, is an extremely effective way of bringing about change.
Take the Montgomery Bus Boycott for instance.
The Montgomery Bus Boycott is regarded as the first massive demonstration against segregation in the United States by Black people of its kind, where Blacks refused to ride city buses in Montgomery, Alabama from December 5, 1955, to December 20, 1956.
On March 2, 1955, Claudette Colvin became the first person who was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a public bus in Montgomery, well before the more popularized incident involving Rosa Parks. Colvin was a 15-year old teenager who was actively involved with the NAACP Youth Council and who was not afraid to step up and become a leader. Approximately nine months after the Colvin incident, on December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a White man on a Montgomery bus. Parks was handcuffed, arrested and fined $10, plus $4 in court fees after being found guilty. Parks was an African American seamstress who served as secretary for the local chapter of the NAACP and who was not afraid to step up and become a leader. Upon hearing about what happened to Parks, Jo Ann Robinson, president of the Women’s Political Council, saw an opportunity for the Black community to take action.
The Women’s Political Council was a group of Black women who had lobbied the city and state on Black issues and had been pushing for a bus boycott for months in order to change things. On Friday, December 2, 1955, Robinson had written a flier calling for a boycott to take place on Monday, December 5, 1955 and ended up printing the flier and distributing it to the entire Black community of Montgomery.
The flier read: “Another Negro woman has been arrested and thrown in jail because she refused to get up out of her seat on the bus for a white person to sit down. It is the second time since the Claudette Colvin case that a Negro woman has been arrested for the same thing. This has to be stopped. Negroes have rights, too, for if Negroes did not ride the buses, they could not operate. Three-fourths of the riders are Negroes, yet we are arrested, or have to stand over empty seats. If we do not do something to stop these arrests, they will continue. The next time it may be you, or your daughter, or mother. This woman’s case will come up on Monday. We are, therefore, asking every Negro to stay off the buses Monday in protest of the arrest and trial. Don’t ride the buses to work, to town, to school, or anywhere on Monday. You can afford to stay out of school for one day if you have no other way to go except by bus. You can also afford to stay out of town for one day. If you work, take a cab, or walk. But please, children and grown-ups, don’t ride the bus at all on Monday. Please stay off all buses Monday.”
The day of Parks’ release from jail, she joined in with approximately 16 to 18 people to discuss boycott strategies in the pastor’s study of the Mt. Zion AME Zion Church. They organized and developed the strategy that galvanized an entire group of people and subsequently led to the boycott of public buses by Blacks in Montgomery that lasted 381 days. Many White people, businesses and elected officials tried their best to sabotage the boycott efforts, but were unsuccessful. The foundation was secure and the people undeterred. It only took a small remnant of Black people to make a difference.
Researchers estimate that approximately 40,000 Black people took part in the boycott. As a result of this that groundbreaking small remnant of Black people, their efforts led to the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately ordering Montgomery to integrate its bus system.
Holding a boycott that has economic consequences makes a difference also. Take the major developments at the University of Missouri.
This past Monday, November 9, the president of the University of Missouri system, Tim Wolfe, resigned, and the chancellor of the university, R. Bowen Loftin, announced he was also stepping down after African American students at the university complained that school leaders refused to deal with the issues of racism on campus, where students had been openly using racial slurs and carrying out other racist incidents.
Due to the efforts of graduate student Jonathan Butler, who began a hunger strike last week in which he refused to eat anything until he died or university system President Tim Wolfe resigned – whichever came first. Wolfe resigned and Butler subsequently ended his hunger strike. Interestingly, however, Wolfe’s resignation came after University of Missouri football players, both Black and White, threatened to not practice or play football again until Butler ended his strike. In a striking show of solidarity with the football players, their coach’s joined them in support of the strike. This action by this small remnant of college students on campus was about to have a major short-term economic impact on the university.
If the football had not played against their Saturday opponent’s – the Brigham Young University Cougars – the team would have been forced to pay a cancellation fee in excess of $1 million.
Many national and local leaders, have joined in with Minister Farrakhan, to challenge Black people to send a clear message to America that this Christmas season should be used as a time to demand “justice or else” and return “Christ” to Christmas, as it was intended. More importantly, leaders are also challenging Black people to “redistribute the pain” and use the power of their Black dollar as a tool, and as a weapon, to get the justice they so desperately deserve.
The question is, “Will you be boycotting Christmas this season?”