In 2004, I founded the Texas Black Expo. My goal was simple: to create economic synergy for black businesses by providing a stage for them to expose their businesses to thousands of people at one place. In essence, to highlight the value of black businesses and increase their capital so they could add value to the community by reinvesting within the black community to counteract many of the negative ills that disproportionately affect our community.
While we have been very successful, it has not been without opposition. Annually, we are flooded with anonymous emails and letters attacking our organization. For having a Black Expo and valuing black businesses and black people, we are called racist. I wonder if the people attacking us are the same people who turn a blind eye to the many pressing needs within our community? And yet when we take initiative to do something to build our own value, they attack us.
Take Black Wall Street, for instance. By unstinting effort, within five years of its destruction, Tulsa’s Greenwood Community was rebuilt and once again flourished. However, because blacks didn’t recognize their value and the value of what they created, once segregation became illegal, in an attempt to be affirmed by the culture that we valued more than our own, we left our grocery stores, movie theaters, and colleges, and gave our resources to people who to this day don’t value us.
Time is up for us in seeking affirmation and finding value in what others have to say and think. We must value ourselves and our resources, and recognize that if we don’t value ourselves then no one else will. Here are six things the black community must value:
1.Value Our Entrepreneurs
We have to have a concentrated and strategic effort to support black entrepreneurs. We are a $1.2 trillion consumer group, yet the average income of a black business is only $72,000 annually, and the average net worth of a black family is $4,900 compared to $97,000 for a white family. As entrepreneurs, we have to think bigger. Think globally. When you get on the world stage, while biases still exist, you will find that they are lessened, and one thing that is common is the value of economics. Provide a good product or service, and you will prosper.
2. Value Our Economics
One of the primary drivers to the economic health to any community is real estate. Some of the cheapest and most profitable real estate in our communities is located within inner-city black communities. Yet, we devalue it and let others buy it up for cheap and reap the benefits while we struggle to pay our exorbitant mortgages for our massive homes in the suburbs. Gentrification is a result of us not recognizing our value. If others recognize our value and bid for our land and houses, why can’t we?
3. Value Our Ethnicity
African Americans are the only group in America that have no direct connection with their homeland. Whites proudly proclaim that they are Irish or have German blood, yet African Americans too often diminish the fact that we are African.
I have had the privilege to travel to Africa and have experienced the culture, wonderful food, and great people. Even within the slums of Kibera located in Kenya, while you have people living in one of the world’s largest slum communities, the people are friendly, kind, and highly intelligent. In addition, the culture the land and environment is ripe for entrepreneurs to profit from economic opportunities if we operate with a clear vision.
4. Value Our Esteemed Community Organizations
In February 2012, Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman. Enraged, I immediately wrote an extensive post for Facebook. However, as president of the Texas Black Expo, a nonprofit organization that relies on contributions and sponsors, I was encouraged by my board chair to take it down. What a shame. Here I stand as the president of an organization designed to advocate for the black community, but I can’t speak freely, as it may jeopardize our revenues.
It is imperative that we support our esteemed local and national community organizations as they advocate for you and the black community. Consider one of our most highly regarded national organizations, the Urban League. Twenty-five percent of the Urban League’s annual revenue comes from individual contributions. The largest portion of their funding comes from corporate sponsors and government grants, yet if there is a crisis in the black community individuals are up in arms if they are forced to be politically correct in advocating for the value of blacks due to concerns over resources.
5. Value Our Education
I overheard a pastor once sharing that one of his parishioners was once asked, “Why are Jews taught to remember the past, yet blacks are encouraged to forget it?”
His answer was, “It’s because of who’s doing the teaching.”
If the oppressor is the one doing the teaching, he will teach that oppression is a good thing. We must educate our children informally at home, but formally by building schools and supporting our historically black colleges and universities. If not, they may actually believe that blacks willingly immigrated to the American continent, as Dr. Ben Carson stated during his first address as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. And remember, our HBCU’s are businesses as well, and cannot be sustained if we don’t value them enough to invest in them.
6. Value Our Existence
We have heard it before, but it bears repeating. Black-on-black crime is plaguing our communities, and an African American male is more likely to die at the hands of another black person than by any other method. We can make a lot of counter arguments, such as white-on-white murder is also a leading cause of death in the white community. And we need to understand there are reasons beyond our control as to why our communities are in the shape they’re in. But the bottom line is we must be more prudent in controlling the things we can. We must police our own communities and stop killing our own brothers and sisters.
Black lives matter. I also believe that Black Life Matters. By this I mean the totality of the African American experience, and our culture, history, and economic power. I believe the actions and statements of President Trump are the wake-up call that will convince the black community to begin to truly value black life and not be concerned about what others think. We respect the value and skills that people of European and Asian descent bring to the American table, and their right to value their heritage and culture. In that same respect, we are equally proud of our African heritage. We affirm that to assert that Black Life Matters, and to celebrate our roots and our futures, makes us better and more patriotic Americans, and well prepared to forge a stronger and more perfect union with all of our brothers and sisters.