Reflections — March 2017

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman March 6th, 2017

March 2017 marks the 24th year this column has appeared in Black newspapers and periodicals across the nation and in other countries as well. It’s time for reflection. It’s time to assess, to evaluate, and decide whether to continue writing the column or bring it to an end. First, I want to sincerely thank all of you, the readers, for indulging what must be an obsession for me: Economic Empowerment. Also, to the publishers, thank you for keeping this column alive all these years. And last but certainly the most important persons, Marjorie Parham, owner of the Cincinnati Herald, and Donald Anthony, Editor, who liked my initial “Letter to the Editor” and asked me to write for them regularly. They, along with William “Bill” Reed, gave me the opportunity to get my thoughts syndicated, via the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA). Thank you all.

This column continues to open doors to new relationships and allows me to “vent” as well. It is cathartic, but more importantly it is action-oriented and solution-based. Such a privilege to speak to so many people on a weekly basis is something I do not take for granted. Having written an estimated 1500 articles, hosted radio and TV shows, and authored five books on economic empowerment, I should be content, right? But I am not content, mainly because I have not seen the outcomes I believe Black people should have achieved during my tenure as another in a long line of griots, not only because of my writing, teaching, and advocacy, but because we are too intelligent not to have done so. That hurts.

I have often said, “The message is more important than the messenger.” The same message I write about is the same one written and spoken by the likes of too many great ancestors to list herein, so I will cite just three: Marcus, Malcolm, and Martin. They followed the paths left by their predecessors, spoke the same message to their people, and cared so much that they gave everything they had toward their mission.

Marcus Garvey, even though he faced tremendous resistance not only from the infamous J. Edgar Hoover and his Black spy, James Wormsley, but also from Black folks in the NAACP and elsewhere, continued to endure. Garvey did so well that the weight of the federal government had to be brought down on him to try to stop his UNIA movement. False charges and a kangaroo court finally got Garvey a prison term and ultimately deportation. And to think Barack Obama, even at the urging of Dr. Julius Garvey’s petition calling for justice, did not exonerate and clear Mr. Garvey’s name before his presidency ended. Go figure. Garvey’s words, “The greatest weapon used against the Negro is disorganization,” still ring true today.

Malcolm X, our “Shining Black Prince” as Ossie Davis eulogized him, suffered daily threats on his life and his family. His opposition came from all directions and in all colors; because of his strength and resolve Malcolm was considered an ominous threat, a “menace to society.” Despite all that he faced, he kept going forward, even into harm’s way; he “didn’t hesitate to die, because he loved us so.” His words are here for us today and, as Ossie Davis also said, “Nobody knew better than he the power words have over the minds of men.” Malcolm used his words as laser beams to prick the hearts and minds of men.

Martin Luther King, Jr. demonstrated his willingness to stay on course despite knowing the risks. He exposed himself to the haranguing voices of fellow ministers who told him to take it slow, to which he responded with “Why we can’t wait” and “The urgency of now.” He defied hate-filled crowds of angry Whites and law enforcement officers who wanted nothing more than to see him hanging from a tree. (No way could I have taken what he went through; I was a very angry Black man during that time.) Unlike many “leaders” today, King coupled his actions to his words. He wrote a lot and spoke a lot, but he gave so much more.

Looking back at my four decades or so of activism and advocacy for Black people, I realize that no one has a proprietary claim on the economic empowerment message. No one has all of the answers and solutions to our problems. My words and my actions also tell me that a relatively small group can do big things, provided we stick together.

So while I do not have Marcus’ charisma, Malcolm’s presence, Martin’s eloquence, I am content to have followed their lead by using my particular gift of words and the proof, thereof, by my requisite actions to help our people.

 

 

Making Black History, Part Four – Buy African Coffee

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman February 24th, 2017

This will end my four-part series on “Making Black History.” Although there are many things we can do to make our own history, I have offered four so that next year we can celebrate what we did in addition to only celebrating what others did to make history. These offerings are quite simple and easy to do; it is my hope that we will bring them to fruition.

David Robinson, youngest son of Jackie and Rachel Robinson, moved to Tanzania, East Africa to do what many of us simply talk about: Reconnect. After getting permission from his village council, he and fifteen men, equipped only with axes, hoes, and shovels, began clearing 120 acres of forest, which later became known as Sweet Unity Coffee Farm. For months those men, including David’s New York-born son, Howard, unified in one purpose, toiled, persisted, and achieved their goal.

David’s sister, Sharon Robinson, wrote a book titled, Jackie’s Nine – Jackie Robinson’s values to live by, in which David reflected on the work that had to be done to start his coffee farm. “Our fifteen men walking in single file, often in silence, fifteen men walking to accomplish one task,” he wrote. He described seeing men of various Tanzanian tribes collectively committed to one purpose, laying aside any differences and subscribing to one agenda that would benefit the whole. No complaining, no back-biting, and no jealousy, just working together to get the job done.

Robinson went on to write, “All men of my race, who had agreed to move together, to labor with one purpose, to toil until the land was open and fresh and planted with thousands of six-inch coffee seedlings. In the early morning, with feet moving quietly in unison, I felt that which I named our farm: ‘The sweetness of unity.’ The thrill of many coming together to act as one.”

A few weeks ago I wrote about Sweet Unity Farms Coffee and asked my readers to purchase it and make it a regular part of their morning pleasure. For those who do not drink coffee, I asked that you give it as gifts for Kwanzaa, birthdays, etc. in order to support Brother Robinson’s business and the small coffee farmers in the Tanzanian co-op. I suggested that we make an incredible collective economic statement by buying one million bags of Sweet Unity by October 2017. LISTEN TO THIS: https://youtu.be/TJr_pGSE90k

This time I want to be even clearer by letting you know that this is not merely a consumer/black business issue. Your purchases of Sweet Unity Coffee go much further than to the bottom line of an income statement; profits from sales also go to help educate Tanzanian children and adults, and to purchase solar panels for homes in their villages.

We can make history the same way David Robinson and his entire family, both here and abroad, have made and are still making history. Buy Sweet Unity Farms Coffee, and make it your coffee of choice, the way I and others have, thereby, living up to our “support black business” and our “connect with the Motherland” mantras, instead of just talking about it. We can fire an economic shot heard round the world by doing this simple thing and by making Black history in other ways as well, especially when it comes to empowerment and self-determination.

To review my four offerings through which we can make Black history: In the next ninety days, at least one million Black voters should change their registration to Non-Party Affiliated (The way staunch Republican conservative, George Will, has done); form alliances to buy and develop the land in our neighborhoods on which we can start and grow businesses that can, in turn, hire our youth; make a pledge on www.blackamericanmade.com to purchase products made by Black people, and add Black made products to the website as well; and purchase at least one million bags of Sweet Unity Coffee this year, and experience the feeling that David Robinson had when he began to clear the land for his coffee farm—“The sweetness of unity.” All it takes to empower ourselves economically and politically is a collective conscientious mindset and appropriate action.

Jackie Robinson was one of our “firsts;” let’s honor his legacy by making this effort a “first” too. The U.S. coffee market is worth tens of billions of dollars. Shouldn’t Black people claim a niche in that market, especially since our brothers and sisters grow and harvest the best coffees?

David Robinson ended his writing with sage advice, saying, “…I have seen the merit and often the necessity of joining hands to achieve a goal. Unity is often not a state reached easily, but the inability to achieve it can often mean failure.”

Go to www.iamoneofthemillion.com, click on “Products” and buy Sweet Unity Coffee.

 

 

Making Black History – Part 3 Product Distribution — February 2017

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman February 20th, 2017

“Production minus sales equals scrap.”

A good friend of mine, Mitch Melson, made the above statement when we worked at Special Market Services in Chicago during the mid-1980’s. It is so appropriate as we continue our four-part series on how to make Black history in addition to just celebrating it. During that same period the reality of product distribution became even clearer with the development of P.O.W.E.R. (People Organized and Working for Economic Rebirth), a sales/distribution partnership between The Nation of Islam and Johnson Products in Chicago.

Another point of clarity for me back then was the American Health and Beauty Aids Institute (AHBAI) that featured “The Proud Lady” logo on its product labels to denote they were made by Black people. Those efforts, along with Dick Gregory’s Bahamian Diet Drink and its difficulty in getting shelf space in major stores, pointed out the need and advantages of having our own distribution network.

Then in 1999, I met Ken Bridges who, along with Al Wellington, founded the MATAH Network, in an effort to assure that Black manufactured products did not become scrap, but would instead be distributed throughout the United States via what they called, “The Black Channel.” MATAH was a “people, a movement, and a business”—a new paradigm in the distribution of Black-made products. At its zenith MATAH carried some 300 different products. MATAH helped get my first two books in distribution with its monthly “Auto-ship” program, a consciousness-raising component dedicated to sending out books, tapes, and products to those who signed up for this special value.

When Ken Bridges was killed by the DC Sniper, the morning after he and other Black business partners and supporters had consummated a multi-million dollar deal to advance the MATAH Network, the reality of having a Black owned distribution channel was stymied and began to fade into a fond memory.

Now, during this Black History Month, as we reflect on MATAH, P.O.W.E.R., and AHBAI, we see those “pyramids” that were built by our contemporaries, and we see how they “made” Black History. The same issues apply regarding our current willingness to make Black history in addition to just celebrating it, which is a great segue into what Ashiki Taylor and Franklin Mayfield are doing with their effort called “BAM!”

As former MATAH associates, Taylor a Regional Supervisor, and Mayfield the website developer and host for the site, these two brothers got back together and created a means to connect Black manufacturers of products with consumers throughout this country. Their overall objective is to give greater visibility to Black manufacturers, and to get Black consumers to pledge to spend incremental amounts each month on products made by Black people, thus, redirecting a significantly higher amount of our money toward one another.

To paraphrase Amos Wilson, during Black History Month Black folks celebrate the inventions of our ancestors who actually “made history.” We remember George Washington Carver, Jan Matzeliger, Elijah McCoy, Granville T. Woods, and others; but what will our history-making legacy be today? Make history by highlighting and purchasing the Black manufactured products of our contemporaries. BAM brings that opportunity, only this time by using technology to get the word out and to rally Black consumers and producers. In essence, BAM is an online Black channel of distribution that keeps your products from becoming scrap.

One principle of Ma’at is Reciprocity, so this is also a call for Black manufacturers to spend some money as well. As we purchase your products, you should purchase advertising on the BAM website, Black radio, and Black print media. Be willing to sponsor events in some form or another, and buy other Black products yourself. A reciprocal mindset is a conscious mindset, and creates a multiplier effect where one dollar spent has the effect of three dollars spent.

This is a way to make our own history in 2017. It is easy and pain-free. Stop celebrating so-called Black “spending power” of $1.2 trillion and start using it to create wealth for Black people. Redirect more of your consumption dollars to products made by Black people. Make your pledge, and keep it. And for all of you Black producers out there, list your companies on the BAM website and let us know what retail outlets carry your products, thus, making it easier for us to keep our pledges. Go to www.blackamericanmade.com and sign up.

BAM has created a “no excuses” way for us to put our money where our mouths are by adding more Black-made products to our household product mix. Hot Sauce, barbecue sauce, diapers, sneakers, paper products, laundry detergent, baby food, ice cream, beer, and thousands of other products are made by Black people. Make Black history by purchasing as many as you can. Clingman Out. BAM!

 

 

Making Black History – Pt. 2 – Soul City

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman February 13th, 2017

An obscure name to those under sixty years of age and who live outside of the Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina area, is the subject of this week’s installment of, “Making history, not just celebrating it.” A man of vision, strength, and determination, who practiced what he preached, Floyd McKissick succeeded James Farmer as National Director of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in 1966, and under McKissick’s leadership, CORE was transformed from an interracial, non-violent, civil rights organization into a group that promoted Black Power.

In this contemporary era of Black folks complaining about gentrification, my memory of McKissick and how he would respond to this issue stands out; he graphically illustrated the sacrifice, the will, and the “can do” attitude we must have in order to stop the economic and political assaults against us. I attended North Carolina College, now North Carolina Central University in Durham, in the mid-1960’s. McKissick’s name and his legal services were never far from the mouths of students who marched downtown to participate in the restaurant sit-ins.

With what were then called “National Defense Highways” coming through Durham’s Hayti District and other Black enclaves, under the guise of “Urban Renewal,” McKissick’s answer to gentrification was Soul City, North Carolina, developed by Black folks, where Blacks could feel the pride of ownership and control of their community.

“In 1968 McKissick set out on a journey to bring his Soul City vision to fruition. McKissick argued that Black Power as an organizing principle could enrich and revolutionize African-American communities. To this end, he pushed for increased African-American control over communities, governments, economics, and schools and used CORE to assist local community leaders in these efforts.”

“Soul City is located in the predominately black area of eastern North Carolina, and was a planned community with an infrastructure capacity sufficient to support an eventual population of 55,000. In July 1972, McKissick received $19 million in federal aid in order to achieve this goal. Within months he became the minority campaign chairman for President Richard Nixon’s reelection campaign. Although Soul City was declared economically unviable in 1979, McKissick and a few other people continued to live there.” Source: http://www.blackpast.org

I remember driving to Soul City just to take a look, and when I got there, I even thought about living there. Homes were still being built and businesses had not moved in yet, but I really liked what I saw. It was proof that, despite resistance, even from Black folks, McKissick persisted not only with an economic strategy but also with a political strategy.

In April 1991, New York Times writer, Glenn Fowler, wrote an article titled, “Floyd McKissick, Civil Rights Maverick, Dies at 69,” in which he stated, “Before the 1972 Presidential election, Mr. McKissick angered many blacks by switching from the Democratic Party to the Republicans and supporting Mr. Nixon’s re-election campaign. He argued that blacks were ill-advised to put all their hopes in the Democratic Party.”

McKissick’s political admonition and his economic plan still ring true today.

What’s the application for us? How can we use Brother McKissick’s work to make Black history today? I’m glad you asked. First we must understand that, politically, we have no permanent friends or enemies, just permanent interests. Then, we must pool and leverage our dollars to gain a significant piece of this rock called the United States, starting with the neighborhoods in which we live. Buy the property, the vacant lots, and the abandoned storefronts, rather than complain about them. Open and support neighborhood Black owned businesses, and grow those businesses to the point of being able to hire Black youth.

Real estate development is essential for the economic empowerment of Black people, and we have many architects, CPA’s, construction management professionals, and construction firms who could form strategic alliances to develop large tracts of land. They could transform our neighborhoods into viable communities in a couple of decades; they could get the tax credits and abatements, and take advantage of “Tax Increment Financing” (TIF) that other developers use to gain ownership and control of various sections of cities.

To make Black history we must use the patterns left by Floyd McKissick, Phillip Payton of Harlem, Herman Perry in Atlanta, Annie Minerva Turnbo-Malone in Chicago, George Tyson in Atlantic Beach, South Carolina, and Joe Dudley, Dudley Products, in Kernersville, North Carolina. Own the real estate, control it, and develop it.

If we develop land, we are being true to what Dr. Amos Wilson suggested; we will be building and celebrating our own “pyramids” in addition to annually celebrating the “pyramids” built by our ancestors. While we remember Soul City, Greenwood, Hayti, Black Bottom, Sag Harbor, Bronzeville, Five Points, “The Harlem of the west” in Denver, Sweet Auburn, Mound Bayou, and so many other Black enclaves, we must reactivate our resources and rebuild more pyramids.