We Must Take Back Our Race

There is a plaque in my office that contains a quote by the great John B. Russwurm, editor of Freedom’s Journal, the first African American-owned and operated newspaper published in the United States. In the first issue, published in 1827, Russwurm wrote: “Too long others have spoken for us. We wish to plead our own cause.” Ever since, we as African Americans have endeavored to “plead our own cause”–to define our own identities, our own aspirations, our own paths to economic success and independence.
I, too, felt the calling to “plead our cause” when I founded BLACK ENTERPRISE magazine in August of 1970. In the beginning, I felt that the time had come for a magazine for African Americans serious about the business of making money that would act as a catalyst for wealth building, entrepreneurship, and financial independence. But with the publishing of our first Top 100 list of the nation’s largest black-owned businesses, in our June 1973 issue, we expanded our mission to include an even greater calling: to celebrate our excellence. The magazine you hold in your hand, our landmark 35th anniversary issue of the BE 100S, continues to champion this calling as we recognize the best and brightest of American industry.

Our 2007 BE Companies of the Year are representative of the excellence and innovation that has characterized the best of the black entrepreneurial tradition for decades. McLean, Virginia-based RS Information Systems, our Industrial/Service Company of the Year, has become a vendor of choice among government agencies. Through his successful pursuit of groundbreaking joint ventures for the $328 million information technology company, CEO Rodney Hunt has created a model of competitive business growth that other black entrepreneurs would do well to observe and replicate. Our 2007 Auto Dealer of the Year, BMW of Sterling/MINI of Sterling, based in Sterling, Virginia, is a state-of-the-art automobile sales and customer service operation. Led by CEO Thomas Moorehead, this business generated sales of $122 million last year, while establishing itself as a model for the 21st century auto dealer. And our 2007 Financial Services Company of the Year, Advent Capital Management in New York, manages some $3.1 billion in assets for institutional clients. CEO Tracy Maitland is not resting on his laurels, however. He has set his sights on the global marketplace, opening an office in London and entering into a $100 million joint venture with a private bank in the Netherlands.

Here at BE, the celebration of a tradition of excellence among African Americans is part of our culture, our corporate DNA. Sadly, the same cannot be said of our broader culture today. We must dedicate ourselves to reclaiming our excellence. The time has come to take back our race.

Let’s be real. The language Don Imus used to denigrate the outstanding young women of the Rutgers University Scarlet Knights basketball team saturates our own culture. It’s in the hip-hop music we produce and consume, the TV shows and movies that we participate in creating, and the so-called “comedy” and “reality shows”