Investing In Reconstruction

Black business community plays key role in tsunami relief efforts

The gravity of the tsunami that devastated parts of Africa and Asia on Dec. 26 has not been lost on the black business community. Black entrepreneurs across the nation have stepped up to the plate to donate money, time, and business services to help victims rebuild.

“The tsunami is probably the most devastating natural disaster that many of us will see in our lifetime,” says Alfred C. Liggins III, chief executive officer of media giant Radio One (No. 8 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list with $344.7 million in sales). “You see them in movies and read about them in novels, but this actually happened.”

Of particular interest to many members of the black business community are the countries in Africa that were affected, especially Somalia. The United Nations issued a plea in January for more than $13 million in aid for the estimated 54,000 Somalis who were affected by the disaster.

Radio One donated $25,000 to relief efforts in Somalia and Kenya. It also held a radio-thon on its stations in 21 cities on Martin Luther King Day and a five-day online auction, where listeners were able to bid on items from various artists, sports figures, and celebrities, including Destiny’s Child and Samuel L. Jackson. Overall, approximately $110,000 was raised to benefit World Hope International’s relief efforts.

Author, political analyst, and nationally-syndicated columnist Earl Ofari Hutchinson says African nations were largely ignored: “In all of the coverage — both print and in the electronic media — Africa was nowhere mentioned or just mentioned in passing.” Hutchinson teamed up with Diversity City Media, owner of Blacknews.com, to get the word out.

“We sent out a press release to every black newspaper and magazine, television and radio station just making them aware that Somalia was affected and that they could donate,” says Dante Lee, founder and president of Diversity City Media. The company also put its money where its mouth is by donating $500.

Oprah’s Angel Network pledged $1 million toward the tsunami relief efforts. The donation will be used by Free the Children, Habitat for Humanity International, and Mercy Corps to help provide immediate aid in the form of food, sanitation kits, and temporary shelter, as well as to support long-term efforts to rebuild schools, homes, and livelihoods. Also joining in the relief effort is Electronic Knowledge Interchange, a technology consulting firm which donated to the Red Cross.

Some companies found ways to combine philanthropy with day-to-day business. Shooter Group L.L.C., a company that offers downloadable computer game software, announced that it would donate 10% of its first quarter revenues to tsunami relief efforts. The company opened its doors at the beginning of January.

“This is the fabric of our company as far as what we’re about, which is helping others,” says Founder and Managing Partner C.C. Alexander. “The true meaning of success is helping others.” Shooter Group also has plans to create a limited edition computer game character and donate proceeds from those sales to children affected by the tsunami.

While businesses that donate time and money to post-tsunami

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