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Accent on Self Help in Hard Times

In the midst of the hard times produced by the actions of the Bush administration, the accent is on self help, in order to survive. Today we are living in an economy that doesn't produce anything. The products we buy to drive and wear are produced in other countries where the labor is cheaper.  Ironically, our schools are not teaching us to save money by making or repairing our own clothes or fixing our own cars, as our parents did.

We are just surviving on loans from China and shifting paper around. Your bank is charging more and more for maintaining your money. For example, it costs $35 dollars for a bounced check at most banks, even if the check is only for $15 or $20 dollars. The service charges are out of sight you even get a charge for money maintenance. The credit card you signed up for at ten percent is now thirty percent or more and rises without a warning. The problem, of course, is that we are all addicted to credit cards and our young people are now preparing for a world that is not like it used to be. We used to pay cash as you go.

I am still excited by entrepreneurship and self help because, in the end, that is what makes the world go around. We all hear that small businesses make up a large part of the American employment picture. That means that the small mom and pop operations are very important. Even with that knowledge we don't prepare our children for self employment. They are taught to just get a job. We know that a job is a great thing but it is still just a temporary solution to a permanent problem. Look at how many are currently out of a job.

Recently, I read a couple of stories that reminded me about the importance of mom and pop family businesses. One story in the Black newspaper from Memphis, Tennessee, "The Tri-State Defender", the city where Dr. King was killed, swore in a new Mayor, A.C. Wharton, Jr. Wharton replaced Dr. Willie Herenton who served as mayor of Memphis for 17 & 1/2 years.

Wharton is an attorney. At Wharton's swearing in was his wife and son who are both attorneys in the family business, a law firm. Both Herenton and Wharton are African American. The message here is that we have come a long way as a people, but if we don't stop sending more of our young people to prison than to college, we may re-visit the past years when opportunities like becoming Mayor or President was the stuff of "fairy tales."

The other story was in "The New York Times" about a family business called, Burberrys. Burberrys is a British company that produced the famous double breasted trench coat popularized by actor Humphrey Bogart. The company is 153 years old. The article said that the company capitalized on its heritage.  My thoughts when I read the story were that Black folks have not yet capitalized on their heritage, except with the Black press, Black theater, and art. Think Ebony, and the Apollo Theater in Harlem. Also, there is the little known Black syrup company called, "Michelle's", that was born in slavery and passed down to today.  I guess there are still a few Black hair products that are owned by non-Blacks. The rest like the passing clothing companies (FUBU) and others are gone and have nothing to do with heritage.

The movies that form images about people are now showing two movies about African Americans. One called, "Precious" and another called, "Blind Side's."  The first depicts family violence, sexual violence and inhumanity to a young female. The other demonstrates what happens when drugs take over the life of a Black mother and a White foster family takes over the life of her son.

Take a look at your situation and ask what you can pass down to your heirs when you die. Do something about it now. Say to yourself, "If it is to be, it is up to me." There's still time to create or buy something to leave your children, other than "ALONE."

Editor's note:  In my column of November 26, 2009 I cited a scripture verse incorrectly in my editorial as Psalm 108: 8-10.  In fact the correct verses are Psalm 109:8-10.  I am sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused.

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