(NNPA)—Now that the mid-term elections are over and the politics of exaggeration appear to be catching less national attention, it is past time to focus on the economic condition and plight of 50 million African-Americans. The devastating economic disaster of the Bush years has a lingering negative economic effect on everyone in the United States, especially for Black Americans.
President Barack Obama writing in an editorial in the Nov. 6 edition of The New York Times, stated, “As the United States recovers from this recession, the biggest mistake we could make would be to rebuild our economy on the same pile of debt or the paper profits of financial speculation. We need to rebuild on a new, stronger foundation for economic growth. And part of that foundation involves doing what Americans have always done best: discovering, creating and building products that are sold all over the world.” I believe that African-Americans should not just be on the sidelines and watch as the economy throughout the U.S. is rebuilt. We should and must participate not just as trillion-dollar consumers, but also as billion-dollar producers of goods and services that are marketed and sold all over the world.
President Obama’s trip to Asia is a timely and propitious example that we should be following with intense interests. One of the reasons why I have worked with Russell Simmons for so many years through the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network and the Diamond Empowerment Fund is because I have seen firsthand how Russell, Diddy, Jay-Z, and many others have inspired a whole new and upcoming generation of urban and suburban entrepreneurs from the recording industry to the apparel and financial services industries. African-Americans, as well as other minorities, have to see the world and the global marketplace for what it really is: the place of new business development and global trade opportunities. I have seen the same economic development opportunities expand and evolve globally with young entrepreneurs like Ezell Brown in the field of Internet marketing and distribution.
That is why I have to keep emphasizing to the readers of the Black Press that we have to keep our eyes on different prizes simultaneously. The best attainment of the highest quality education, plus new business and economic development are all key to the economic recovery of Black America. Sometimes to our detriment too many of us get so caught up in the arguments of forces and personalities outside our core communities that we get lost in the maze of political and social contradictions.
“Empowerment Zones” in our communities should be business development and trade zones with an emphasis of global commerce and trade. President Obama concluded, “The great challenge of our time is to make sure that America is ready to compete for the jobs and industries of the future…Our government, together with American businesses and workers, must take steps to promote and sell our goods and services abroad—particularly in Asia. That’s how we’ll create jobs, prosperity and an economy that’s built on a stronger foundation.” I would add Africa to this equation for future stability and sustainability for Black America’s economic recovery.
Yes, we need jobs. But we also need businesses. We need global African-American owned businesses. That’s what time it is. Timing is important here. It is not about doing or advocating what may appear to be popular at any given moment. It is about being strategic and proactive. Our schools, our colleges, our businesses, and our communities all have to work together to foster greater and expanded opportunities for our children‘s future in America and throughout the world.
But in the 1970s and in the 1980s into the early 1990s, I followed closely, as a brother in the struggle, the business career of Reginald F. Lewis, who became the first African-American billionaire. Mr. Lewis was a global visionary and business leader. TLC Beatrice set a new global standard of success and profits in the international business arena. But Reginald Lewis never forgot where he came from in Baltimore. He gave back to the community constantly. We need today more Reginald Lewis-type brothers and sisters who take action and make a positive difference in the global marketplace.
(Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis is senior advisor to the Black Alliance for Educational Options and president of Education Online Services Corp.)