As you ride or pass through Black Communities today and see all of the burned out businesses and boarded up housing, it makes you wonder whatever happened to the vision and goals we once had as a people?Whatever happened to the pride we once had in our businesses, institutions, families and neighborhoods? I know growing up, there was the Black owned variety store we went to every time we got our hands on a nickel or dime to buy candy. There was the greasy spoon restaurant that served our kind of food, Black owned gas stations that sponsored our local baseball team. The police and fire department was staffed by Brother’s who we knew, lived next door to and went to school with their kids. Of course, we had our church’s and still have plenty of them today.
These businesses and institutions did more than just provide goods and services to the community. They also gave us concrete, attainable goals to shoot for as kids, that one day we could own or run our own stores when we grew up.
As kids, you didn’t really think about it, but the fact that we had those businesses and institutions gave many of us the ambition to be somebody when we grew up. That ambition helped us to put forth an effort in school too, because we had targets that we experienced everyday that inspired many of us to aim for and achieve positive results.
Our leadership at every level encouraged us to be somebody when we grew up. We heard it from our parents, teachers, coach’s, neighbors and just about every grown up you encountered would do the same.
But with the mass exodus of the have’s in our community to the suburbs, went the people who ran and put together a lot of those businesses and institutions that inspired us to be prosperous. Our leaders and captains of industry took with them a lot of the ambition we once had to be the best that we could be.
Our collective goals went from ownership to just trying to survive in a community that couldn’t provide jobs for it’s people because of the depletion of it’s economic engine–the Black Business District.
So what we have left behind, are many Brother’s and Sister’s who don’t have the resources or know how to maintain the businesses and institutions in our communities. When that happened, you got a community without the economic engine to provide goods, services and maintenance that it thrived on before. Many conservatives like to blame the decline of our communities on crime, illiteracy, welfare and fatherless families. But which one came first, the ills of our community? or the dismantling of our business districts and institutions that provided the resources we needed to thrive?
When we controlled our businesses we had communities that were stable and on many levels self sufficient. Studies show that communities that own their own businesses are more interdependent and less dependent on majority industry to provide for them. When we lost or relinquished control of our businesses, we basically lost control of everything else. People from other communities came in and took over our businesses and now that money goes to send their kids to school and their tax bases instead of ours.
Our goals now are mainly centered around symptoms in our communities such as civil rights, police brutality, not being hired or discriminated against. These are necessary goals on some level, but they won’t produce the economic engine that we need to restore our communities to prosperity.
Everyone in our community must begin to set goals of ownership of our institutions and businesses so that we can funnel our resources back into our own communities the way every other community do. We must restore the things that can give us hope and inspiration in ourselves to be owners and not just consumers. To be providers and not takers. To be independent and not dependent on other’s to take care of us. This should be our major goal as a people: to rebuild the Black business district in our communities. That will go a long way in turning hoods back into into neighborhoods and the ghetto into an oasis where our children and families can live in peace and prosperity. This is why we need a strong Black Business District in every Black community wherever we reside in the world.
By Kefing Moor