To the editors:

My comments on your cover story, “The Color of Money” [April 6] are addressed to Nahaz Rogers and BEN. As a northside woman of African-Native American descent, I would like to know why so many Southside African-Americans are still content eating food of questionable nutritional value, most of which contributes to a variety of ailments and complaints, paying more than necessary to support those black businesses that have yet to take advantage of economic development workshops that might help them grow mentally as well as financially, and forming new black economic groups instead of merging or forming city-wide coalitions to support each other in terms of joint ventures, marketing strategies, and good business management techniques.

I support socially responsible businesses. I shop on the northside at health food stores, because 1) I live north, 2) I receive good service, 3) I and my children am treated with the utmost respect, and 4) I am a vegan who supports the food and life principles that closely resemble those of African holistic health. I also shop at other “socially responsible” establishments which include black-owned establishments; unfortunately, there are very few black-owned establishments on the northside. I also support “socially responsible” black-owned business on the southside, two of which are health food stores, (Itongo and A Natural Harvest), but they do not deliver. I live north. I prefer to shop on the northside.

I require certain clothing, food, etc., due to my holistic, nontoxic, non-flesheating lifestyle.

It is sad to say that very few African- Americans support that type of lifestyle despite the fact that in the past most African people supported that lifestyle. Our community is fraught with political wars, mistrust, improper diets, improper medical care, failure to support a policy of social responsibility, fathers who do not spend enough time and money with their children, emphasis on our lack of unity, and anger with other ethnic groups that take advantage of our disunity, mistrust of each other, and lack of understanding of economic principles.

Near my neighborhood, there is a black business known as Special Gifts. The owner, Cedric Willis, understands these principles very well and succeeds in attracting customers from the northside and southside. May I also add that two doors from my house, I have access to one of the most socially responsible businesspersons that I have ever met, Dr. Al Ntamera, owner of Unan Imports, and some of his prices are even affordable for the public aid recipient, without compromising quality, as he carries merchandise from Nigeria, Guatemala, and other countries, as well as local African and African-American craftspeople. Even his most expensive merchandise is not as high as similar merchandise in southside African-American shops on the African markets that are held during Kwanzaa or the Black Trade Show.

Also, what about the Black Farmers Market and Rev. Al Sampson, Itonga, and other groups that also carry the message to “Buy Black?”

Where are the efforts to unify with these groups? Or help them to expand? Why do we continue to invent the wheel of black economic development instead of trying to perfect what we have? Where are the coalitions and plans for joint ventures in order to take advantage of economic development grants?

Where is the consciousness of the people at election time? Why do we need to forge loyalties with national parties, instead of supporting candidates based on their commitment and proven track records in the area of black economic development and social responsibility?

I refuse to shop with a business that is not socially responsible.

I refuse to ride in a taxi with a driver who is reluctant to help me with my shopping bags or utters profanity when I ask for help. (I am physically handicapped; yet I have just as much trouble getting a taxi in some neighborhoods as young black men who look suspicious.)

Our biggest deterrents to black economic development are not the Arabs, Koreans, and other non-black merchants who are not afraid to open up shops and give the people what they demand, but us.

We allow the gangs, drug dealers, and major advertisers to dictate to us. We allow our children to equate success with a barbecue joint, a leather jacket, and a $90 pair of gym shoes, and a boom box. We equate education with a high school diploma or a college degree earned by someone whose values have been molded by a television show, video, newspaper, or uninformed mentor.

We’d rather buy pork and beans in a tin can than grow organic beans in the yard. We’d rather take Valium, Librium, and aspirin for headaches than relieve our stress through more natural means.

We’d rather take Pepto-Bismol and an egg in canned tomato juice than stop drinking alcohol or eating wrong.

We’d rather roast a pig than tell the truth that our high blood pressure, high cancer rates, and high incidences of heart disease are due to what we eat, smoke, and drink and the underlying emotional pressures that we succumb to trying to live like black Hollywood role models, or Ebony ad models, or those who spend more than they should on luxuries while foregoing necessities.

Black economic development is entwined with our spiritual evolvement. As we evolve spiritually as a people regardless of religious ties, so shall our economic development grow.

There are more barbecue joints, fast food and soul food restaurants, and toxic waste dumps in the black community contributing to our compromised health than gang members. However, we need to address all of these issues as we prepare to improve our economic health.

How much are you spending at Walgreens and numerous doctors and pharmacists to counteract the effects of fast-paced living, fried foods, uric-acid producing meat and fish, preservatives, pesticide-sprayed foods, waxed produce, synthetic foods, foods and drugs that trigger allergic reactions, closed environments, PCBs, mold and mildew, lead, low-wave radiation from color television and microwaves, exhaust fumes, alcohol, and cigarettes?

Could not that money be better spent once most of us learn how to live in harmony and thus regain the health that we need in order to rebuild our communities?

Love and Peace,

Rev. Joyce Collins-Maat

N. Sheridan