(BALTIMORE – March 20, 2020) – I love Black business. It is my passion. To see Black people running businesses across the country simply warms my soul. I view business as the very best route to success. Disappointed by politics, I have noticed how others – Koreans, Africans, Arabs, Indians – come to this country to set up shop. They barely speak English, but they are operating stores in my community. I figure if they are doing it, then we must be on the same page.
Let’s face it, America is built on trade and commerce, and unless Black people are a part of this world of business, then politics will only afford us the bare minimum. Besides, the almighty Lord has blessed us with everything we need in order to succeed. We just have to change a couple of things and we have to return to our history and culture. For too long, too many of us have been caught up into thinking that this government will embrace us and grant us 40 acres and a mule. I’m not sure how long we can wait on reparations.
I honestly think we have to use our knowledge of history and merge it with our 21st century minds and forge a new day by pulling it all together. Even more, we must teach our children about William Leidesdorff, the first Black millionaire, Annie Turnbo Malone, the first Black millionairess who mentored Madam C. J. Walker, and Richmond’s Maggie Walker, the first American woman to charter and head a bank. We have to erase the generations of misinformation and replace it with fresh, up-to-date knowledge about some of the strongest people the good Lord has ever made.
As a child, I was raised amidst the family business, a Baltimore funeral home. It was quite different, I imagine, from most of my peers. Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate the other Black families who owned funeral homes. Their children have become family. We’re called UK’s, or Undertaker Kids. All of our parents worked together, helped each other, and pursued excellence together. Sure, there were some fights, some arguments … Yet, these great men and women pressed forward.
Dottie Hector, Joseph Brown, Leroy Dyett, Samuel Redd, William C. March – these icons are long gone, but their determination and desire for our best still lives in us today. I guess I had better not forget Joseph Locks Funeral Home; after all, it is one of the oldest Black businesses in American history going back to 1835. And so, while I did not elect the pathway to the funeral industry, I nevertheless learned some important lessons that stay with me today.
Consequently, for the past 9 years, www.bmorenews.com and our partners have been celebrating Black entrepreneurs and professionals as well as the people who support them regardless of race. While advocating for Black businesses has been a tenant of ours since we first began in 2002, these Black business awards have taken on a life of its own.
Hence, on December 31, 2019, we launched the National Black Wall Street Foundation, Inc. Our mission is to help preserve Black History surrounding America’s Black Wall Streets and to help expand entrepreneurship, beginning in the Black community.
I have come to truly love these awards. We named them after the owner of the awards and trophy shop in Woodlawn, MD who makes them, Mr. Joe Manns. Manns is a constant reminder to us all that to whom much is given, much is required.
Further, I have to also mention Leamon Best. Mr. Best is a community organizer who has hosted his own awards ceremonies for years. As a matter of fact, I was honored once by Mr. Best. It was there in Edmondson Village that I got a chance to see Mr. Best at his best. He honored about 200 people that day. I should note that Mr. Best is without sight. I dare not call him blind because even in his lack he can see better than those of us who can.
Mr. Best is a true inspiration to all of us. He has never let his challenge stymie his growth and development as a great human being. He inspired me so much, I decided to start giving away awards as well. We have since recognized over 1,700 Black entrepreneurs and professionals as well as the people who support them regardless of race in 6 US cities: New York, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Richmond, Atlanta and New Orleans.
May we all be reminded that Black Americans have an incredible role in this country that has developed out of an infinitely powerful strength birthed in us by our ancestors. No, mainstream society might never admit it, but there would be no USA without the contributions of our progenitors. However, when we look back over the evolution of this country, Black people have played a pivotal role at every turn. We have invented. We have discovered. We have created. We have manufactured. We have built. We have helped make America the superpower it is today.
As we move forward, may we never forget that we are descendants of some of the most powerful people the world has ever seen – people who endured the most horrific conditions under the most intolerable of human beings. We always have been strong, truth be told. Despite the demonization of Black people by mainstream media, despite the constant attacks by fearful people who are afraid of our light, despite the anger and jealousy that has manifested over the years, including the air-bombing and burning to the ground of Tulsa’s Greenwood section (aka Black Wall Street Tulsa) in 1921 – “still we rise!”