Alan Soares: Founder of the Black Money Movement in Brazil
Note from BW of Brazil: The term “black money” has popped up on this blog in various articles in recent years. And for good reason. With the rise of black identity politics, pride, black-oriented and targeted products as well as a deeper understanding of the “bamboozling” nature of Brazilian style racism on the part of tens of thousands of Afro-Brazilians, the promotion of the concept of “black money” is a natural step in the evolution of Brazil’s black community. The concept isn’t new, as one of the founding partners of the Movimento Black Money (Black Money Movement), Nina Silva, explained in a recent article:
“The practice of black money has been a philosophy since the days of Marcus Garvey (Jamaican activist) at the beginning of the 20th century, when various actions were taken to encourage black community investment in itself. The black money movement in the United States calculates how long money circulates within each community. In Asia, for example, it remains for 28 days because the Chinese person earns his salary and eats at a Chinese person’s restaurant, buys at a Chinese person’s bakery, puts the money in a Chinese person’s bank… In Jewish communities, it remains for 19 days. In the mostly white, for 17 days. In Latino communities, despite the difficulties, it remains for seven days. In the black American community, even though the US has 91 black banks, the money remains for only six hours. Can you imagine what it’s like in Brazil? We still don’t have that kind of fundamental study.”
When think of the response to that question, I would imagine that the circulation of money in Brazil’s black communities is probably far worse. As Silva herself pointed out, there’s no real data available to even contemplate the question. Based on my own experience over several years visiting numerous cities across the country, I can tell you that where real money is made, you find very few Afro-Brazilians. They aren’t owners of large chain supermarkets, bookstores, pharmacies, gas stations, etc. that are the mainstays of local and national economies. In fact, although Afro-Brazilians are now the majority of small business owners in Brazil, the majority of them have either no employees or just one, him or herself.
The infrastructure of such an economy simply isn’t there at this point. And it’s a long ways from becoming even a possibility. Over the past few decades, we’ve seen a number of fairs pop up across the country whose aim is to promote black businesses and products targeted at the black community, the most popular and longest-running being Feira Preta. But when I speak to most vendors at these types of fairs, most don’t have a physical location and many count on online sales to keep their businesses running. This is perhaps one of the main problems in speaking of the concept of black money.
When you walk around downtown São Paulo, for example, you could stroll through the República neighborhood and get a clear sense of what I’m saying. Just walking the streets, it would very difficult to practice black money because black businesses simply don’t have the presence that would allow people to only spend their money with black businesses. The businesses that DO exist are not in the business of necessity items, meaning the types of goods people really need when a crisis hits, such as the one the world is experiencing now with the whole coronavirus pandemic.
Most Afro-Brazilian businesses I’ve seen in recent years sell clothing items, accessories (earrings, necklaces, etc.), art, t-shirts, music and books, this along with hair salons and barber shops. This is not to diminish the efforts of local entrepreneurs, as the concept must start somewhere and with more and more consumers turning to online shopping, this scenario could change rather quickly. The mere fact that there are people taking about promoting the practice of black money in itself is inspiring, which is the reason why I’ve felt the need to present the movement with readers.
So, before we get to an interview with Nina Silva’s partner at Movimento Black Money, let’s first get into what the Black Money Movement is all about and there’s no better place learn about it than at the “Quem somos” (who we are) section of the MBM website itself, where it reads:
“The Black Money Movement is an innovation hub for insertion and autonomy of the black community in the digital era along with the transformation of the black entrepreneurial ecosystem, focusing on communication, education and black business generation. Having as differential the promotion of identity literacy and mindset of innovation to the afro-entrepreneur ecosystem, we stimulate the innovative spirit of entrepreneurs and young blacks to create competitive differentials in the market.
“One of our pillars of work is the dissemination of the philosophy of disbelief of the powers/intention of the State in the sense of justice and racial equalization, and the promotion of associativism between black entrepreneurs and the black community in order to strengthen afro-consumption and impact the quality of life of all of us blacks within a Panafricanist vision.”
Alan Soares: “Our impact is to build a more humane world for our black community”
Founder of the Black Money Movement shares his views on Afro-Brazilian strength in impact businesses.
By Fernanda Patrocínio
Thinking of the need to boost the impact ecosystem and also involve Afro-Brazilian entrepreneurs, initiatives such as the Movimento Black Money (Black Money Movement) demonstrate their relevance. In addition to the rescue of ancestry and black protagonism in the entrepreneurial universe, such organizations contribute to the consolidation of initiatives that bring returns to the Afro-descendant population.
Founded by Nina Silva and Alan Soares, the Black Money Movement (MBM) seeks to develop an innovative mindset among young and black entrepreneurs. Starting from a Pan-Africanist view, the focus of the work is on content that gives visibility and connects transforming agents of the ecosystem. According to Alan Soares, MBM is not an accelerator. “We work with communication, education and finance”, comments Soares, who is an educator and financial coach, trader and social entrepreneur.
MBM develops Afreektech, which is led by young black girls and women through the democratization of technology education for women entrepreneurs. When it comes to finance, MBM stands out for the creation of D’Black Bank, a fintech that connects black consumers and entrepreneurs, through financial services and social incentives to educational projects.
In an interview, Alan Soares shares his view of the Afro-Brazilian strength that exists in the impact ecosystem, but doesn’t ignore the racism that also exists in the sector. “My question is: are social enterprises, those that receive greater financial support, whether from an angel investor or directly by donation, are those who have a black person as a manager or a white person as a manager?”, asks Soares.
“We were born and come from a matriarchal society and a community society. What is worshiped is not possessions, but generations with people. This has everything to do with the social model that we want to be.”
When and how did the Movimento Black Money start?
ALAN SOARES | I would say that, as a practice, it has always existed in Africa. But let’s say that in the Americas it has existed since blacks were brought here, as captives. Because our ancestors have always been saving money to attain each other’s freedom. So, Black Money has always existed and was a resource for the defense and self-preservation of our people. As an idea, I could say that MBM’s father is [Marcus] Garvey. So much so that we claim that we are Garveystas (Garveyites). And Garvey himself is also the essence of PanAfricanism, which ended up influencing great leaders, like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. So, this whole story has been influencing what we now call the Black Money Movement. We gave this name, but the structure and practice of it, I can say that, at least, in the Americas it has been since the first black was landed here. And that’s it. I could say that it took me and Nina about 35 years to learn this in order to put it into practice.
How do you see the issue of Africanity and Afro-Brazilianity within the impact ecosystem?
ALAN SOARES | Resuming our Africanity and the manifestation of our Afro-Brazilianity is to bring our thinking to the South and, indeed, to bring the essence of our roots. We were born and come from a matriarchal society and a community society, where a tribe is necessary to raise and educate a child. It is an ubuntu philosophy [notion of humanity for all, also linked to the fight against Apartheid; it is also the conscience between the individual and the community]. What is worshiped is not possessions, but generations with people. This has everything to do with the social model that we want to be. It is a mixture that we can verify within our own communities today. Needy communities and slums: you can see that, in essence, they look very much like an urban quilombo. They are essentially an idea brought from the quilombos, our African heritage. So, taking up this idea of Africanity is vital precisely in order to accept ourselves as confrères and to help each other.
What are the differentials of the Black Money Movement when it comes to the formation of new leaders?
ALAN SOARES | I’ll steal a line from Malcom X to explain. He said that we were not fighting over interactionism or separatism. We were fighting for our dignity and for a worldview that understood that we are human beings. We are fighting for our humanity. So, the MBM difference in the formation of leaders is born from this essence that we need to verify our blackness and we need, desire and demand that the world sees us as black, as black human beings. There is a difference in the historical question between white men and black men, it must be respected culturally and we want that respect. We want to be respected, without having to copy the European model. The main difference of the leaders within the MBM, from the insemination of our philosophy, is precisely the creation of a black ecosystem, where we can have exchanges between ourselves, commercial relationships between us, employ people within our companies and set up our own companies themselves. What we want as a community is the strengthening of our group: that it can have its own businesses, maintain the majority of the business relationship with each other. And whatever is advantageous for both sides, both for the black community and for the white community, be done. But preaching the ideology of nacionalismo negro (black nationalism) and Garveyismo (Garveyism).
“There is a difference in the historical question between white men and black men, it must be respected culturally and we want that respect.”
How do you see the scenario of innovation and technology when you think about projects aimed at the black population? Do you highlight any cases?
ALAN SOARES | Within the system of innovation and technology, we must also consider our educational base, which, for the most part, is weak – public education is extremely deteriorated in Brazil. We are still in its infancy when it comes to comparing with non-black entrepreneurs, but thanks to our gods, the community is flourishing. It has been seeking, precisely, the area of technology, information and innovation to start developing these more technological businesses. I will not reduce or millimeter and only talk about the Brazilian scope. For the black community, within this idea of innovation and the places where we are infiltrating, there are several successful cases, such as Diáspora Black, Clube da Preta, BlackRocks. We recently launched D’Black Bank, for example. So, the future prospects are excellent.
How do you see the issue of racism within the social impact ecosystem?
ALAN SOARES | I even leave some questions about this. You see several social ventures, or NGOs. My question is: are social enterprises, those that receive greater financial support, whether from an angel investor or directly by donation, are those who have a black person as a manager or a white person as a manager? Of the companies and startups that go to business rounds, how many do you know who received contributions from angel investors? Are they black or white owners?
You work from a Pan African perspective within the impact ecosystem. Tell us a little, please, about this rescue of roots within the impact business environment.
ALAN SOARES | The main point of PanAfricanismo is to free ourselves from geographical barriers. When I communicate, when I talk about the black community, I am not just talking about Afro-Brazilians: I am talking about all Africans on the continent or in the Diaspora. A good example of this was that, a few weeks ago, Nina [Silva], who is the president of MBM, was honored as one of the most influential people of African descent under 40 [in the world]. Precisely because we communicate, we want to communicate with all Africans, whether on the continent or in the diaspora. Where there are blacks, we want to be in contact with them, because our root is the same. This rescue from the root is the rescue of our essence, it is the rescue of what will never be able to separate us: our melanin, our origin. Starting from this point, I emphasize that we have a lot, within the impact businesses, phrases like: “Ah, what impact do you make?”. Our impact is this vision of building a better and more humane world for our comunidade negra (black community). And a better world for this black community, of course, will end up triggering a better world for everyone, because it will be more equal.