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March 10, 2008

Black People in Phoenix! Let's Say Hello to the Idea of Being Friendlier to Each Other!

Click Here to Sign Up for the e-newsletterIt's been well-documented that I'm a native of Phoenix and I'm proud to live here.

I believe the Phoenix area has the potential to be a great home for African Americans but I've been seeing a trend that has troubled me for quite some time. I know I'm not the only who has noticed this dilemma. In fact, I was inspired by one of our readers, Kareema, to speak out on this topic because it's time for all black people in the Valley to reverse this trend.

I can't put my finger on what has happened within the last 5-10 years here but it seems that African Americans in the Phoenix area do not feel the need to say "Hello" to each other when we see each other on the streets!

Phoenix is the 5th largest municipality in the United States but we have a small percentage of black people in the metropolitan area. It seems that we would be excited to greet each other with a wave or a hello when we see each other in public because you never know when you might see another black person!!

I remember when I was growing up in Phoenix, black people seemed to be much more friendly towards each other.

I have a few theories on why black people in Phoenix are less willing to acknowledge each other in public these days:

  • The "What Can You Do for Me" phenomenon that has swept the nation! People in America are truly out for themselves! They don't want to be bothered with other people unless those other people can deliver financial or social benefits!
  • People are quick to make judgments on a person's status based on their appearance. Taking the time to get to know someone and judging them based on their character seems to be a lost art for black people in Arizona and America!
  • Old-fashioned prejudices about skin tone. There are still black people living in Arizona and America today who are caught up in the "light-skinned/dark-skinned" madness!
  • People are worried about becoming victims of crime. It's sad, but these days, it's just not safe to speak to all strangers in the Phoenix area.
  • The prevalence of interracial relationships in the Valley makes it difficult or uncomfortable for the black people involved to speak to other black people.
  • Most black people in the Phoenix area are NOT natives. Therefore, they don't feel an allegiance to this community - they are loyal to their hometowns of Chicago, New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles, etc. Therefore, they don't feel a responsibility to uplift Phoenix and socialize with other black people in this community.

So how do we solve this dilemma?

There is no easy solution but African Americans in the Phoenix area have to work together to build a strong sense of pride in our community.

We are taking steps to make change.

African American groups in Phoenix are beginning to host more community events, town halls, fundraisers and networking opportunities. We have leadership teams such as the Arizona Commission on African American Affairs, African American Strategic Leadership Group, Northwest Black History Committee and the Greater Phoenix Urban League who are working to make a difference.

On an individual level, it's important for us to support the efforts of our local artists, entertainers, businesses, legislators and churches.

Most importantly, we need to read our black newspapers and publications!! The Arizona Informant, Arizona Black Pages, The Soul List, and other information resources are here to keep African Americans informed and engaged about what's going on in Arizona and the world!

I believe that when we educate ourselves on the progress that African American individuals and groups are making here, we'll be more excited about opening the lines of communication among our people here.

I'd love to read your feedback on this topic - I trust you all will have a lot to say whether you agree or disagree with me! Please feel free to share your Comments!!


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I moved here 5 months ago to be closer to my grands and I'm am glad that this issue is up for discussion, disheartening as it may be. I have lived in 5 states, Europe and Africa and I am appalled at the treatment of brothers and sisters of color in Phoenix. Whatever happened to the common courtesy of acknowledgement? I believe it was once called home training? You speak, nod, and keep it moving, but to cast your eyes away, to not acknowledge a simple greeting? Abomination.
Those that do speak, it is instantly known they are from elsewhere. Wow, really? Whites speak and are friendly, blacks don't? Why is that? I wish I knew for sure. On the east coast where I relocated from this was the opposite. What a sad state of affairs, we've a man of color in the highest office in the land and you can't even part your lips to say hello? Pathetic. Oh and by the way black Phoenix this state is young it just celebrated it's 100th birthday, so unless you have indigenous heritage you all came from somewhere else. Keep it real. I agree with the moderator, time to wake up.

I believe its sad that some people are writing lies and saying that blacks do speak to them that just happens to be B.S. if you ask me!! I been here 3yrs and everything about blacks not speaking and the brothas with their white mates looking the other way is totally true!!! Phoenix lacks culture because majority of people are not from here so the foundation was not set along time ago!! Any where you visit they have they own culture and way of life, in phoenix the black folks here just embraced what they saw on television on what ever the white folks here would allow because lets be honest there isnt alot of black leaders in arizona to give us more rights and leverage for cultural promotion or events, once we accomplish our own creativity, high end leadership, and most of all SELF PRIDE then Blacks in Arizona will have a strong tight nit community!

Everytime I view Phxsoul website I get excited about relocating to Arizona in the near future because I hate the south! This problem is everywhere not just Arizona! I reside in Houston,Texas for 12 years and I feel very distance from my black people. The ones that I thought were loyal became very jealous hearted and backstabbers when my life started to turn in a positive direction! I can honestly say I have about 5 true black friends in Texas. It comes a time in your life were you have to become very selective about individuals you allow in your space, even if they are your own race. Diversity is the key for the era we live in today! It does not bother me much about being around my race all the time because I have less drama in my life and I am focused. Arizona might possess minimum blacks than the other major cities but I believe they are way more mature and professional than the southern blacks.

Wow! This ia prevalent throughout AZ from what I can see. There are a multitude of African Americans (AA) throughout the Phoenix and Tucson metro areas. I am i Tucson and it's the same here. I'm a part of a fraternity and the AA in Tucson are not like any I've seen anywhere and I've lived in MS, upstate NY, IL, VA, and here and this place lacks culture. It took us awhile to find achurch home and the one that I attend is not truly friendly like other congregations I've attended elsewhere. Living in AZ is like being totally immune to the national events or happenings in AA communities throughout this country. We have no Tom Joyner, Steve Harvey, Yolanda Adams,etc morning shows. Nothing but your family. But I guess if you didn't have this in AZ one would be really jacked up. Unfortunately, this may end up being home for awhile until my daughter goes to college but this is definitely not a place I would consider home because this is not where my heart is due to work we are here but eventually departure is inevitable. I've been to several outstanding events in Tucson with my fraternity (Kappa Alpha Psi), Delta Sigma Theta, Raytheon Black Employees Network, MLK march, etc. and it's incredible to see all the black gathered in one accord. But after the events end you will not know when or where you'll have the next gathering. Somehow or someway there's hope for AZ but the pieces have not been put together. I'm quite sure the same is true for Phoenix, Mesa, Chandler, etc but until then AZ has many of possibilities for AA but until we somehow have a more viable way of connecting it will not come into fruition. Love the forum although I am a tad late. Great site and great outlet. music is quite nice also.

I agree with the comment that African Americans in the Phoenix area should be more friendly toward one another.I moved to this area about 4 months ago and have felt so out of sorts.I finally found a hairdresser and I can honestly say that I felt so at home there.The place was full of other people that looked like me doing a common thing that we as black women know how to do.Get it together.

2010 census says arizona now has 259,000 blacks +64%. Thats good with most about 230,000 in maricopa county. I speak to other black folks and they speak to me. Everything that folks say happen hear happened to me when I lived in Cali. I think people just look for the negative in anything. So folks speak some done!!!!

I know I'm a couple of years late. I was searching for jobs and saw one in Mesa. I am an African American female. I decided not to apply for that job. I really want a city with black events. I'd heard blacks were spread throughout the city. From the postings, it seems like one of the only good things about the city is the weather! I know everyone's experience is different but when 3/4 of the postings say the same thing - gotta wonder? Thanks to Everyone for all of your views!

I must say an potential relocator to the Phoenix, AZ area...quite surprised and shocked..I would think a city that has only 65,000 African-Americans would embrace newcomers and have an "uplifting" attitude. I still look forward to relocating to Arizona, even if "MESS" like this is still going on..It's up to us citizens with trend-setting goals with the "think outside the box mentalities" to make Phoenix,AZ the fabulous city that it's known for. Even as an outsider, I see so much potential in Phoenix. Yes it may not be that many minorities, but you have to make lemonade with the lemons that are handed to you..Phoenix has 300+ days of sun/palmtrees/short driving distance to major hubs like LA/Vegas/Diego/Great Shopping/Scenic....Shall i go on....No I dont work for the Chamber of Commerce, but just wise enough to know when a great city like Phoenix, Arizona has so many limitless opportunities. Take Advantage people!!

I see a comment has not been made since 2008. This topic should have been blazing back I would love to revisit some of those who made these comments and hear their current views. I just saw this on Facebook tonight. I laughed, smiled, and almost shed a tear while reading what others had to say. First of all, "HELLO" PhxSoul, thank you for this posting! I have lived here for almost 17 years. Currently I am working very hard to leave this place, my departure will be soon. I was a military spouse for 20 years, born and raised in Los Angeles. After traveling all those years in the US and overseas, I can say that this is the most unfriendly place I have ever encountered. From the day I set my foot on this soil until now I can count the people I have met who make an effort to embrace others who are not related or apart of their inner circle. I completed two college degrees while being here. My profession is such that I treat people for the purpose helping them lead more productive lives. So, of course, I must be engaging, friendly, sympathetic, loving, giving, patient, etc. That is my personality in or out of the work place. Yet making connections here has been nothing less than sad and painful. I am not the type of person who needs 20 friends either. A smaller circle is what I prefer. I have been to several churches, functions, get togethers, play dates (when my children were younger), etc. I have invited people out, taken and given phone numbers, made calls, returned calls, etc. I do not care what you drive or where you live, what kind of heart do you have? I have been on the board of directors with a major black agency and worked for another major black agency for many years. In essence, I have met many, many people. The true fact is, if you do not know someone who is willing to bring you into their "clique", "family", or whatever they call it, you can forget making connections. Ironically so many people from other places are just like me and they have or are currently looking to move as well. I believe when the economy opens up Phoenix will lose some of it's black population. I feel as though this place has made me somewhat "hard" in the fact that I too have become one of "THEM". I seldom speak like I used to. Just got tired of being ignored or the one I love so well that black folks do "just look away when we see another black folk" so we do not have to speak. I have one friend who was born and raised here but moved away for several years to attend school in Texas. She admits that she is "standoffish" but more friendly than her friends and she is so right! She knows that living in another state changed her for the better and only came back here due to some family issues. Another woman I went to school with stated that blacks here are "backwooods and behind the times". She explained that the majority of her large family worked the cotton fields here. She was taught as a child to "not to stray from your family" due to class issues among other blacks and racial issues among the whites. She raised her children in this manner as well. The majority of these family members live in Chandler/Mesa to this day and know very little about Phoenix. Then I once met another woman who was raised in central Phoenix. I asked her ride to Paradise Valley mall one day. She hesitated but then explained that blacks did not go to that part of town because they tried not to be around "those kinda white people". Oh goodness, and the white folks, MY GOODNESS!!! They are the most openly racist anglos I have ever met AND they get away with it! There are places where if they do not like you at least they give you respect, not here! If you are a black man reading this who loves white girls, would you speak to black women when you encounter us please? As you can see this is a grave issue for me and believe me I could go on with other stories. Sorry for taking up so much space, guess I needed to vent on Bottom line, I will be going to a place where when I smile, one is returned. People make it a point to greet you or give a simple wave when they see you leaving for work in the morning. They care enough to inquire about the welfare of your family. A place where people in churches actually treat you like you are "new", maybe invite you to dinner after service. They actually care whether you do come back and do not walk over you week after week. Of course I know there is no "black folks paradise island" and folks will be folks wherever you go. What I do know is that there are places where we honor and embrace our culture and each other. Have you noticed that most of the top notch celebrities will not come here? Guess what, with this new racist law, they really will not come now. Black folks here can not even unite enough to obtain a black radio When I first arrived here we did have one, why has that not been replaced? Occasionally I run into a "new black folk" and they are so overjoyed to see me they just grin all over I smile and remember that I used to be like that one day, long, long time ago. The majority of the black folks raised here see no problem at all with their behavior. My answer to that is something my daddy used to say, "Can't miss something you never had, how can you do better when you don't know better?" So many transplants like myself agree that most black folks in Arizona are a different breed! It appears they have given up and are willing to settle, my question is, for what???

I am glad this topic is being addressed. I moved here from Texas about a year and a half ago, and I have noticed how we don't acknowlege each other to the point where it's obvious. Have to agree with the previous comment on the on being a vegan and 'feeling stranded' in the desert. Also about the comment of 'churchgoers'. I too have no problem with any religious affiliation, but have found that because of having a different point of view, a brother is 'strange' to quote some of my co-workers and some women I have tried to date. Your city is great as far as weather and the mountains are concerned; beautiful city. I will make a greater effort to reach out to my people. But I hope we all realise Blackness covers such a broad area of different types of black people that to run up on someone who you 'have yet' to relate to is pretty likely to happen...Comments?

You teach others how to treat you. Keep smiling speaking to others regardless if they speak back. Besides the smiles are for you anyway as they are an expression of how you feel. Lighten up. I got use to people not speaking when I left TN but actually, phoenicians are better than black floridians were when it comes to speaking. What we need here is a spot. Everyone is so spread out. I'm still a little upset about that 64,000 mess what is that. Of those how many are black men. Good Lord should I have stated in ATL or Miami.

This is a response to Dee's post. I live on the South Side and most of my neighbors are Black or Hispanic women and we all get together for parties, kids activities, etc. I have also joined several of the Black meetup groups where I can meet other people. When I moved here I didn't know anyone except a cousin and her husband. It has been almost three years and it is getting better. It takes time to develop freindships and time is something we all need more of. I have stopped focusing on dating. I am starting a new business and I am enjoying the girlfreind groups I have joined. My advice to Gina who wants to move from TN is just to try and be patient. I realized that I had to be proactive if I wanted to build a life here. I go to as many of the events as I can and I recommend to anyone who wants to expand their horizons and meet new people.

Ok I'm just questioning this statement,"Thanks PhxSoul for another great topic. I almost never have problems with other sistas being friendly. I often talk to cashiers or ladies in line, and of course sales people in stores.For me it's men that are more unfriendly." - Kareema
Are you suggesting and I hope I'm interpreting this the wrong way, this is your only encounter with black women ?

I do not care where you live in the usa, blacks act thee same everywhere. I lived in a TX,GA,TN and the blacks are all the same. People will speak when they want to speak. I live in memphis now,blacks all over,some speak and some do not speak. Crime ia high,there is not anyone worth to date. Women are fighting over black men here all the time. And, I am in a all black city. We as a race really do each other wrong. I am planning on moving to Arizona,but you guys do not make it sound like it is a place to live for black people. Be more positive and help those that is trying to make a change in arizona.If people that you all think-without blacks around it is not as good city to live? Please, blacks can be around and you all still have the same problems you have now. This is world wide this is not just a community problem. Stay positive and work to make a change,but also still be open to other persons of other culturals. I am still palnning on moving there for retirement,but if there a a few ,deal with the few blacks and do not be so grime about arizona.Whatever you are going thru all blacks are going thru. I am a professional , single ,46 yr. old black woman and still have not found anyone yet. I still had a hard time dating in TX,TN AND GA. So,welcome to the real world. Just because there are blacks around you, does not mean you will find a date, get married or get the good ole southern kindness will come out.Deal with what you have to deal with and go on. Life too short people. Blacks was acting with this uncle tom attitude before and after we are gone. Just look at the election. I have seen so many , so call black leaders that won't even support Obama. I want blacks around me,but work wth what you have and be supportive. Make people of color want to come to arizona. Every city has it problems.

Hey Toi, you summed it up. The blacks here don't have that "common bond/connection" or feel the need to acknowledge another black person even if we're only 3% of the population. This is because there's no "black community" in Phoenix but I've noticed they don't act like this toward white people. I think that's the problem. We who come from the north and back east notice these subtleties where negroes from Phoenix don't.

Amen to all comments. Every comment has truth to it. It seems we all have the same COMMON issue. Then I guess we should ALL put an effort to make a difference. I am from the Mid-West and lived in So. Calif. for many years. I have been in the Valley since 2002. I have tried to attend every Black event that I could and if I wasn't able to get there I told a friend who might be interested. It would be great if the black community here had more of a bond. Let's just keep working at it and hopefully it will change in the very near future.

I'm live in Texas and considering a move to Phoenix in Nov. It's interesting to see that Phoenix is experiencing the same as in TX: Blacks not speaking to each other. It's my opinion that we Blacks are suffering from post traumatic slavery syndrome; which has no geographic boundaries. Once we as a collective group of people recognize we are afflicted with this malady, we can begin our healing, recognize and acknowledge the "Creator" in us all (by speaking to one another), and move on.

Just because we are black doesn't mean we have everything in common. Same thing goes with whites. I am an African-American Arizona native and I don't feel the need to speak to anybody that I don't connect with whether black or white. You are in the wrong place if you want an all black city.

I've been in Phoenix for six months and it has been a mixed bag for me. About 50% of the Blacks I see out here speak or nod; the rest don't. Even at ASU, where I am a professor, about half of the Black students will look down or away when I speak; the rest seem relieved that a Black faculty member is nearby.

Hello Dee,
I don't think all black people in the Phoenix area are guilty of not speaking. It just happens to be a growing trend. Black people are spread out all over the Valley. You'll find the largest concentration of black people in south Phoenix, but I wouldn't consider south Phoenix to be a black neighborhood.

Hello I am from Kentucky. I was wondering if this was a Phx thing in regards to African Americans being unfriendly. I do not seee may of us and when i experience an encounter, no one acts friendly. I am use to walking up and speaking to others. This is a new experience for me. I guess in the south we are just friendly. People here look at me as if I am crazy for speaking. Where are the Black neighborhods?

African.. I agree

I've only been here two years but I've been greeted quite regularly by other African Americans.. I make a point to say "hey" to any black face that looks my way.

The issue is more a communal one I believe.. I came from Detroit where obviously, we were all on top of each other, but out here there isn't really a central area where blacks always know they can meet, greet, or be surrounded by other blacks...we seem to be a bunch of islands


I live in Tucson and have lived here for the past 11 years and I find that Tucson blacks have the same mentality.I am originally from Pittsburgh Pa and it is entirely different. I think that blacks here in AZ. are so used to being in the minority that when ever they see another black they are as suspicious of them as someone of another race would be. It's sad but true. I also think that all that exposure to "other people"
tends to make us assimilate more and reject the very thing that makes us different. So when you see one another just drop down your guard, Master wont get you, the last time I checked, slavery was over!

Phxsoul, I've been to many functions here in the Valley and didn't find much connection. I'm not part of the bourgeois crowd so allot of the "networking" events don't interest me. I guess I was turned off by the last one I attended where I met this sister who was "bragging" about the the type car she drove and where she lived. "Who cares?" I don't have time for those type of conversations. I'm used to attending African-Centered organizations and grassroots organizations with cultural substance, which is non-existence in Phoenix, AZ.

I apologize if my rhetoric was a little hard but I'm just disappointed and frustrated with my "Phoenix Experience." I gave up allot to come out here and got nothing in return.

Wow Idris - where exactly do you live in the Valley? Have you attended any of the networking events or festivals? Have you joined any of the black organizations? What about socializing with the Phoenix Black Professionals group on

I agree Africa, blacks don't like each other here in Phoenix. That same black person that didn't speak to you will "skin and grin" in the next white person's face.
Sometimes I feel like I'm living in the early 1900's.

As for dating, I've given up on that issue here in Phoenix. Most of the sister's I've met are into the church which is not to bash "churchgoers" but in most cases they're not open to any other type of viewpoints that conflict with their "religious" beliefs. Based on my experience those type of people never grow spiritually or culturally.
I'm also a vegan which most sisters find "strange." I find myself always having to give a "vegan lecture" every time I eat. Food is a big issue with black women and it's difficult to get them out of the "soul food" mentality that is killing our people at alarming rates.

Living in Phoenix These last 3 years, I feel as though I'm stranded on a deserted island. I never felt so isolated before in my life. Maybe my experiences in Phoenix are unique and I'm the only one that feel this way.

Thanks PhxSoul for another great topic. I almost never have problems with other sistas being friendly. I often talk to cashiers or ladies in line, and of course sales people in stores.For me it's men that are more unfriendly. Occasionally I'll encouter a brotha who will give a friendly nod, but most of the time it's like you are invisible. I have also found that the more black people there are the less friendly the event. I have attended a few events hosted by the Black Chamber in the last year that were great. Of course these were networking events where the sole objctive was to meet people and get your business name out there.In my effort to be proactive about meeting and connecting with more Black people I have joined several meetup groups.Go to The events I have attended have been great. I can only assume that unless you are in a somewaht structured environment with other Black people, it's just dificult to make casual connections. In big cities you meet people at the car wash, grocery store, mall. It's just not like that here. I live on the South Side and I have met most of my black neighbors and it's great. We have little get togethers are kids play together. It alsmost feels like being home in Chicago. But I must share this, when I mention to Black people here that I live on the southside and that I chose to live on the southside I get the strangest looks. I have done the Ahwautukee, Chandler thing and nothing against anyone, it doesn't work for me. I came to Phoenix with a strong sense of my idenity as a black woman, I gained that living, working, and going to school with other successful, positive, motivated, and well educated black people.I have nothing against people of other races but I have no need to define myself based on their standards. It is hard to get to the bottom of what is really ailing Phoenix.Everytime I meet a newly transplanted black phoenician from another city the conversation is always the same; where are all the black people?

i was thinking that im the only one to notice this. i run a biz here. i have to say hi to everyone. but most black people dont say hi back. i want to know why? and some how you will not find a person more polite than me.

I have heard several people mention the "Blacks don't speak" issue recently. I can honestly say that in th 3 years that I have lived here, I have not had this problem.
Black people here always speak to me and vice versa. It may be because I am usually smiling and I look approachable. Maybe people aren't speaking to the people who complain because they don't look like they want to be spoken to. I know everyone's experience in PHX is different, but since I have been here, I have seen more of us sticking together and bonding because we tend to appreciate Black Unity a little more when we cannot just go next door and talk to our Black neighbors becauase they don't exist.

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