Legend or Legacy? — October 2015

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman October 5th, 2015

“The ultimate test of man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard.” Gaylord Nelson

One thing that prevents us from moving forward, economically and otherwise, is ego. Many of our leaders are unwilling to elevate the collective in favor of their individual selfish desires. We see it in our social organizations, our political circles, and in our churches. Those in leadership positions refuse to work with others for fear of losing their status or not being in the spotlight, behind the microphone, or in camera-shot at a press conference. Those kinds of individuals are focused on being legends rather than leaving a true legacy for the benefit of future generations.

Building one’s self up as a legend rather than, or at least in addition to building a legacy, is both short-sighted and detrimental to our people. We end up with a lot of bluster but nothing substantive to show for our rhetoric. Take a look back in history and see Black leaders who built legacies that are still helping our people. You will find a pantheon of ancestors who selflessly devoted their lives to uplift Black people.

It is those people who built and left schools, business organizations, economic empowerment efforts, and political achievements that specifically benefited Black people. They sacrificed their time, treasure, and talent for a cause greater than themselves. They understood it was relatively easy to be a legend, but while it was much more difficult, it was better to leave a legacy.

“The greatest use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.” William James

Booker T. Washington left a legacy of economic empowerment and education by advocating for self-reliance and building Tuskegee University. Marcus Garvey left a legacy of empowerment by establishing numerous businesses in Harlem and founding the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). One of our contemporaries, Pastor Jonathan Weaver, founded the Collective Banking Group, now called the Collective Empowerment Group; they will celebrate their 20th anniversary in December 2015. There are many others, past and present, that I could name, but you get the point I’m sure.

Today we have far too many of our folks trying to be legends instead of building and leaving a legacy. They do a lot of talking, make a lot of empty promises, give tepid responses to problems, and offer worthless symbolic gestures that are soon lost in the shuffle of life. They may be legendary in bombast and hype, but if they leave no legacy that benefits and can be perpetuated by future generations of Black people, their verbosity is virtually meaningless. Legacy is not about an image we want to preserve, but a trust we want to pass on.

Don’t misunderstand; this is not an either-or issue. We have many legends; Muhammad Ali immediately comes to my mind. His legacy of standing on his beliefs, despite the dire consequences he faced nearly fifty years ago, inspires us today. There are other legendary athletes, educators, and entertainers, and I applaud them for what they have done for us. The point being made here is that when it comes to our economic and political advancement, we have too many folks simply trying to be legends only.

Wouldn’t it be a great legacy for the Congressional Black Caucus to eliminate that enslavement “exception” from the 13th amendment? Wouldn’t it be a great legacy for Barack Obama to do a student loan bailout? Wouldn’t it be a great legacy for our super rich entertainers to fund the building of an economic enclave in Detroit, Baltimore, or Atlanta? How about our athletes pooling some of their millions to build African-centered schools, and our business owners establishing entrepreneurship schools across this nation? Some folks in these groups are indeed legends, but are they leaving true legacies?

Our focus must change if we are serious about attaining economic empowerment. We must build; we must own; and we must control assets. Individual ownership is a high priority, but collective ownership is an even higher priority in light of Black people being the third largest population and now fifth, on a relative scale, in vital business categories, i.e. number of firms with employees, annual revenues. A glaring example is this: There are 382,521 Indian-Asian firms; they command annual receipts of $251 billion, compared to 2.6 million Black firms with annual revenues of $187.6 billion. Our legacy must include growing and passing on businesses to the next generation.

“While it is well enough to leave footprints on the sands of time, it is even more important to make sure they point in a commendable direction.” James Cabell

“We will all leave here; but what will we leave here?” Jim Clingman



Economics – The proper response — September 2015

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman September 28th, 2015

When Donald Trump first spoke about his intentions to run for President and called out Mexicans and Hispanics in general, here’s what happened. Yes, there were protests in the streets by Latinos who felt they had been insulted by Trump, but further action was taken, not by Latinos but by corporations. Hispanics2

According to an article by Sarah Berger, with the International Business Times, “[Macy’s] said they would no longer carry Trump’s menswear collection, which featured shirts, ties and watches.” Further, “Macy’s is not alone: NBCUniversal, Univision, mattress maker Serta and other companies have also cut ties with Trump…The broken deals point to the growing influence of Hispanic consumers in the United States. As the Latino demographic in the U.S. rapidly increases, so does their buying power, and businesses are starting to realize that value.”

Economics raises its head again, doesn’t it? Macy’s was not boycotted; it was not targeted by Latinos in any way. Why did they feel obliged to cut ties with Trump when he dissed Hispanics? A better question is: “Why haven’t we seen companies take any corresponding action on behalf of Black people? Remember the Indianapolis incident earlier this year, when corporations threatened to move their companies out of that city if the law that “discriminated” against gay people was not changed? It took about 24 hours for it to be changed.

John Crawford was killed in a Walmart for holding a BB gun, 12 year-old Tamir Rice was killed in two seconds for holding a toy gun, Eric Garner was choked to death on national and TV for saying “Why do you keep bothering me?” and Sandra Bland was arrested and died three days later because she was smoking in her own car. Did any corporations make threats against anyone on their behalf?

Macy’s and the others punished Trump without being asked to do so, because they respect the $1.5 billion buying power of Hispanics. That’s it, plain and simple. “But Black buying power is $1.2 trillion, Jim; why are we ignored?”

Major corps with whom we spend much of that $1.2 trillion each year have, a “depraved indifference” to our plight, as Bob Law says. They do not respond to our issues in the same way because there is no price to pay for not doing so. We get slapped upside the head by politicians and our big bad NAACP tells us to take a 1,000-mile walk. One of our children gets shot down or beat down and NAN says “Let’s ‘maach’ on Washington.”

A young Black man is killed in a Walmart and our “leaders” rally in front of that store—for a day. Our unemployment is at an all-time high, despite the “great economy” they say we are in, and the Urban League writes a report telling us how bad things are for Black America. Our voting rights are being discarded, our HBCU’s are losing millions due to Parent-Plus Loan legislation, we are ignored and taken for granted by both political parties, and Black politicians like John Lewis tell us to vote our way out of our problems.

It’s no wonder we don’t get the same respect and support as other groups. The ways we respond to negative issues allow the mistreatment we get from others. Take the “Black Lives Matter” mantra. Of course our lives matter and it makes no difference if others have a problem with our saying it. But we have some Black folks who are trying to gain acceptance from others and trying to make others feel comfortable with us by adding to the phrase, “All lives matter,” which is obvious to most people anyway. Saying and acting upon the fact that Black lives matter “less” than all other lives is important, but we must act appropriately upon what we say.

Carlos Santiago, president and chief strategist of Santiago Solutions Group said, “Latino customers represent an opportunity for Macy’s to grow its business model…Macy’s Hispanic base of buyers is significant and growing while the ‘non-Hispanic’ is declining slowly. They (Macy’s) have to protect their growing loyal base just as their competitors like Nordstrom, JC Penney’s, Target and Walmart are. In this race to capture the new growth, a change in public image is worth millions of dollars in goodwill and loyalty.”Hispanics

The appropriate response to those who transgress against us must be grounded in economics. We spend money at Macy’s, as well as many other corporations. Why have they not spoken and acted on our behalf? As I have written many times, until we are serious about gaining the support of those with whom we do business, they will ignore our plight and take our dollars for granted.

Our economic response must be “Black Dollars Matter!” And we must teach our dollars how to make more sense. 20150815_190201



Spectator Politics – September 2015

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman September 20th, 2015

Here is something to think about as we watch the political circus that is currently dominating the news: Black people are nowhere to be found in the real action, nowhere to be found in determining the candidates from which we will eventually choose to compete for the Presidency, and nowhere to be found in the debate questions or answers. We are merely watching from the balcony, as we had to do back in the 1950’s in segregated theaters and churches that relegated Black people to the rear of the building. We were also told to be quiet, especially in the churches, way back when.

All Black folks are doing right now is watching. Yeah we talk a lot, from our vantage point in the peanut gallery, but we have absolutely zero skin in the political game at this point, which means we lack self-determination in the political process. Yes, we have the individual choice to vote, but that’s about it, y’all, and even in that act, we will only be choosing between the decisions that others have made.

Have you ever wondered why two small states, Iowa and New Hampshire, have so much impact on the national election? Is it simply because they are the first two states to conduct caucuses and primaries every Presidential election year? Is it because they have such a large number of electoral votes? Even though some candidates who win those states do not always get their party’s nomination, these two states are held up as the political “trend-makers” and benchmarks for a candidate’s success. That’s why they all flock to those two little states long before the election really begins.

For all of you critical thinkers out there, try these stats on for size: Iowa is 91% White and 2% Black; it has 6 electoral votes. New Hampshire is 93% White and 1% Black, with 4 electoral votes. There are 538 electoral votes among the states, 270 of which are needed to win the Presidency of the United States. I ask again, why are Iowa and New Hampshire so important in the scheme of things?

And I reemphasize that Black folks, comprising a grand total of 3% of the total population of these two small states, have absolutely no influence, not to mention power, in what is taking place right now in the political arena. We are relegated to being spectators if we care to watch this current show; it is a rerun, so many of us are not interested anyway.

By the time you read this article the séance for Ronald Reagan, known as the Republican debate, will have taken place at the Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. You remember that famous city, right? It’s the place where the White cops who beat Rodney King within inches of his life were declared not guilty. Of the 500 there, I saw just five Black people in the seats at the CNN Debate. Another insult to Black voters, or another indication of political impotence?

We are just spectators, brothers and sisters, watching the Dems and Repubs race toward the finish line in November 2016. They will put on a great show for us though, as they invoke Rosa Parks’ name and cite the sanctity of the Black vote. Each party will try to convince us that it can and will “take care of us” because God knows we can’t take care of ourselves. Then, in January 2017, Black people will settle in, once again relegated to their plantation of “choice” for four more years, without having gotten one ounce of quo for our quid.

My article, “Black Political Dilemma” (2014), posed the possibility of Ben Carson running against Hillary Clinton for President. Some folks responded by saying, “That will never happen:” “You’re crazy, Jim;” and “Carson will never be nominated.” Some folks even laughed at the question, “What will Black people do if that happens?” Well, you may want to stay tuned.

Black people have dug ourselves a deep political hole, and now we must figure out how to get out of it. It really doesn’t matter who wins the highest office in the land, Blacks will be in the same relative position as we have been under a Black President for the last seven years. In other words, we ain’t got nothin’ comin’. Only we can save us, not Hillary, Carson, Sanders, or Trump.

Because we have tried to play politics without having a strong economic base, we have become impotent and irrelevant. Reflect on the words of T. Thomas Fortune,T. Fortune Journalist and co-founder of the National Negro Business League: “No people ever became great and prosperous by devoting their infant energies to politics. We were literally born into political responsibility before we had mastered the economic conditions which underlie these duties.”



The Main Thing — September 2015

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman September 14th, 2015

What do you consider to be the most important issue facing Black people in America? Jobs, the criminal justice system, the education system, reparations, violence, global warming, immigration? All of these issues and others you may mention fall under the broad auspices of economics and/or politics. The essence of our problems in both areas is our disorganization. We can complain about the above issues for eternity, but until we make up our minds to keep the main thing the main thing, our problems will persist.

Marcus Garvey and others have told us the greatest issues facing Black people are disunity and disorganization. I totally agree with that. Much of our current condition is rooted in our failure to organize ourselves into a force to be reckoned with, especially in areas that make a difference. The two most important aspects of our society, when it comes to power, are economics and politics; I prefer the term, “public policy.” If we would stop majoring in the minors, our condition would change.

Our economic wherewithal is so dispersed, thus powerless, because we virtually give it away without reciprocity in the marketplace. We brag about Black spending “power” but we fail to use it to our advantage; it is power only for those with whom we spend it. An organized effort that utilizes Black dollars to solve many of the problems from which we suffer is the paramount strategy for Black people.
John Lewis on voting
Black political influence remains mere influence rather than real power because we give away our “precious” votes, thinking the simple act of voting will somehow cause the two major parties to stop ignoring us and taking us for granted. We still have elected officials and others telling Black folks that all we need to do is “vote” to solve our problems. How ridiculous is that? We out voted White people in the last Presidential election, and what do we have to show for it? And please don’t fall back on the low voter turnout during primaries; in 2014, total voter participation was low, but Blacks failed to show because there was nothing on the table that specifically addressed our needs. There still isn’t.
John Lewis on voting2
It is with that understanding that we must organize our resources toward the very practical model of reward and punishment. With the knowledge of what we face and what controls this society we must leverage our resources to obtain more, just as people use their money to leverage higher loans from banks. You have probably heard the saying, “You have to bring something to get something.” Organized, focused, collective leverage should be thought of in that vein.

Keeping the main thing the main thing is the imperative for organization, focus, and a commitment to sacrifice which, in turn, will result in progressive action and economic empowerment. How can we allow ourselves to be weak when we have the intellectual and financial capacity to strengthen ourselves? Why do we continue to be such a pliable people when it comes to political persuasion, when we have all that it takes to mold ourselves into a viable people that can determine our own fate?

The answers to those questions and more are found in the “Main Thing.” Economic power is the main thing in this land of plenty, and after building it, stewarding it, supporting it, sacrificing for it, and creating wealth for it and those who reside here, isn’t time we do the same for ourselves and our children?

There was a time, not so long ago, when Black people practiced economic self-reliance and mutual support. We lost our way, and in some cases were led astray, by slick political enticements and even slicker politicians who were—and still are—only concerned with their individual economic security. We chose the political path and abandoned our economic base, the “Main Thing,” in the mid-1960’s and have been paying the price for it ever since.

This is yet another call from Blackonomics to Black people to finally throw of the yoke of the mundane, the mediocre, and the minor things that plague us and continue to keep us from pursuing the “Main Thing.” How? I’m glad you asked. I will offer one movement and one organization. The movement: One Million Conscious Black Voters and Contributors (www.iamoneofthemillion.com). Learn about it and sign up if you are so inclined. This movement is the answer to many of the issues we tussle with on a daily basis. The organization: The Collective Empowerment Group (www.collectiveempowermentgroup.org). Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, the CEG comprises hundreds of churches working together around business issues to leverage the billions of dollars spent by their members within their communities. Start a chapter in your city.

Get busy brothers and sisters. Organize first, and then always keep the “Main Thing” the “Main Thing.”