Monthly Archives: July 2015

Regenerating old business for new ventures

In previous blogs, I have written about physical regeneration and the effect this can have on the community and its development. This can be applied to gentrification and the effects on the local community. In the UK in 2008 and 2009, when the recession hit and there were a load of empty shop spaces in local communities and high streets around the UK it was an opportunity to rent these spaces and provide private venture and charitable services.

In black areas, we are the last people it seems to want to have a sense of ownership in our areas, the psychology is one of a temporary nature rather than one looking at the short and medium term. This was the thought process of Caribbean persons, who used to own businesses in the 1980’s and prior to this time, who in the late 80’s and early 90’s decided to pack up and go back to the caribbean. This was a time when the next generation should have taken over the shops but it was instead a goal of that generation to ensure their children were professionals working in white organisations and businesses.

This has its problems as there were many businesses which were abandoned or sold to races outside of the community. There was also a recession at this time which left some businesses going under or being left abandoned. This should have been approached in any of the following ways:

  • The owner could have rented the space to another black person

  • The business could have been passed to the younger generation

  • Rent the building from the local authority then eventually buy it

  • Partnerships created to rent/purchase the building or the business

The local authority in the UK generally in certain areas, will look to either (preferably) sell the building so they do not need to pay to manage it anymore or rent it out at a favourable rate as they would like to generate income with there being funding cuts. If your reading this from say the US I’m not sure how it works but I’m sure in areas which are not desirable the cost of the shop or building would be cheaper.

This is a huge contributory factor as to why we (in the UK or US) have a lack of black businesses and high black unemployment as businesses are left to fester or buildings are bought by other races and either sell our products to us or others. We need to look after ourselves too, who else will.

Some further information:

Rescuing a empty property in the UK (www.bbc.co.uk)

Derelict London (www.derelictlondon.com)

Some Derelict Buildings across America (www.opacity.us)

Source to purchase a derelict building (www.robinson-jackson.com)

Black Film in our image

Firstly, this does not usually tie into what I blog about on here. For years there has been much discussion about why Hollywood does not portray black people in a particular way and how can we become more prominent in the films made by Hollywood.

My answer to this is we should consider building and developing our own film industry and studios. Black Americans have the resources to be able to make our own films and the resources to distribute the films too. There is a history of black people owning studios and making our own films during segregation, since we were not able to view the same films as white people. It meant we had to go to separate film showings and if it was in the same cinema we had to go through separate entrances usually at the side.

In the introduction of integration it was a like a fickle event the other offer seemed better so everyone decided to take up the mainstreams offer of entertainment in terms of film, business and entertainment. As people went to the mainstream and integrated their services, the white owned establishments did not integrate their services it was more the black people moved towards using the white owned services and products. In this time the thriving black owned businesses and the economy created was beginning to deteriorate.

The history stated above demonstrates we like to try to go to the mainstream and ask them to accommodate us rather than us creating our own films. There are black film makers out there who are interested in telling a more accurate story with various platforms to do this. Film making is not necessarily a platform best served in Hollywood and this is true to black films who are funded by whites who have no interest in black peoples welfare just their own.

The way in which we would be able to create our films may be to:

  • Work with independent black studios

  • Work with African studios

  • create your own studio, as a partnership or consortium

These are a couple of ways our own films are created, granted there will not be the special effects or the cameras not being HD quality in some case, as well as there not being A-list actors, but there are actors out there who would be willing to represent (more accurately) black history.

If we were to create our own films then we could erase the white saviour and the story can be told how we wanted to. The main challenge would be finance, whilst there is finance in Hollywood, independent films find it difficult to get funding. Here is a list of funding possibilities:

  • Working with other filmmakers (Sharing costs)

  • Being funded by a Black Investor

  • Crowd funding

  • Working with an African/Caribbean studios

These options are feasible and important to making the ability to make our own films a possibility, the crowd funding is a definite one, as documentaries such as Hidden Colors was funded by this means it would mean hard work convincing black people to fund the films but it would be worth it. Being funded by a black investor also feasible as there are black millionaires though it would need to be a person who has black interests first and foremost rather than just a profit. There are different studios on the doorstep of the Americans and they can fund or allow use of the studios for black filmmakers, though the environment differs to that of America. African studios are most feasible to make films since its a huge continent/country, though like the Caribbean the environment is different to the Caribbean, it may be more feasible to secure finance or access to equipment to make the film. Partnership working could be feasible if the right partner is found with the attributes and aims being mutual.

In the event that black people do begin to make a film in the accurate meaning, then this will have wider ranging results. The positives will be providing people with a greater esteem about our history, positive images about ourselves, being able to emphasis the importance of racial pride and group economics.

Despite this there are some challenges which would include the ability to market the film and reach the audience. The considerations would be as follows:

  • Showings in cinemas

  • Straight to DVD

  • Pay Stream sites

These challenges could be overcome by showing the films in black owned cinemas, or to have agreements with organisations and businesses which show black films to the community, via special released DVD before the general release. The Film could be made to go straight to DVD and pay stream sites (which show black films), this would mean revenue could be created straight away in order to make another film without the greater reliance on external funding (via investors or crowd funding).

There are many different ways in which films could be created, if your a film maker and you like the ideas or have different ideas based on this, go ahead. I am interested to see if black people can stop complaining without seeking a solution before hand.

Some Useful sources (General):

Black Matriachy (www.shawnsjames.blogspot.co.uk)

Integration and the Underdevelopment of Black Businesses (www.amren.com)

Intergration and the decline of black business (www.charlestoncitypaper.com)

Useful film making sources:

Camera Assistant Tips (www.theblackandblue.com)

DIY Independent Film making Tips (www.indiewire.com)

Independent Filmmaking tips (www.indietips.com/)

Film Marketing tips – Short films (www.hitfilm.com/)

Film Making Tips from Spike Lee (www.filmschoolrejects.com)

Funding information Sources:

Ten tips for funding a film (www.raindance.org)

Funding your movie: A Guide to the basics of film finanace (www.nofilmschool.com)

Financing independent film (www.lightsfilmschool.com)

Funding tips for African American Film Makers (www.blogs.indiewire.com)

Direct Black Investment

This is related to the discussions which are taking place today, where there is a lack of black owned businesses today. So you ask, what is direct black investment, in the regeneration world this would be the same as direct foreign investment from multinational companies, rather from people who live in the city or country where the investment is required.

The investment is linked to the skill level in the community, for example the government in the UK ensured all the young people were trained up to meet the needs of these companies which were being attracted to the town or city. This was not a total success as investment from outside sources tend to provide some benefits to the local area but tend to employ their own nationals.

Considering gentrification there is investment in black areas but the investment is from people who are likely not to employ black people or the token person. This supports my argument for direct black investment, black people are likely to employ other black people if we live in the area rather people from outside the community and there is a likelihood of the area due to money staying the the community being improved physically, socially and politically.

How would this be developed, starting by looking at the skills which are available in the area, this is fertile ground as there will be many black people with a diversity of skills, who would be looking for a diverse number of roles. There would also be a business need such as grocery shops, cosmetics, repair shops, launderettes etc….

There is a potential to start such businesses, there may be a lack of external finance, but maybe creating financial cooperatives, black people putting their money together in a fund, creating a credit union and setting up one business then using the profits to then create another business if there is not one benefactor may be a way of starting a business.

The downsides of this may be there is a lack of support or benefactors available and a lack of appetite.

Below is an example of a simple idea I had:

There was a building in the town I grew up in and it was for sale, I was thinking there was a way in which this could be purchased as it is owned by the local authority but it was possibly going to be purchased by Asian people, who would then rent it back out to our own people. I had worked out a proposal for the building to be purchased, whereby:

  • 55% of the building would be funded by businesses

  • 45% of the building would be paid for by the local community (minimal donation of £ per year)

This would mean the building would be owned by the black people, this building is used at least 30 weeks of the year and can be used to host other community events, to generate revenue for the upkeep and costs of the building.

This was not met with much interest and the building was taken off the market so it is still owned by the towns council.

My point is why have outside investment, and rent the building, when even in the short example, there can be an opportunity to own and control the community space and provide activities and events for the benefit of the community, with our own investment.

The need for direct black investment is important, a blog I wrote (Black Local Innovation) looks at the ways in which money and skills staying inside the black community could be a way in which we can develop our communities.

Please see the sources below which expand on this.

Direct Foreign Investement Definition (Wikipedia)

High streets in trouble as big names go bust (theday.com)

Example of British High Street being deserted

Detroits development from direct black investement