Coalition-building is the best way for Black people to make the kind of progress we need to make in this country, especially when it comes to economic empowerment. Some have posited that Black people are swiftly becoming obsolete. From the agricultural economy to the industrial and mass production economy Black folks, in some cases, had it going on. Many individual Blacks did quite well with jobs and businesses in those areas. As we moved through the technology/information economy and now into the knowledge-based economy, the rules for survival have changed.
Are Black people as a group becoming obsolete? Someone said, “All the shoes have been shined and all the cotton has been picked,” which suggests that Black people are no longer needed by White folks, therefore, if we do not change our ways when it comes to business and job development we will indeed become obsolete. Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington and Marcus Garvey spoke of a time when we would have to consider the question of Black obsolescence if we did not awaken from our deep sleep and refuse to be dependent upon the largess of others for our sustenance.
The strength we gain from coalescence will bring about this much-needed change, and one major step is to reach out and connect with other like-minded people of African descent. This should be done on a national and an international level, the closest area being just south of our country—the Caribbean.
One of the greatest Africans in modern history was born in Jamaica. Of course, that would be Marcus Mosiah Garvey, who founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). Look across the Caribbean and you will find other Blacks who knew and followed through on solutions; they took action rather than merely talk about their problems. They stood up against aggression, ignorance, and oppression. They understood and followed through on the value of educating their people, and they subscribed to the lessons their elders left behind.
Haitian history shows us strength and refusal to submit to enslavement; it also shows us resolve and a willingness to help others, as in the case of Haitian soldiers going to Savannah, Georgia to fight against the British in the Siege of Savannah on Oct. 9, 1779, during the U.S. Revolutionary War. We also remember the irrepressible Toussaint L’Ouverture, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, and Henri Christophe, Haitians who led the only successful slave revolt in the western hemisphere.
Many Black people came to the United States from the Caribbean and brought with them the same spirit, the same dedication and drive, and the same resolute character that causes men and women to seek for themselves, as Richard Allen taught back in 1767. Our Caribbean brothers and sisters have come with the determination to do for self, to rely on self, to cooperate with one another, and build an economic system within their own ranks. This article is written in an effort to celebrate our people and establish relationships that will engender cooperation among our people.
Marcus Garvey instructed us to do one thing prior to taking on economic empowerment initiatives. He told us to “Organize!” He shared with us the truth about economic empowerment over political empowerment and how we should seek economics first. He said, “The most important area for the exercise of independent effort is economic. After a people have established successfully a firm industrial foundation they naturally turn to politics and society, but not first to society and politics, because the two latter cannot exist without the former.”
Lessons from Garvey and others have led a precious few of us to implement strategies that, in fact, will lead to economic empowerment; we need many more. One such effort is the One Million Conscious Black Voters and Contributors (OMCBV&C), which was established on Garvey’s words, “The greatest weapon used against the Black man is disorganization.” The OMCBV&C movement is underway, actively recruiting that critical mass of Black people who will take action rather than merely talk about problems. The One Million will leverage dollars and votes to obtain reciprocity in the marketplace as well as in the public policy arena.
In the tradition of Marcus Garvey, the One Million is organized, cooperative, and supportive of one another. It is entrepreneurial in its philosophy regarding ownership and control of income producing assets. The One Million is molded in the very practical notion of using our own resources to help ourselves and our children. We are committed, dedicated, sacrificial in our giving, and unapologetically Black as we pursue our ultimate goals of economic and political strength—in that order.
Black people, no matter where we were born or where we live, must appreciate the fact that we started out in the same place and our differences emanate from our experiences in the nations where our ships docked in the western hemisphere.
James Clingman is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. His latest book, “Black Dollars Matter! Teach Your Dollars How to Make More Sense,” is available on his website, Blackonomics.com.