Archive for October, 2015

Bills or Benefits? — October 2015

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman October 26th, 2015

When you die, what will you leave behind, bills or benefits? That’s the main question posed by the upcoming documentary film by Ric Mathis, Atlanta videographer and film maker. Ric MathisThe question is applicable on a personal and collective level; one each of us should honestly answer. Mathis has captured the essence of that question, as well as the practical solutions to the frivolous Black spending phenomenon, in his upcoming film, Black Friday: What Legacy Will You Leave? He transposed all the Black Friday rhetoric into appropriate action, not only for that day but throughout the entire year and for the rest of our lives.
Black consumer3
Topics of discussion in the film include negative spending habits, introduction of financial literacy to our youth, and the absence of support for African-American owned businesses by Black consumers. Mathis says, “Black Friday is the Noah’s Ark of Economics, if you are not up on this you risk drowning in a sea of debt.” After discovering the alarming imbalance of Black spending compared to economic growth within the Black community, Mathis used his videography expertise to educate and stimulate appropriate behavioral change with his film, Black Friday. He lays out the deficit-based economic model by which most of our people are living, and then presents an asset-based model for which we must strive.

As I stated on Montoya Smith’s radio show, “Mental Dialogue” (Atlanta, GA.), considering the fact that Black Friday has saturated our mental tablets to the point of becoming just another cute phrase with no substance, writing and even doing a film on the subject of Black Friday is tantamount to trying to find a new angle to sell a bag of ice.

Having written about Black Friday for a decade or so, and even though I heeded the calls for blackouts and staying home on that day, my response has always been that blackouts would not really make a difference unless we implemented a long term strategy that directed the dollars we withdraw back to ourselves and our own businesses. It’s not just about what “not” to do; it’s more about what “to” do.

Mathis deals with my contention in a positive manner by covering the short term and the long term repercussions of our withdrawal and recycling Black dollars in his film. It’s not just about Black Friday itself or the few days preceding and following Black Friday. Rather, it captures the various aspects of a successful economic empowering strategy, beginning with an introspective question each of us can answer, and then building a foundation of information regarding frivolous spending, economic literacy, saving, investing, business development and support, cooperative and collective economics; then Mathis caps it all off with practical solutions to stop the bleeding and reverse our trade deficit with other groups in this country.

The term Black Friday did not emanate from Black people. After several iterations of the term as far back as 1961, it has been promoted as a positive reality of businesses reaping huge profits not only from Black consumers but from all consumers. Although quite apropos when it comes to the Black consumer, vis-à-vis our penchant for spending our money on everything anyone else makes, the term “Black Friday” does not have to be our reality, which is the basic message from the film. We deserve what we accept, and we must stop accepting the self-deprecating images and self-defeating characterizations attributed to Black people as it pertains to our economic interests. Our economic imperative must be rooted in the reality of our relative economic position in this country.

Many of the stories we read in dominant and social media are centered on Black athletes and entertainers who spend tremendous sums of money on material things and/or waste it in clubs on liquor and strippers. We read about robberies and murders by young people who want a certain pair of shoes or a jacket—and the latest craze: young girls are stealing hair!

Except for Black Enterprise Magazine and a few other Black owned print media, not counting Black newspapers, the stories about Black entrepreneurs and others who are doing great things in the economic arena are buried, if they are in print at all. So who bears the responsibility of changing that reality? A long time ago I wrote, “The answer to media bias is ‘media by us’.” Ric Mathis has answered that call of responsibility, and I dare say obligation, to produce a video that will not only enlighten us but also move us to action—move us to take responsibility for the financial resources with which we have been blessed.

As we reflect on our answers to Black Friday’s questions, let us also ponder our economic condition and then commit to making appropriate change toward true economic empowerment for Black people. See more information at www.TheFilmBlackFriday.com

 

 

Political Exclusion — October 2015

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman October 21st, 2015

DEMOCRATIC-DEBATE.1
The Democrat debate was nothing short of embarrassing, insulting, and dismissive of Black people. While the men did not wear the traditional red and blue ties, thank God, the two and a half hour rhetorical exercise was an in-your-face thumbing of the nose at Black voters. How much more proof do we need to make us understand that we are totally excluded from the political process? Are we ignored and dismissed because we don’t vote in primaries, or do we not vote in primaries because we are ignored?

The Republican debate was an inside game of name-calling, accusations, and innuendo with no mention of Black folks. The Dems stage show deferred to Black people only once, and that was in an obligatory and patronizing way.

Why are we so accepting of such displays of indifference and condescension from politicians? Other groups were mentioned and supported in their causes, but Black folks were reduced to one issue—a negative one at that—and given such short shrift that if you turned away for a second or two you would have missed it.

The Black-guy-in-residence at CNN, Don Lemon, was in charge of Facebook questions, only two of the hundreds posed were even included in the debate, and his first choice was the ridiculous question: “Do Black lives matter ‘or’ do all lives matter?” I guess that was Lemon’s way of getting our issue on the table, huh? Aside from the question lacking any substance or even making any sense, the candidates did not even answer it.

Our inclusion in the Democrat debate was reduced to a one minute discussion on whether our lives matter. What were they supposed to say, “No, they don’t matter?” And because the question was framed as a choice between Black lives and all lives, it devalued Black people even more. Do candidates really need to answer that question, Mr. Lemon? Will the question of whether our lives matter or not be reflective of the role Black folks will play in the upcoming election? If so, the candidates on both sides will love that.

It is so frustrating to see Black people continue to be treated like a bunch of children who only get a pat on their heads, a pacifier in their mouths, and then be relegated to the back of the room by disingenuous politicians. Black commentators on “Views Shows” hardly ever discuss Black-specific issues, unless they are crime-related. Candidates have debates and never mention Black people, except to cite a few statistics on poverty and crime, the only things it seems we are noted for in their minds. They never offer their support of our specific issues, the way they do when it comes to women, Jewish, and LGBT issues. We get what we accept though, right?

The impact of millions of union members and their lobbyists, along with other groups like the NRA, causes candidates to genuflect and kowtow to their desires. Of course their campaign contributions are a great incentive. Black folks have opted for 501(c)3 organizations that cannot give money or endorse candidates the way unions can. Our largest organization, the NAACP, cannot lobby or endorse particular candidates. Although we know the NAACP is an adjunct surreptitious component of the Democrat party and gets significant funding from unions, which are also overwhelmingly Democrat, that organization has little or no influence in the Democrat party. Isn’t that obvious? Just look at the lack of deference given by the Dems toward Black people?

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked NAACP President, Cornell Brooks, about the Democrat debate. Brooks’ assessment of the debate, vis-à-vis Black issues, was similar to mine; but when asked what he would have liked the candidates to discuss he said, “Voting Rights.” I rest my case.

During the debate, unions and the NRA were mentioned, but the NAACP was not. Candidates seek the endorsements from associations because of the number of members they have and the contributions they make. What would make us think that our millions of votes alone, especially since we give virtually all of them to the Dems, will bring about any acknowledgement or reciprocity, much less any power in the public policy inner circle? Where are our lobbyists and our Super Pac? Although we now vote as a bloc in favor of the Dems, our voting bloc must be independent, leveraged, and never taken for granted.

As I said before, Black voters give all of our quid but get no quo in return. We have allowed our political interests to be reduced to a protracted fight for voting rights and one silly question: “Do Black lives matter?” Politicians merely need to say “I support your right to vote” and “Yes, Black lives do matter,” and they are off the hook for any other deliverable. We give so much but settle for so little.

 

 

Potential is not power — October 2015

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman October 10th, 2015

This is a follow up to a Blackonomics article from several years ago. It reemphasizes the importance of action over rhetoric, and as we consider this particular time in history and all the financial and intellectual resources among Black people in America, I figure it’s time to revisit the concept of “potential.”

Have you ever heard someone say, “Black people have the potential to be a force to be reckoned with,” or “The potential among Black people is off the charts?” How about this one? “Black folks have all of the potential in the world, to become, to achieve, to affect, and to change.” Sounds great, doesn’t it?

Some of us walk around with our chests stuck out bragging about how much “potential” we have. But the real question is, “What about power?” Potential is not power; having potential is not even close to having power. If all we have is the potential to be powerful, we have nothing but a good feeling.

The definitions of potential are: “Having or showing the capacity to become or develop into something in the future; latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success or usefulness.” Other terms such as, possibility, capable of, latent, prospective, and would-be are also used to define potential. To put it bluntly, a lot of potential has ended up in cemetery.

Like power, potential can only be brought to fruition, if it is utilized; otherwise, how do we know we have potential? How do we know we have power, especially political and economic power, if we never use it to make our lives better? Like a battery on a shelf, the potential within Black people could sit forever and never come to fruition. Will our potential to be powerful ever be realized?

The words used to describe potential are not those upon which to hang our collective hat. We must not continue to be content with having potential. We must actualize our potential, not sit on it as though it’s some kind of honorable throne. Potential leaves butt-prints; action leaves footprints.

We can convert our potential into action by supporting Black owned companies and by leveraging our votes in quid pro quo agreements that benefit Black people. Three examples of Black owned companies that could use some of our “potential,” if it is converted into action, are Ice Supreme, in Atlanta, Blue Delta Water, and Freedom Paper Company, both located in Maryland.

Ice Supreme, in business for ten years, developed and sells the “world’s healthiest frozen treat,” a product that does not contain the kinds of ingredients that cause diabetes or exacerbates its effects. Who has more diabetes than Black folks? ashiki

Blue Delta Water has a PH value of 7.6 – 8, which makes it alkaline rather than acidic. I am not a doctor but I am told by some who are that an alkaline environment is healthier for our bodies, making us less likely to succumb to various diseases. To put it in an even simpler way, who does not drink water?Blue Delta

All that really needs to be said about Freedom Paper, a company that sells bathroom tissue and other paper products, is “Duh!” Imagine if our churches, hotels, and restaurants bought their paper products from Freedom Paper. Freedom Paper Nuff said, right?

Turning our potential into real power simply requires practical action, not dialogues, speeches, or marches.

“The mass of the Negroes must learn to patronize business enterprises conducted by their own race, even at some disadvantage.” W.E.B. DuBois

It requires a conscious commitment and maybe even some sacrifice, as W.E.B. DuBois said in reference to Black people supporting Black businesses. It takes a willingness to run away from the Democrat plantation, not to the Republican plantation, but to our own plantation where only independent, informed, and critical thinking voters reside.

Finally, let me share with you an action-oriented group of individuals who are committed to doing away with our potential by working collectively and cooperatively toward a common goal of Black economic and political empowerment. It is called The One Million Conscious Black Voters and Contributors (OMCBV&C).one million2

The OMCBV&C, comprising thousands of members from 33 states, has and is currently working collectively to empower Black people by implementing practical solutions to the problems cited and recited by our people. We are not “about to” start; we are not “fixin’ to start;” and we are not “gettin’ ready to start.” The OMCBV&C is doing what many are just talking about. In addition to recruiting what is just 2% of Black people in this country, this movement has pooled our dollars to pay our own way, written a political platform containing 15 relevant planks, and supports and works with other groups, organizations, and initiatives to create and sustain an even stronger political and economic base.

The OMCBV&C does not rely on potential; it is using real power to affect positive change for Black people. Interested? Go to www.iamoneofthemillion.com

 

 

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