Earl G. Graves, Sr. , graduate of Morgan State University
In 1970, Graves founded Black Enterprise magazine as a single issue publication. In 1972, he was named one of the 10 most outstanding minority businessmen in the country by the president of the United States and received the National Award of Excellence in recognition of his achievements in minority business enterprise. Today, Graves is the Chairman and Publisher of Black Enterprise, and Morgan State University's business school is named after him: Earl G. Graves School of Business and Management.
Since I founded my company, Earl Graves Ltd., more than 40 years ago, there have been seven recessions. In fact, the first issue of Black Enterprise was published in August 1970, during the first of those recessions. Only three years later, our young company and our country would face another, more devastating, recession. This one, marked by rising unemployment, funding a war in Vietnam, and skyrocketing oil prices (sound familiar?), lasted from the fall of 1973 through the winter of 1975—almost as long as our most recent Great Recession, which started in December 2007 and officially ended in June 2009.
How did I, as a young black entrepreneur, manage to get my business off the ground during a recession? How did Black Enterprise survive an even more devastating economic downturn before we even made it to our fifth anniversary? And how did we make it through five more recessions, including the one we as a nation are fighting to recover from now?
It boils down to this: faith. We never give up. We never stop believing that we will not only survive adversity, but we will conquer it, becoming wiser, stronger and better in the process. We refuse to surrender our hope.
As we close out our yearlong celebration of the 40th anniversary of Black Enterprise, I never forget that the history of our company—and that of African Americans in general—has been no crystal stair, to paraphrase the great poet Langston Hughes. We’ve made it this far not because we’ve traveled an easy road, but because we are a tough, resilient, determined people who’ve already overcome more than our share of daunting obstacles and demoralizing setbacks over the centuries, only to stand triumphant and full of hope in the end. Many of my proudest moments as the founder of Black Enterprise have come during the most difficult times. It’s our track record of surviving adversity in the past that we must focus on to maintain the confidence and determination to thrive in the future, no matter what challenges lay ahead.
I exhort you to do no less. Many of us are discouraged and frustrated because economic relief has been too slow in coming for too many people. The distress is real and legitimate; Americans of all races and economic backgrounds are under tremendous pressure as a result of an economy that continues to struggle. However, this is when we must remember that we’ve come through much worse, as individuals, as families, as a people, and as a nation. And from that we can draw new strength, renewed confidence, and faith—not just hoping we can succeed, but knowing that we will.
As we close out this year to make way for 2011, I challenge you to hold on to your dream of a better life and stay committed to striving to realize it. Keep the faith. Never give up. Do not surrender your hope. We at Black Enterprise believe in you. And through both tough and good times, we’re with you every step of the way.
On behalf of Black Enterprise and the Graves family, I wish you and yours a blessed Christmas and a New Year of realized hopes, fresh possibilities, and new prosperity.