By Guest Columnist JOE HUDSON, trailblazing Black business advocate, mentor and coach
Preface: This is an opinion based on my observations gained from almost 50 years of participation in community leadership, winning and losing, along with self-education and study.
Today is the day that the Black business community needs to begin to step into city/community leadership roles. And, now is the time to put together funds from the Black community and its Black businesses to help build Atlanta’s Black community infrastructure and to protect our interest going forward. We have money and business leadership talent. We have many rich Black people in Atlanta who, as former Mayor Maynard Jackson used to say, “Get what they can get, and sit on the can.”
The Black business community does not have to continue to accept a “minority” role in the decision-making processes that enable Atlanta to be Atlanta. There is no real reason that the Black business community in Atlanta cannot begin to underwrite those things that give the Black community real life. The Black community has supported their struggles to become wealthy. It is time for them to return the favor!
What is needed is a new Black infrastructure. Such an infrastructure is not possible without support from Black businesses. One cannot expect the oppressor to help you fight them. We must do it with your resources. It has been done successfully before and can be done again, but must be sustained to eventually create community wealth. As Dr. Devin Robinson has said, “Black wealth is nothing without a Black infrastructure.”
Further, we need to quit riding on Atlanta’s back about who we are, who we used to be back then, and what we have obtained. Also, we must not be defined by those individually successful persons. We need to stop allowing the city and state to trot us out as trophies (“The city to busy to hate”) when required to satisfy some agenda, which probably does not contain us. We need to quit begging and begin to provide. We have the wealth, leadership, knowledge, education, institutions, and religious welfare to lead instead of follow. If we underwrite our political leaders, we can stop them from giving our communities away. We can convert Atlanta’s mess into a success!
It’s all about economics/money. Economics is the driving action tool to bring about change. There is an old saying, “People who pay their way through college seldom flunk out.” It is the same with the Black community and business development. In the days of community segregation, we paid our own way even during times of racial and economic turbulence. Thus, our communities were equally as healthy as their neighboring non-Black communities. So much so, in some cases, the white communities became jealous and did dastardly things to the Black community as a reflection of their envy.
People like to say that there is no money within the Black community and, because this is a common type of statement, they act upon it and believe there is no money; thus, they do not seek it. We now have many Black Atlantans with sums of money. The money they have earned as executives within the corporate structure or capital created through entrepreneurship. Remembering what Maynard used to say, “they are now sitting on the can.”
The financial benefits they now enjoy are a result of the various activities and doors that were opened by our fathers, grandfathers, grandmothers, Black elected officials, Black appointed managers and executives, and the unwavering support of the Black community. However, we have allowed these same supporters, along with Black businesses, to escape from any obligation to assist those who supported/created their opportunities in a significant way to cause change within itself! At the same time, we must understand the dollar’s pursuit deflects from opportunities for strategic investment by Black business.
We need to begin to put our monies together. I know this can be done because I have had to raise large sums of money from Black businesses to support Black causes when they understand the effort. What am I saying? Yes, we can create our own infrastructure and protect our interests. We must quit giving up opportunities to emphasize Black leadership and participation. We must insist on being a part of the corporate leaders as well as the political. Our leadership may not resemble that of the major corporate community, but we can guide communities by becoming effective “servant leaders” who lead by addressing the needs of the followers and providing this guidance through our actions. We must support those causes and organizations which are essential to you individually and ton the Black community.
We must have the Black political leadership “bring home the bacon to the Black community” and not be afraid to do so! We must have our Black communities fight for their share of the monies being passed around with investment schemes and fancy financing. We need these new Black entrepreneurs to look at being a part of the Black community, not run from it. We need more Black organizations to step up and represent their constituents in the arena in which they participate and fight for our share. We need to stop agreeing just to get along to keep our funding or personal space. The Black community has resources, not as much as the white community, but resources nonetheless.
These activities provide many opportunities for your unique talents as a strategic thinker and business leader. This is even more important in these current days of corporate/philanthropic financial responses due to Black Lives Matter and other civic/community equivalents. The Black community must be an active participant in its economic future. We must be in the game and accepting the leadership when necessary.
As Herman Russell once told me, “Joe, you got to put something into the deal to expect to get something out of it.” In other words, the Black community must begin to step up and underwrite or provide the seed capital for the things that will make the Black community grow and become hardy. We may not fully fund or even equally support an undertaking. Still, we can provide the initial capital to demonstrate we think the effort is essential. We can also participate in projects that benefit the entire Atlanta community, such as the arts and public education.
For example, not long ago, the Atlanta Business League took it upon itself to engage and underwrite the mayor’s campaign to get a SPLOST project passed. While the Black business participation in Atlanta SPLOST did not cause the project to pass, it was recognized by the civic leadership that the Black leadership stood on the same stage as the mayor and was willing to help promote a civic project that would bring benefits to the entire city, and that all businesses should participate in its execution. The resulting effort from Black companies helped attract other funds. When the white business community saw the Black business community participating, they welcomed them with open arms and assistance. Things changed!
The bottom line is, if it doesn’t work for the Black community, it doesn’t work for Atlanta, not the other way around. It will work even better for the Black community if we show more leadership and financial support for the things we desire for our community and city. So, let’s get it on!
From his book, Blackpreneurship: 50 obstacles Black Entrepreneurs Face and How to Overcome Them, Dr. Devin Robinson says:
- “Black excellence is just symbolic without Black power. Black power doesn’t exist without Black wealth. Black wealth is nothing without a Black infrastructure. A Black infrastructure is impossible without Black business. Black business has little value without Black employees.”
Note to readers: Joseph R.” Uncle ‘Joe” Hudson has provided leadership as founder of Hudson Strategic Group; chair of the economic development community of the NAACP’s Atlanta branch; past president of Atlanta Business League; past chair of the Atlanta Downtown Development Authority, and co-founder and past president of the Georgia Minority Supplier Development Council.