Black labor ‘obsolete’
The Michigan CitizenDETROIT — More than 140 years after slavery, Black people still own less than one half of 1 percent of the nation’s wealth and own fewer businesses than they did in the 1920s, according to Dr. Claude Anderson, who was the keynote speaker at the Michigan Black Chamber’s State of Black Business conference held Sept. 13.Black economic emp-owerment and the need for Black business is more important than ever, say conference organizers.“We are in serious times,” Ken Harris, president and CEO of the Michigan Black Chamber, told the Michigan Citizen.
Harris emphasized the importance of “advocacy” in Detroit because the city represents “$4.3 billion in purchasing power, but 95 percent leaves the community.”
Dr. Anderson, the author of “Powernomics” and owner of WaterLand Fisheries, says African Americans “shouldn’t have been chasing civil rights but economic wealth.” Blacks need to focus on developing businesses and community, says Anderson.
“Two white men have more wealth than 40 million Black folk,” Dr. Anderson told a gathering of local business leaders who attended the conference.
He suggests that Black people do not understand wealth or racism and that is why African American’s have high rates of poverty and are disproportionately represented in most negative indicators from health disparities to economic and educational gaps.
Blacks are consumers, not producers, who must begin to practice capitalism — “using other people’s work to build wealth,” according to Dr. Anderson.
Until Black people acquire wealth, they will be poor and obsolete, he says.
“Black folk are an obsolete labor class,” said Dr. Anderson who says Black people do not understand racism is a team sport. “Everyone plays on a team but Black folks. … You can’t be an individual star because you have money or you do well. This is like basketball. There isn’t one star; this is a team sport. “
His message was that Black people need to work on building business and community.
“We don’t have communities, we have neighborhoods. … A community is where you store your values, history and have a wholly independent economic structure,” says Anderson, who also pointed out that, before integration, African Americans owned baseball and basketball teams, railroads, theaters and stores, which is why economic empowerment, not civil rights, should have been the focus. Civil rights, he believes, were actually an economic disadvantage.
Today, Anderson says Blacks need to practice “group economics and group politics.”
He suggested that entrepreneurs or would-be entrepreneurs identify consumer categories where African Americans lead and dominate the space. Those categories include seafood. African Americans disproportionately eat seafood, which is why he began WaterLand Fisheries. He urged the crowd to dominate other categories such as haircare or other food opportunities, suggesting Black food security is of the utmost importance in case of a natural or man-made disaster.
“You have got to feed your people,” says Anderson. “We have all of these social problems because we don’t have enough businesses. …Use these businesses to help your people. …When politicians get elected, don’t ask for a job but help that person start a business.”
In 2004, Dr. Anderson helped develop and propose African Town, a Black empowerment zone to Detroit’s city council. Part of that plan was to make loans available to Black business. It did not pass. At that time, Councilwoman Barbara Rose Collins said African Americans were “in danger of becoming a permanent underclass and African Town is not a concept of segregation. We’ve given money, tax abatement, free land to every ethnic group that comes to ask … Why has this frightened people to death? We only want 40 acres, not the whole of Detroit.”
The conference was held at Roberts River Walk, an African American-owned hotel.
Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Black Suppliers Merge
The Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce (MBCC) and the National Association of Black Suppliers (NABS) merged their organizations, creating “a stronger and more dynamic Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce,” according to a press statement. The merger will give the Michigan Black Chamber the largest member base of Black-owned businesses in the state — boosting membership and amplifying the MBCC’s political advocacy role.
“Black business is important to our state’s economic growth and the addition of these companies will help our organization continue its unified message,” said MBCC CEO Ken Harris at the Sept. 13 announcement.
The 16 suppliers who made up the National Association of Black Suppliers do business in Arizona, California, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Tennessee, Texas and Mexico. They have total annual sales of roughly $3 billion and employ more than 7,500.
For more information visit www.michiganblack chamber.com or Dr. Claude Anderson’s www.powernomics.com