MILWAUKEE — For more than two decades, a woman in Milwaukee has been helping people find African American owned businesses to patronize. Shelia Payton has been doing it through a directory called the Wisconsin Black Pages.
“The purpose was to get people to buy from Black-owned businesses and not for any other reason other than economic,” said Payton.
African Americans have $1.4 trillion in buying power. But according to the NAACP, that money often does not stay in Black communities. It gets spend elsewhere. Payton and others who run Black Pages across the country are trying to change that by helping people find Black professionals and businesses.
“The more commerce that happens in a community, the healthier that community is likely to be,” said Payton.
Lydia Beasley owns Brown Beasley Accounting in Milwaukee. She has been advertising in the Black Pages since the 90s. She says in the age where everything is online she has found there are people who still want this paper directory.
“There's a segment and it is not all, you know elderly people there's a segment of the community who likes things in their hands, that they can touch they can read and they can write on,” said Beasley.
She says there was a year she decided not to advertise in the Black Pages and she heard about it from her customers.
“Probably two or three clients called me and asked me why wasn’t I in the Black Pages, I mean they already knew where I was. But it meant something to them for me to be in there, so I decided, from then on to remain in there,” said Beasley.
The Black Pages doesn’t just provide a directory. Payton also has information for the community to use. Last year, she focused on explaining how people could vote. This year, there will be information on civic engagement and how to get laws changed.
“Those are one of the things that kind of makes the publication useful to people in the community, above and beyond, when they need to buy find a plumber or electrician to do some work,” said Payton.
The Black Pages was in the Sunday, Jan. 31 edition of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as an insert. If you are not a subscriber, they will also be at Milwaukee Public Libraries as well.