Dear Erika, Kristin, Gibby, Nica, Teddy, Carter, Melanie, and Kellie

What a difference a decade makes! That’s how long it’s been since I last wrote to you in the pages of black enterprise. Our nation and the world have experienced monumental changes during that time, as have each of you.

In the last year alone, the shifts were tremendous. We soared through the euphoric inauguration of President Barack Obama only to land in the economic quicksand left by the prior administration. As the widespread sinking took hold, some days it felt like if it wasn’t for bad news, there wouldn’t be any news at all.

But—and here’s the good news—we got through it, and here we are, at the dawn of a new year. The seeds of economic recovery have already been planted and the smell of new opportunity is in the air. In more ways than one, the time is ripe for celebration.

This month, black enterprise, which Gramma and I started when your fathers were younger than you are now, marks its 40th year of publication, just as I reach my 75th birthday. As pleased as I am to celebrate both of these occasions, I can also hardly believe either one is here.

When our company was born,  I was 35 years old and among my generation’s version of the bold young entrepreneurs we feature on the cover of this issue. I’m amazed to look back on the wealth of information we’ve shared with our readers over 40 years; the hurdles we’ve crossed together, the extraordinary progress made and changes wrought. This newest crop of intrepid young people, who we’ve dubbed BE Next, embodies that rich past as much as they do the shining promise of the future.

As I read their stories, I’m as excited as they are—especially since in my mind I’m still only about 35! But time does not stand still and there’s no getting around the fact that neither I, nor the world we live and do business in, are what we once were.

Gramma and I constantly marvel at the vast differences between your lives and ours at your age. The wireless age has completely transformed our personal routines—some of us more than others (no jokes about Poppa’s e-mailing skills, please!)—as well as the entire business landscape.

Your generation is at the forefront of an era that is in many ways unlike any that came before it, one in which change is occurring at such a relentless pace that you must continually learn, adapt, and embrace it as no previous generation ever has. That mandate creates extraordinary challenges, and opportunities. The men and women featured on the cover of this issue are grabbing them. They are the next link in the long chain of black perseverance, innovation, entrepreneurship, and excellence that connects—in a very short time—to you.

So, get ready to take your place, and to do all you can to help those in need get there as well. Because among the few things Poppa knows is this: Some things never change. And you must remain as mindful of those constants as you are of the onslaught of the new.

Honesty. Integrity. Faithfulness. Service. Equality. Justice. These are the values to which I’ve devoted my life and on which our family business was founded. And I promise you, they will be as essential to the success of today’s BE Nexters as they’ve been for my generation and as they will be for yours.

The BE Nexters time is now and your time is … next. I pray you get to live your dreams, as I have, and may God bless you every step of the way.

All my love, Poppa

ACROSS THE WEB