A PLEA TO WEALTHY AFRICAN AMERICANS

Please invest your money, not only in entertainment, but in businesses such as grocery stores, gas stations, convenience stores, and more restaurants that can yield you everyday income and in the same vein provide employment to regular people. The high unemployment rate in the African American communities nationwide can be drastically reduced if you start doing so.

For example, at the peak of the emotional reaction to the police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, there were calls to boycott white-owned businesses. So a friend asked me, “If I should heed this call, where can I find a black-owned grocery store to do my grocery? If I should pull my money out of Bank of America, is there a known black-owned bank that I can bank with? Which gas station is owned by a black businessman? And her questions were endless, touching on places where the common man frequents daily to shop for their basic everyday needs. A for us by us kind of business. But I did not have an answer to any of her questions.

Last week Tuesday, I was listening to the Breakfast Club, the morning show on radio, and not the restaurant. And Charlamagne Tha God held a segment asking these same questions. And the premise of these questions have nothing to do with the “boycott white business” calls, but have everything to do with a call on wealthy African Americans to come to terms with the fact that they can actually help their communities attain economic empowerment and help also reduce the high rates of unemployment in the African American communities all over America. By investing in certain businesses in these communities that guarantees returns on their investment as well as create jobs for the locals. Especially folks who the American justice system have made unemployable because of criminal records that mostly arose from trumped up charges.

I live in Houston and we have Walmart, H.E.B, Randall’s and Kroger. Those are the major grocery stores. And we also have Food Town and Fiesta. When you walk into any Food Town or Fiesta in Houston, you will readily notice that their workforce are mostly minorities. A blend of all minorities. But they are not black-owned. We do not have a black-owned gas station. We do not have a black-owned bank.  You can rarely notice a black-owned convenience store. And typically black-owned restaurants are few. We have the Breakfast Klub, though. The restaurant. In a city where we have a multi-millionaire African American businessman in the person of James Prince. His Rap-a-Lot Records is not doing well either in terms of employment. I’ve visited the business complex at 2141 W. Governors Circle couple of times and it looks like an abandoned factory to me. With no sign of life.

People, we can do better for our folks.

When you invest in these kind of businesses where people shop for their everyday basic needs, you are not just doing the community(ies) where you sited your business(es) the favor of creating jobs for the locals, you are also doing yourself the favor of investing in a business that yield daily returns because people will always walk in for gas, for a pack of cigarette, for grocery, for tooth paste, or just for a gum in order to have an opportunity to chat with your female cashier.

Jews are by default business people and they live together and patronize their own people’s businesses. For every major city in the world, there is always a Chinatown where, you know, it’s self-explanatory. Hispanics have their abborreteria, and yes, Africans, especially Nigerians, we have our grocery stores and restaurant businesses scattered all over the country. An African American with a felony, which makes it difficult or nearly impossible for him or her to get a decent job, is like a new immigrant that arrives at the country without any work authorization. Upon arrival, the guy typically seeks employment at a grocery store or a restaurant owned by his countrymen because his people understands and can relate to his peculiar needs. They will hire him and they will pay him under the table. His services will be exploited nonetheless, but he will be making a decent living until he sorts himself out. It goes for African immigrants. It goes for Asian immigrants. And same goes for Hispanics. And if wealthy African Americans should carry out their solemn duties to their communities, so shall they be able to provide jobs for these felons who deserve the second chance and many a times are willing and ready to work and make a decent living rather than waste and fall prey to idlemindedness.

Michael Jordan owns the Charlotte Hornets, an NBA franchise. Oprah Winfrey owns the Oprah Winfrey Network(OWN), a television station, and Tyler Perry owns the Tyler Perry Studios. There is no want of a black entrepreneur in the entertainment industry. Of course huge money is in entertainment. And it is important that we get our fair share of the slice of that big pie. But if our communities are to be fixed, if idlemindedness which can lead to a whole lot of evil can be obliterated in our communities, we will have to invest in our communities to help the needy, the vulnerable, and the despondent. We need to invest in community development centers that can, not only groom NBA and music talents, but that will most importantly target the vulnerable in our inner cities, build their capacities for hairdressing, tailoring, barbering, fixing cars, managing businesses and the likes; and makes funds available for them, once their capacity has been built, to start up their own businesses and be responsible to their families and communities. We need to build foundations that will encourage learning and award scholarships to our posterity to seek law degrees, degrees in political science, international development, and financial studies, so that upon graduation they can join the pool of public servants and shape the policies that govern us, both domestic and foreign, and help make them fair.

I know people often fall into the entrapment of blaming the disadvantaged for their misfortunes and pounding their chest on how they themselves are self-made. Let me tell you, NOBODY is self-made. I have seen talents wasted. I have seen smart people not make it in life. At one point in your life, someone held the door open for you and got your feet inside the room. That is how you were able to make it in life. And you owe it to humanity to give back to your communities so that other people’s talents can see the light of the day. Without an opportunity, talents are just a practice in oblivion.

“I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.”

As LeBron James enjoined us in his 2016 ESPYs speech, let us, above all things, ‘go back to our communities, invest our time, our resources, help rebuild them, help strengthen them, help change them. We all have to do better. Thank you.’

Let the debate continue….