Black Lives Matter? Says who? This is capitalism, baby! Your community doesn’t exist at all if it doesn’t exist financially. It’s sad, but the truth keeps knocking us upside the head. What good is a “Black life” that produces no “matter?” In other words, what tangible things does a Black life put into the marketplace? Do we manufacture as much as a bag of potato chips that can be sold, traded, or invested in? The cry “Black Lives Matter” is a spiritual statement pointing to the value of human life, especially those lives clothed in Black flesh. Sadly, the forces that are killing our people don’t speak “spirit”, they speak “thing.” They don’t value any intrinsic, God-given life force, but tangible objects that can be leveraged to their benefit or cause them pain. The grand-jury is in: You can be killed in this country if your life has no economic consequence. This is exactly why we must develop thriving Black business, corporations, and living spaces, and we need them sooner than later
Our community hasn’t been a “community” for a while. Don’t let Denver fool you as to the state of our people. Denver is one of a few major cities with no visible ghetto. Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, St. Louis, Atlanta, New Orleans, Miami, Cincinnati, and darn near every other major U.S. city are quite the opposite story. Find the poor area, you find us, and we still don’t even own the place, we just live there! Due to generations of fiscally crippling policies against African-Americans and lack of financial literacy on our part, most of our communities are more like occupied territories. We’re not only occupied by a foreign military power masquerading as police, but occupied by our own bodies.
When Ferguson went up in flames, many well-meaning African-Americans said, “How stupid are we to loot our own community.” My retort is, “Is it really ‘our’ community if we are mere renters, and not property owners?” These properties are quite literally someone else’s problem at the end of the day. Now, did some Black business get hit? Sure. Is random destruction a wise strategy for lasting change? No. Was there deception about who was truly behind the fires in Ferguson? You bet. Are marches, protests and rallies going to get our people what we really need in the long term? Absolutely not, (I should know because I’ve lead a few of them.)
The only way to defeat or defend against corporate forces is the practice group economics. Togetherness leveraged into money can be made into a hedge of protection if used correctly. Circumstances are waking us up to the failure of Integration to give us the freedom we fought for. We’ve got to start doing for ourselves, again. Enter: The Black Business Initiative.
The Black Business Initiative, or BBI, is primarily the brainchild of Jicelyn M. Johnson, a former army officer turned entrepreneur. A native of Oakland, California, Jicelyn settled in Denver shortly after leaving the armed forces. Johnson’s keen mind saw the direct cause-and-effect relationship between poverty and systemic injustice, and decided to do something about it. She joined the organization, Shop Talk Live, Inc. about a year ago. Shop Talk Live was originally designed as a community forum for men only and wisely opened the doors to women and their wisdom. The input of the women in general has been a Godsend, and the members of the organization crafted out this vision. When Johnson put her head together with the great minds already in Shop Talk Live, good things began to manifest.
There are four levels to the BBI. On level one, we have “Dreamers.” These are the budding entrepreneurs who are looking to learn the game and how to master it. Level two is as a mentor. We need successful Black business owners to teach and coach the dreamers in the program. Then we have investors, people who are willing to see the potential in our dreamers, the mission, and back that vision financially. And finally we have the patrons, people who are actually willing to buy the products and services, and be the economic base of the whole operation. People who understand that Garvey’s principles of thinking, being, and buying Black are paramount to our group’s success. This, however, is just a vague outline the Black Business Initiative. The details, I will leave to the website, bbiprofessional.com, for the total picture.
Is this the ultimate, silver-bullet solution to the problems we face as Black Americans? Maybe not, however, it is a step in that direction. The great thing about business is that involves creative problem solving and a hard time line to do it. Problem-solving takes different thinking than problem-perceiving. If this sounds too challenging to you, that’s evidence of the trauma you may have been inflicted with historically has relegated you to the sheep realm and not the shepherd. Sheep may be comfortable, but in the end, they’re lunch.
My ancestors didn’t birth me to be on anybody’s menu. If you’re African-American, you ascended from the best of the best. That’s the kind of people you want to do business with, and there’s never been a better time to begin Black business. I believe it’s time we were pro-active in our ascension, so get into gear, and take the initiative.