Since I was in high school my conscience was about bettering the lives of fellow African Americans. As a teenager I would work at housing construction sites. Spotting drywall and clean up were my niche. At the same time, I would recruit my friends and relatives. Most of the guys would lay around during the summer but I convinced them to make that extra change. Construction bosses loved it because they would pay us less than normal wages even though we could do the work equally as well as grown men. In retrospect, I would wonder how many husbands and fathers we were keeping from making income. That part I regret. We were cheating or as they say now “fronting”.
For a while it seemed like a hopeless dream. The National Black Chamber of Commerce has been making trips to Kenya since 2003. There have been ups and downs, achievements and accomplishments. But the main thing we and the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry wanted was big, business interaction between our nations. The effort has been consistent on our part, but the Kenya chamber would change complete management every time there was a national election. Three of the 33 tribes would compete for control – Kikuyu, Luo and Kalenjin. It was back and forth and sometimes in circles.
The first time I learned that there was a singer by the name of Aretha Franklin it was uneventful. My high school sweetheart, Brenda, showed me the Columbia album cover with this 16-year-old girl they claimed to be “The Next Nancy Wilson”. Big deal! Did we really need another Nancy Wilson when the one we have was just beginning her long career?
Yes, why would groups like the NAACP and National Urban League have this long- standing love affair with construction unions. These unions have racial animist. They are the antipathy of civil rights and democracy. Yet, when you attend annual meetings of these organizations you find a big presence of various construction trades sponsoring their events. It is like mixing oil with water. It just doesn’t make sense.
We did not start the National Black Chamber of Commerce to be a social organization full of entertainment conferences and political correctness. Ours was to disrupt the contentment/status quo and demand equal opportunity and commitment as it relates to business participation. There was great opposition from the start.
The controversies regarding illegal immigration are at a “boiling point”. For decades it was a mild issue. Racial terms such as WOPS (without papers) referred to illegal Italians sneaking in. Wetbacks referred to Mexicans swimming across the Rio Grande River to enter the US illegally. Also, illegal immigration from China was popular on the West Coast. These opportunities were caused by the bustling new United States living out its dream of “Manifest Destiny” by snatching territory or buying it at a bargain whenever possible. The Philippines, Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico, US Mexican War and the massive Louisiana Purchase are prime examples of our expansion. We got it through blood, sweat and tears. Time has not healed everything.
The city of Pittsburgh is one of the most progressive cities in the United States. The development of the city over the last few decades is most impressive. It has gone from a dirty, steel plant invested town where the smog would overtake the sunshine by 3:00PM every day to a bustling city with fresh air and one of the most impressive skylines in the nation. Most people who go to Pittsburgh for the first time come back with positive remarks about the city built where the three rivers meet (Allegany and Monongahela rivers meet to form the Ohio River).
It can be quite comical at times when you see public relations splashes about perceived successful entrepreneurs. 90% of these so-called tycoons are fakes. The fact is most successful Black businesses are rather “stealth”. The modesty comes from many examples of attacks, conspiracies and mountains of adversity put before them and others simply because they are Black. Most successful Black entrepreneurs that I know would never publish themselves in the so called Black Enterprise Top 100 Black Businesses. To many it is perceived as a “target list” for the IRS, large competitors, and others with bad intentions. Allow me to discuss a few of the horror stories that successful Black entrepreneurs have experienced.
Let me make an exception to the closing of my last article which was Part 1. I stated that “We have no time to fight”. Well, sometimes you must stop and fight the “Bastards”. We reached that conclusion back in 1996. At the encouragement of our Denver, Colorado chapter, we chose Denver as the venue of our next convention.
Starting and running a Black business association during the early 1990’s was more than a dream or a challenge. It was almost impossible. The concept was hardly credible back then.