Turnabout is fair play. — September 2016

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman September 23rd, 2016

Why can’t more of us see that economics is the key to our freedom and the answer to the problems we talk about all the time? This political year has and continues to bring this fact to light, but the Colin Kaepernick protest illuminates the issue of economics even more. Here is a guy who chose to exercise his right not to stand at the playing/singing of the National Anthem, and as a result folks have called him everything but a child of God. Folks who have burned the flag have not received the kind of treatment Kaepernick has gotten. Now, as other football players have joined in to do similar acts of protest, the real deal—economics—comes to the forefront.
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Sponsors are exercising their rights to revoke their endorsements of these athletes. In other words, they are taking away their money in an effort to punish these players, the same thing they always do when a player says or does something they don’t like or agree with. It has happened to Black and White players alike.

Opinions abound on what the players should do now, and it’s amazing that some of us tell them to keep it up no matter how much money they lose, but we are unwilling to do the same thing at our jobs. Yes, they make a whole lot more money than most of us do, but it’s all relative.

Knowing that economics runs everything in this country and the world for that matter, Black folks in general and Black athletes in particular must exercise another basic right: Use money for leverage and punishment, the same way other entities do. What do I mean by that? Remember the incidents with Michael Vick, Adrian Peterson, Plaxico Burress, and Ray Rice? Several NFL sponsors notified the league that they would withdraw their support if the NFL did not address those issues by punishing those athletes in some form or another. The league saw the dollar signs and acted accordingly.

Remember the State of Indiana law that gay people said was discriminatory toward them? Corporations threatened to move their firms out of the state if the law was not changed. Governor Mike Pence took care of that problem right away by changing the law. How about the latest issue in North Carolina with the transgender bathroom thing? The NCAA is sanctioning the State by pulling its games, in all sports, out of North Carolina. The NBA has also refused to the All-Star game there. That’s money talking; and Black folks better take notice and start using our economic clout to get what we want.

Do you remember Craig Hodges, who played for the Chicago Bulls? hodges2He filed a Federal lawsuit, against the NBA accusing the owners and operators of the NBA as co-conspirators in ”blackballing” him from the league because of his “outspoken political nature as an African-American man.”

When the Bulls championship team went to the White House after an invitation from President George H.W. Bush, Hodges wore a dashiki and handed the President a letter that asked him to do more to end injustice toward the African-American community. Sound familiar?

”It’s well known through the league that there may be repercussions if you speak out too strongly on some sensitive issues,” said Buck Williams, head of the players association at that time. “I don’t know if Hodges lost his job because of it, but it is a burden when you carry the militant label he has.”
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Ironically and unfairly, during that same period, stars like Dennis Rodman and Charles Barkley, both known for doing outrageous things, were tolerated and even celebrated. Craig Hodges stood on his beliefs as did Denver Nuggets star, Mahmoud Abdul-Rouf, formerly known as Chris Jackson, who was probably second only to Michael Jordan on the offensive end of the basketball court.
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Long before Kaepernick, Abdul-Rouf refused to stand for the Anthem, and when he did, he prayed. This outstanding NBA player converted to Islam and soon after his conversion his NBA career came to a screeching halt. Both Hodges and Abdul-Rouf were vilified and sanctioned by the NBA for having the courage to stay true to their social, religious, and ethical convictions. Unfortunately, they stood alone for the most part. Their teammates and even the great Elgin Baylor turned their backs on him. I call that cowardly.jackson3

If just half of the Black players in the NBA and the NFL would do as the University of Missouri players did, refuse to play just two games back to back, they would change those leagues. Money rules. Of course, it takes sacrifice, but isn’t it worth it? Hodges and Abdul-Rouf did, and they lost a great deal for their willingness to take a stand. They stood alone; a critical mass of Black athletes, standing together can win.

 

 

Our Destiny is in Our Hands — September 2016

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman September 18th, 2016

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Adam Clayton Powell’s famous 1967 speech, “What’s in your hand?” pointed out a very important and relevant truth that still applies today. He said, “You’ve got in your hand the power to use your vote and to use even those ‘few cents’ you get from welfare, to spend them only where you want to spend them.”

The question and its answer ring clear when it comes to the critical economic and political issues of our time. A major component related to Powell’s question is the reality of another idiom: “A little goes a long way.” That’s the philosophy of THE One Million Conscious and Conscientious Black Contributors and Voters. We know that relatively small amounts of money from individuals can create a collective tsunami of cash flow for our businesses and organizations.
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Powell’s question must be reinvestigated today, at least among those of us who are both conscious and conscientious about Black economic empowerment. Why? The answer is quite simple. Too often many of us find excuses for not doing the things that are necessary to achieve our economic independence, instead of looking for reasons why we should. Many of us look at what we don’t have and get stuck there, instead of looking at and using what we do have to move forward. And, many of us say things like, “We all need to come together” and “until all Black people get on the same page,” instead of realizing that a relative small portion of Blacks can make significant change in our economic and political status in this country.

“All” Black people will never do anything together, and to wait for that to happen is futile and a monumental waste of valuable time. Our forebears did not wait for all Blacks to join them in their efforts. They sought and found those of like mind and went ahead with their work. They understood that with a critical mass of critical thinkers their movement would take on a life of its own and move forward under its own steam. Even though they had very little in their hands they knew they could achieve a collective goal by pooling what they had and using it to build their own economy.

So, what’s in our hands today, brothers and sisters? We like to brag about how much income or “spending power” we have, but we should be bragging about how we are using it to empower ourselves. We proudly stand before our people and brag about how important our votes are, instead of being able to brag about what our votes, over these many decades, have provided us in return. We brag about being here since this nation began and even before, but we can only brag about what we collectively built prior to integration, i.e. Black towns, but not what we have built since that time.

Admittedly, many Black folks have built strong competitive businesses that have reached the multi-million and even the billion dollar plateau, and they must be commended. By and large, however, those businesses pale in comparison to our percentage of population and our aggregate annual income. We must do better with the tremendous amount of financial and intellectual resources we have in our hands. We must also do much better with the votes we have at our disposal—we must be smarter and we must leverage them rather than just give them away without getting something in return.

Adam Clayton Powell and other stalwarts would be proud of us for following their sage advice. Let’s make this personal. What’s in YOUR hand? Aside from your vote, do you have a “few cents” to spend with a black business? Are you willing to put your “few cents” together with others of like mind and create more conscious Black millionaires? Are you committed to supporting those who support you?

Each of us should do an assessment from time to time to determine if we truly are in alignment with the principles we espouse. Talk is easy; following through is what counts. Look and see what’s in your hand and put some of it on the line for yourself and your people. Don’t wait for everybody else to do it; you do it, and become a positive example for others to follow. Don’t put it off, because one thing we don’t have in our hands is time.
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“Sweet Unity” Among Black People — September 2016

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman September 3rd, 2016

Great news! In the tradition of those who have called for supporting our African relatives in some form or another, THE One Million Conscious and Conscientious Black Contributors and Voters, has developed one way to do just that. In addition to creating more conscious Black millionaires via our own “cash mob,” we have consummated a partnership with Sweet Unity Farms Coffee, a network of small scale family owned coffee farms organized as cooperatives in Tanzania; it was established in 1996 by David Robinson, son of baseball great, Jackie Robinson, and his family in the Mbeya Region of Tanzania where the Robinson family began their own farm on 280 acres in 1989.
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Since 1983, David Robinson has been involved in the economic development in Africa through sustainable economic ventures. David is the founder and managing director of The Higher Ground Development Corporation, a Tanzanian company established in 1985 with the objective of helping to bring Tanzanian producers into the global economy through the collective strengths of cooperative organization and international partnerships. In 1998, David and his family founded the American corporation Up-Country International Products Inc., which is the sole distributor and marketer of Sweet Unity Farms Coffee. The New York City based company is managed by David’s daughter, Metarere Robinson, together with African-American partners.

David Robinson is a glowing example of actually doing what many Black folks simply talk about, that is, connecting with our brothers and sisters in Africa via profit-making businesses. Now it’s time for us to step up our game, and the opportunity to do that is available to all who want to build strong, practical, and sustainable relationships. This is yet another opportunity to put our money, a relatively small amount of it, where our mouths are.
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In case you don’t know, three of the five best coffees in the world are grown in Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Kenya. Tanzanian is famous for its “High Mountain Grown” Peaberry grade coffee. Blogger, Coffee Man Dan, says, “A Peaberry is the result of a coffee cherry (fruit) producing a single bean instead of the usual two half-beans. This results in a coffee bean with a more concentrated flavor. Only about 7% of any coffee cherry crop is Peaberry.”

I have bought Sweet Unity Farms Coffee for several years and have written about it for years as well, noting it in my book, Black Empowerment with an Attitude. Believe me; if you like coffee you will absolutely love Sweet Unity. Even if you are not a coffee drinker, surely you know someone who is. Why not send a couple of pounds of Sweet Unity as gifts? Additionally, ask your local coffee shops to add it to their menus.

On the business side of things, the coffeehouse industry in the United States was forecast to generate more than $32 billion in revenue in 2016. U.S. coffeehouses make up just a small sector of the vast food and drink industry which expected to see sales of around $782 billion in 2016. Shouldn’t Black people go for a share of that, especially since the best coffees are grown by Black people in Africa?
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Coffee is one of the most widely consumed beverages worldwide and in the United States. On the commodities market it ranks at the top with oil and wheat. The U.S. primarily purchases coffee from Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Guatemala, and Vietnam. This is a market opportunity for Sweet Unity Coffee if only we support it, along with all of its other consumers around the world.

When deciding where to purchase their beloved coffee, consumers rated the taste of the coffee as a key buying factor. If you have not already, when you take your first sip of Sweet Unity, you will definitely want to make it a regular part of your personal coffee menu.

Bottom-line: This is a very simple, action-oriented, participatory, economic solution. Not a panacea, but it is an important part of the solution. As is our philosophy in THE One Million, a few dollars from a critical mass of consumers will go a long way, and no one person or entity has to be burdened with providing the majority of the resources for any of our financial endeavors.

Here is a quote from my first book: “All those people who say we’ve got it made in athletics have it all wrong; it’s just not so. We might make it as individuals, but I think we have to be concerned about the masses of the people.” Jackie Robinson

Please go to www.iamoneofthemillion.com and order a couple of pounds of Sweet Unity Coffee, or a case for your coffee shop, and make a habit of doing so. By doing so, we reflect the character of Jackie Robinson, build his son’s business, and do wonders for the owners of those small coffee farms in the Motherland.

 

 

Black Business – Success or Failure? — August 2016

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman August 27th, 2016

In 2001, I spoke at the National Black Expo, in Chicago. The theme was centered on one of most troubling factors related to the economic survival of Black people in the United States: The Low Success Rate of African American Businesses. But as Jazzman, Les McCann, so pertinently asked thirty years ago, “Compared to what?” Other questions are, “Compared to whom?” and “Compared to when?” “Compared to how?” Compared to why?”

We need only to look at the history of this country, vis-à-vis Black entrepreneurship initiatives, to see the resistance Black people faced from white society while doing business or when attempting to open a business. There were laws of the land that prevented Black people from participating in the economy on an equal footing with all groups, what John Sibley Butler calls, an Economic Detour. (Butler, 1991, Page 143)
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Paradoxically, history also gives us glowing accounts of African American ingenuity that led to business ownership from the 1600’s through the mid-1960’s, despite meager resources, the threat of bodily harm, Jim Crow laws, and the usurping or utter destruction of Black owned businesses by Whites.

During the 1960’s we saw yet another phenomenon: a virtual boycott of successful Black owned businesses by Black consumers who interpreted civil “rights” to mean civil “privileges.” It was (and still is) a right to shop, eat, and spend our money where we wanted, but it certainly should not have been considered a privilege to do so. Because some of us deemed it a privilege, many Black people walked away from Black businesses and beat a path to White owned businesses. Thus, from that point we see a decline in the number of successful Black owned businesses in this country.

“Successful” in this context means businesses that have grown and are able to hire more employees than the 110,786 they employ as of the last economic census. Of the 2.6 million Black owned firms, 95.5 % of them are sole proprietorships and have no employees. That’s not necessarily a negative reflection on those businesses; much of it has to do with lack of relative support from Black consumers as well as all other consumers.

The reason most often given for the failure of Black owned businesses is lack of access to capital. While that is certainly true, there are several other reasons, including the absence of social networks, (mentors and primary investors) lack of management expertise, lack of the commitment necessary to be a successful entrepreneur, lack of support by consumers, business owners’ reluctance to put earnings back into the business, and the instant gratification syndrome that causes some business owners to go on a shopping spree the first time they get that first big check.

More important than failure, however, is the fact that Black people have already done exactly what many of us are trying to do today. Our ancestors, grandparents, and parents started and operated highly successful businesses against inconceivable odds. The blueprints of their success were left for us to follow. We need to learn from our past and build upon what our forebears did, by emulating their tenacity, their willingness to sacrifice, their resolve to assist one another, work together, support one another, and their commitment to the entrepreneurial spirit that has burned within African people for thousands of years.

In Thomas Boston’s book, Affirmative Action and Black Entrepreneurship, he suggests that instead of failure (low success rates) of Black businesses, we should also look at Black business start-ups. Boston cites a study that points out the difference between access to capital for Whites and Blacks which states, “…non-minority men borrow 16 percent of their initial capital from commercial banks while Black business owners get 9.5 % of their initial capital through such channels.” He goes on to say, “The differences in the rate of entrepreneurship between Blacks and other ethnic groups have been found to be attributable mainly to the lower business start-up rate for Blacks, and not to a higher failure rate.” The low start-up rate can thus be attributed to the inequities faced by Blacks when it comes to access to capital.

To keep things on a positive note, consider Juliet E.K. Walker’s advice in her seminal work, The History of Black Business In America. She writes, “What Black Americans need now, after almost four centuries of existence in this nation, are theoretical constructs that factor in the strength and success that have distinguished [Black businesses] in their attempts to survive racism in America; what they do not need are theories that emphasize failure.”

Anecdotally and relatively, Black business has seen much more success than failure considering our history of being discriminated against in the credit markets. It is vital that we build on that legacy by creating, once again, a solid economic foundation upon which our children can stand.