Empowering The People

Dorothy Pitman Hughes, author of Wake Up and Smell the Dollars! Whose Inner-City Is This Anyway: One Woman’s Struggle Against Sexism, Classism, Racism, Gentrification, and the Empowerment Zone (Amber Books, $18.95), wholeheartedly embraces and practices the phrase: “Where you spend your money is to whom you give power.” That’s why, more than 15 years ago, Hughes opened Harlem Office Supply Inc. She wanted to actively contribute to the economic empowerment of the Harlem community while employing African Americans who might have otherwise been jobless.

In the late ’80s Hughes attempted to increase business and employment for Harlem residents by renovating a brownstone to be used as a bed-and-breakfast. This was to be accomplished with financial help from the SBA. The loan never materialized, but Hughes was not deterred. She raised the needed funds through friends, community members, and local celebrities.

Wake Up and Smell the Dollars! urges African Americans to support and invest in black-owned businesses within their neighborhoods4keeping them alive and thriving, allowing the community to control the power. It further calls upon African American businesses to use the resources found within those communities.

In the end, African American business owners will be empowered to realize Hughes’ dream of economic empowerment for their own inner cities4and be prepared to pass the torch to future neighborhood entrepreneurs.

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