Business & Money

Black economics with a purpose: The Black Mall needs you now

By Tariqah Shakir-Muhammad -Final Call Newspaper- | Last updated: May 1, 2019 - 3:21:49 PM

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Co-founder and operator Cassiopeia Sledge (far right) and supporters of The Black Mall.
CHICAGO—The Black Mall, an online directory that features and promotes over 2,500 Black-owned businesses worldwide, is a potential goldmine for Black economics.

But, it’s more than an online presence now with a brick and mortar store on the South Side of the city in business for three years and seeking to expand. Black Dollars Matter.

It prides itself as an example of a living, collaborative, Black economic effort, offering products, support and a place where Black entrepreneurs and businesses can find common cause, make money and rebuild the community from within. It’s asking for your help.

Co-founder and operator Cassiopeia Sledge is pushing to raise $60,000 to shore up The Black Mall and its place in Black Chicago. They need the money now.

“It’s all about sustainability and expansion,” Cassiopeia said. “The fact that we’ve got past the three-year mark as a business is a huge milestone; we’re now 7 1/2 years in with The Black Mall and constantly growing and innovating.”

The Black Mall has increased its number of vendors from 15 to 80 within that time, she added.

“You’re not just building something for yourself, you’re providing financial freedom for others too and the community and developing the community,” she said.

The store, located at 533 E. 79th St. operates from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and features products on its shelves such as beauty and health products from Freedom, Emerald Escape and Eden Fresh; food and beverages by Zoe’s line of food sauces and Crack in the Cup coffee; and books, toys, jewelry, clothing and accessories, household products and much more!

The Black Mall also hosts “Ujamaa Markets” which recycle thousands of dollars from local Black communities by bringing Black buyers and vendors together. The markets are like pop up shops at Kwanzaa gatherings, annual Juneteenth celebrations, a popular The Taste of Black Chicago restaurant festival, a delicious Taste of Vegan fest, Buy Black Fridays, and other spaces where Black community, culture, celebration and cash come together. These marketplaces have been held at churches, predominantly Black, Chicago State University, the Nation of Islam headquarters and have drawn thousands. The latest mission, however, is raising $60,000 to keep the store on solid footing.

Shopper enjoys selection at The Black Mall shop during fundraiser.

Since 2010, over $700,000 has been recycled through the different events and online purchases, said event and business organizers.

“I love what Cassi is trying to do at The Black Mall, trying to expand our base because we spend a lot of money and we have a problem for whatever reason spending money with ourselves,” said Karen Roberts, owner of Jus Sandwiches, a restaurant on the South Side. She is among many vendors supporting Black Mall’s fundraising.

“It’s time for us as Black people to come back together to what was originally our roots of what we know of being economically strong in our own right,” Ms. Roberts said.

Kasabez Maakmaah, who works at The Earth Center of Maanu, an organization promoting and preserving the traditions of ancestral African culture, sees The Black Mall as an example of potential financial independence.

“I’m just inspired to see people who are trying to make a way for themselves for us to be able to provide our needs and livelihood for ourselves instead of always having to depend on people who don’t really care about us,” he said.

Supporters of the fundraiser have taken to social media to encourage backing The Black Mall.

“With so much turmoil happening within the Black community The Black Mall is that shining light helping to change our outlook,” Micole McClurkin from Chicago wrote on The Black Mall’s Facebook page. “If you want to be around positive motivated people who care about YOU, then come shop, play, and rub shoulders with people in our community who are all about the BLACK. Love this place.”

Lotus Love, a reiki master teacher, massage therapist and life coach wrote, “The Black Mall has been a source of great connections and information for a long time. They have been a number one source for me as a business owner to utilize the service for marketing as well as other opportunities to share and promote my business.”

Over 80 Black vendors sell their products in The Black Mall store.

“I’m so very grateful for the more than excellent job they do. I have had times of needing things for my business and didn’t know exactly what was needed but The Black Mall was able to coach me through and make my vision become reality!”

Cassiopeia Sledge said The Black Mall’s next steps include increasing distribution, product development, developing and launching an app and even supplying subscription boxes for customers.

“When you have a whole retail store with employees, there needs to be something in the kitty to be able to maintain and sustain efficiently and stop struggling as businesses as we do,” she explained. “So we want to have those funds for salary, inventory, upgrades for the location to make it more attractive. And, then to eventually be able to duplicate this space in six of the majority 22 Black neighborhoods in Chicago.”

For more information on The Black Mall and to donate, visit and stop by the store, make a purchase and see how you can lend your support. Call (773) 357-6154 for more information.