As a longtime proponent of his community, Brooklyn’s own — Reverend Dennis Dillon, is a force to be reckoned with. The religious leader who also holds other titles such as community leader, journalist, and author, has worked to empower New York’s black community for decades. The state of the black people in America, and around the world has always been a major priority and concern of Dillon’s for years. Through his various programming and events, he centers his focus on gearing positive change for his community by understanding black spending trends and it’s detriments.
Another major area of focus for Dillon surrounds the economic issues facing Black America especially as it relates to where their hard-earned money goes, how often it is being used, and why it is used.
“The biggest issue is a combination of two things — aggressive and indiscriminate spending, and the absence of businesses that are black-owned, successful, and growing businesses,” he said.
The religious leader says this phenomenon leads to less money being circulated within black communities and more money being circulated in other communities who do not operate in the best interest of black people and their neighborhoods.
“The reality of indiscriminate spending is if we’re not spending money with ourselves, we’re not buying from ourselves, and not buying in our community — so the sad reality is that this spending is being directed to a whole other group of people,” said Dillon. “Everyone else is benefiting from the black consumer spending power and obviously that creates a real deficit, or what I call, a ‘trade deficit’ within black communities in the United States and across the globe.”
The revelation is not new or shocking, added Dillon. Research and trends over the years show that post-integration, several black businesses that were created out of necessity due to discrimination, crumbled sooner or later once laws dismantling discrimatory practices were prohibited. As a result, black people began patronizing the businesses and stores they were once barred from entering.
However, during segregation, despite the widespread discrimination and racism against black people living in America — many found resolve in creating and sustaining their versions of industries that prevented them, said Dillon.
“We had a Black Wall Street and we owned black-owned banking institutes because segregation really forced us to struggle and build our own businesses when others would not sell to us or force us to sit at colored counters,” he said.
But Dillon says to the detriment of the black community, integration also came with cons that would have long lasting effects.
“We had businesses that we began to grow but as we journeyed into integration we didn’t use integration to fuel economic rise and growth, but rather we redirected a greater percentage of our spending to other communities to the disempowerment of ourselves,” he said.
Dillon retains an optimistic outlook as a resolve for these issues, explaining that its introduction in the schooling of youth, and the re-education of adults there can be a major shift in black spending dollars. His solution is reevaluating and changing.
“I think in a broad sense we have to create a culture of commerce, and this needs to be taught in the pulpit of our churches across the United States and the globe,” he said. “This culture of commerce needs to saturate our schools as we move to create more indigenous education institutions of higher learning, and primary and secondary education as well.”
He also adds that in a half century, he is confident that black communities across the states will begin to see the changes coming into effect as more and more people will come into the consciousness of where and how their spending is impacting them and their communities.
“I really believe that this is a 50 year journey and I believe that by 2050 we must see a strong reversal of this,” said Dillon. “The current trends suggest the opposite, but I believe the trend will be reversed.”
Dillon himself is no stranger to black spending economics and its struggles, which over the years, have negatively shaped the wealth of money coming in and out of the black community. For decades now, Dillon uses his platform as a reverend at the Brooklyn Christian Center to host and organize several events across the city to educate the masses. His goal is empowerment and passing on his knowledge to as many people as he can.
“We’ve actually brought together tens of thousands of people over the years around New York and we’ve talked about owning businesses,” he said.
His areas of focus are mostly central to economic growth, economic development, and economic transformation. Dillon says the main challenge is encouraging businesses and institutes to look at the black community as an investment opportunity and a chance to expand their market. “Without outside investment, forthcoming and existing black businesses will continue to bear the brunt of an unequal playing field,” said Dillon.
“Economic justice simply is challenging the banking institutes, and we’ve been in every conversation, negotiation, and boycott — even challenging them to reinvest in black communities,” he said.
He further added that as a minority group, black people are not fully seeing the benefits of programs and services offered to close racial gaps. Whereas, other classified minority groups such as white women and Asians are not just seeing but are also reaping these benefits.
“I see a lot of resources being directed there yet black businesses are not getting loans and not getting their fair share,” said Dillon. “There has not been a pipeline of loan requests coming in because there’s very little work being done to engage black-owned businesses.”
Aside from wealth building in the states, Dillon has a global eye. He takes his message beyond the Western Hemisphere because he sees similar spending trends among various groups within the African Diaspora. A major goal of his is to encourage more interest and investment in Africa from black people living in the United States.
“Colonization and continued foreign interests exploited Africa for its rich resources, but did not deplete the continent,” said Dillon. But he contended that “as long it is mischaracterized as such, people will continue to falsely assume the wrong intentions and act on it”. A typical example he says are missionary trips “that only have short term impact”.
“Churches particularly have a perception that when we visit Africa, the concept is to go back with humanitarian aid and support, which I believe is a problem for black people globally.”
Dillon believes this pattern of thinking only leads to wasteful efforts with no long term solutions. Instead, he says the Diaspora should note that there is a plethora of resources for which the world depends on Africa such as lithium, coffee, gold, oil, ivory and much more. He encouraged people of African descent to view the continent as a locale for business interests.
“The list of resources is endless,” he said. “It bothers me when we think of doing business in the Caribbean but we never think maybe we can also do business in Africa. We are hardly think of doing business in Africa, yet the rest of world is thinking Africa.”
Every year, Dillon and other prominent religious and community leaders are joined by others generally interested in visiting the continent to make a week and a half long trip called the Door of Return. The 10-day trip in November takes between 200 and 300 people to South Africa. But this year’s excursion comes with a notable milestone which Dillon is looking forward to.
“We’ve done several trips but this one is special because it will commemorate the 400 years since the first african landed on what is now the United States of America,” he said.
The trip strongly ties in to his overall mission of uniting the African Diaspora through history and empowerment.
He said “after 400 years we have to fix what’s wrong, and we can’t expect others to do it for us because they enslaved us and we have to liberate ourselves,” he said. “If they create a door of no return, which essentially and psychology is telling you that you must never return — we have to create a door of our return.”