By James Clingman
Those of you who are my age will remember the house parties in our parents’ basements with the blue and red lights. Whether boy or girl, although you were reluctant to ask or too shy to accept that slow dance with someone you considered special, when the moment finally came and the two of you embraced each other, that dance was the most you could ask for in your teenaged years. Unfortunately, that dance was usually at the bewitching hour when your parents said everyone had to go home. You finally got the nerve to do it, and then it had to end—you had to let go. That’s what I feel as I work my way through this final Blackonomics article.
Since the age of 24 or so, after I visited the Topographical Center in Chicago during the late 1960’s, I finally found the consciousness I needed to do something in response to what was happening in this nation vis-à-vis Black people. I began to speak out and do whatever I could to ameliorate our problems on a local level.
From 1972 until 2012, I earned my living by working for Black administrators and business owners, on behalf of Black people, in the public and private sectors. My much-anticipated dance began forty-five years ago, and I have embraced my dance partner, the uplift of Black people, ever since.
In 1993, after writing a letter to the Editor of The Cincinnati Herald, I started this particular dance by embracing the opportunity to write on a weekly basis. Now, nearly 25 years later, the houselights have been turned on, drowning out the blue lights, and it’s time to let go of my dance partner. But she was never mine to keep anyway; someone danced with her before me and someone will dance with her after me.
Yes, after authoring some 1500 articles, editorials, and essays, and writing nine books, five of which on economic empowerment, giving hundreds of speeches and teaching numerous classes across this country, there is probably not much more I can say on empowerment. Moreover, as I suggested, the message was never my own—it was just in a different form, relative to my time and experiences.
The economic empowerment message belongs to no one person; it is not new and it certainly is not unique or proprietary to anyone of us who chose to spread that particular “gospel.” It was touted by the likes of Maria Stewart and Frederick Douglass, Mary McLeod Bethune and Booker T. Washington, Ida B. Wells and Marcus Garvey, Maggie Lena Walker and Malcolm X, Amos Wilson, Carter G. Woodson, Kenneth Bridges, and Maynard Jackson.
Contemporaries, along with myself, are now the messengers for economic empowerment. Same message, different griots. No one has all the answers and no one alone can take us where we must go; a critical mass of us must go together, based on collective leverage, cooperation, and strength.
Like those before me, I am leaving a compendium of writings on economic empowerment that will be catalogued and available, via streaming, for study groups and individuals to read and use in building a solid foundation for future generations. Like others before me, the lessons I have learned will be there for developing and executing solution-based strategies. The question is: “Will they be followed, or merely discussed, ad nauseam, by the folks who believe that by talking about our problems they have actually ‘done’ something to solve them?” Based on our errant history since 1964, I pray we will act appropriately by using the knowledge left to us by our progenitors.
Here are a few ways to do that:
Raise our consciousness to a level of “unconscious competency.”
Leverage our dollars and our votes against injustice and inequity by withdrawing them.
Use our consumer dollars to create conscious Black millionaires.
Establish more viable, professional, well-managed businesses, and support them.
Establish trusts, equity funds, revolving loan programs, and endowments.
Form strategic business alliances and partnerships that can take on larger projects.
Scale up our businesses to provide more jobs for Black people.
Teach our youth the history of Black business in this country.
Teach our young people to think entrepreneurially.
Demand reciprocity from politicians and the marketplace, from a position of economic strength.
Vote for those who publicly state and commit in writing their support for our interests.
Withhold our votes from anyone and any party that will not support our interests.
Hold ourselves accountable for our own economic freedom.
Organize ourselves around practical economic and political solutions that benefit US.
Commit some of our time, talent, and treasure to the uplift of our people.
Always remember: “Well done beats well said every time, and if people put you on a pedestal, don’t take up residence there.” Peace and love to all. What a dance, huh? What a dance!