Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Who's Your President?

I'm witnessing a very disturbing trend--and on MSNBC of all places. It's not enough that Republicans are doing all they can to bring down President Obama, some liberal pundits are pitching in, as well.

David Corn of Politics Daily, and other liberal pundits are quick to compare Obama with President Clinton, and, you guessed it, Obama is coming up short in every category: Obama's not as politically savvy as was Clinton, not the leader he was, and not as politically focused.

Why this sudden need to elevate Clinton at the expense of Obama?

Forgotten is the Clinton sex scandal that rocked the White House; forgotten is Monica Lewinsky and the stained dress that was preserved as proof of Clinton's infidelity. Gone is Clinton's failed attempt to provide health-care reform, and a host of other failures and scandals that marred his presidency. Remember e-mailgate, and few other gates that plagued his administration: Cattlegate, Filegate, Travelgate, Whitewatergate, Troopergate, and Chinagate.

Because of Monicagate Clinton had to face down an impeachment. I'm not saying that Clinton was guilty of any of these political indiscretions, but that they have mostly been forgotten, as the New Clinton takes the stage in his new role of Obama defacer. In the clip below, you can hear a little bit of this, as well as an explanation for why Clinton's reputation is undergoing a rebirth.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

If you don't wish to watch the whole vid-clip, here's a transcript of the part where Obama is compared to Clinton--a comparison that's mostly unwarranted, and unnecessary.

SIMON: I agree with almost all of that, except one small point I would like to make. One reason Bill Clinton is doing so well now is that he's not viewed as a political figure anymore. He's viewed as this philanthropist, this man who's raising hundreds of millions of dollars to, you know, cure AIDS, to solve environmental problems, things that are not especially political. Sure, he's going to go out on the trail for Barack Obama, but I might -- I think, once he does, you might see those figures shift a little.

FINEMAN: Well, I hate to disagree with Roger--boy, we are really disagreeing a lot -- but I haven't seen the poll numbers on that. I can't imagine that there's anybody in the United States who doesn't still regard Bill Clinton as a political figure. Bill Clinton oozes politics out of every pore. And that's what made him infuriating, but what also makes him charming, and also what makes him able to explain in kitchen-table language what Barack Obama can't always seem to do. And it's a fascinating thing. It's a mixed blessing for Obama.

Not only is President Obama's accomplishments--only two years into his presidency--towering over Clinton's presidential years, the challenges facing his administration dwarf those of Bill Clinton's, and Ronald Reagan's administrations combined.

And I think that that is the nub of the problem: Obama's achievements to date, although not as impressive, or as progressive, as many would like for them to be, clearly has him standing out among those in the pantheon of presidential achievers.

First, it was comparing Obama to Woodrow Wilson, and, of late, to Bill Clinton. No matter whether it is on the job-creation front, or handling the Gulf oil spill, or protecting this nation from terrorists, or the handling of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan--President Obama finds himself being measured by the shadows cast by his white predecessors.

It's as though the conversation has taken a sudden turn, for both liberal and conservative pundits (We have always known where Republicans stand!): "We can't have a black president eclipsing the white ones of the past. We can't have him achieving more. We can't have him succeeding where others have failed. We can't let him achieve the stature or the greatness that's reserved for those of a much lighter hue."

Perhaps I'm reading this all wrong--that it has nothing to do with Obama's race--but I'm hard pressed to find another motive.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Pathways To A New Black Economy: The New Way (2)

The Black Town Square

The proposed Black Town Square will stand out as the largest Town Square in the world, having pathways and roadways that lead to a variety of shops, buildings, institutions, and highways that extend out beyond the Square into the black community, and back again. It's not possible in this limited space to describe every shop, building, or institution that's likely to find a location within the Town Square, or to explore every destination that the roads in and out of the Square will take you.

For now, I will describe a few of the places that will make the Square their home, and leave it to your imagination to divine the scope and magnitude of what is possible, once the Square has been constructed, and visitors pour through its gates seeking out treasures, information, and kindred souls with which to bond and collaborate for the purpose of enhancing the lives of those blacks seemingly trapped within the various black populations centers throughout this nation.

Because the Town Square is virtual, rather constructed of actual bricks and mortar, its size and dimensions are practically limitless, and its uses constrained only by our imaginations.

I chose Disney's Town Square, U.S.A., and the above picture in particular, to represent the visual of my imaginary and virtual square, mostly for its warmth (albeit below a cheerless sky), its friendly and welcoming ambiance--and mainly because it has the Town Square feel that I wish to project, and it shrouds in ambiguity the ethnicity of those entering the Square.
Shops--the Retail Component
Near the entrance of the Square, you'll find shops and stores featuring ethnocentric, and Afro-centric clothing, many of which have been designed by blacks for blacks. Next door to these shops are toy stores with the black customer in mind--boasting a variety of black dolls, games with a black emphasis, and a variety of other toys with definite black themes--all designed by blacks, and manufactured in the black community by blacks, for blacks.

Across the square, several jewelry stores are opened, and through their windows may be seen jewelry of gold, silver, precious and non-precious stones of every conceivable price--designed by blacks for blacks, with an eye toward creating designs with a unique black appeal, and fashioned in the black community.

Farther down the square, and off the main street--because the aroma of freshly baked goods have an attraction all their own--are located bakeries with every conceivable variety of baked goods under the sun: pies, cakes, cookies, and every child's delight: cupcakes.

Competing with the bakeries for attention are several candy stores, a confectionary lovers dream--rich chocolates, caramels, nougats, and chocolate covered nuts.

An Art Gallery is set up in an open-air area near the bookstore. Sculpture, paintings, drawings, prints are everywhere. Some are framed, while others may be framed or used just as they are. Photographs featuring blacks in a variety of situations and poses may also be purchased and used to illustrate web pages, blogs, books, magazines, posters, etc--to be used online or off.

Next to the Art Gallery, a Gifts and Greeting Cards store draws in customers looking for that ideal gift or perfect card for the observance of, or celebration of, a variety of occasions, events, or situations--to say thank you, or to say I'm sorry, or just to congratulate.

The Town Square will be designed around the visuals of an actual town square (although an imaginary one), so that it will have the feel and atmosphere of one. The retail component of the Square will be the core of it, although the Square will be designed for a much larger purpose (A purpose I'll make clear in subsequent articles). Approved black businesses will sell their products on consignment. Although these products will be featured on the site for sale, and sold using the site's basket technology, the orders may be filled at any location within the United States.

For our service (advertising, using our point of sell capability--a basket feature), and the placing of the order, we will exact a fee. This activity will constitute our main source of income for the Square, although not the only source.

Here's my aim: to provide an outlet for black products and services. In order to do that, we need a serious web site with a huge database capacity, and filtering capability--where all the elements are working together to promote the site: it's products and other offerings.

We have many blacks who are making things. And many of them are located within black communities. With a Black Town Square, they now have a single place from which to offer their goods, thereby expanding their customer base, and building a demand for their products--the result of a broader market. As demand grows, it will lead to an expansion of business, and a hiring of new people to meet that demand, contributing to the community's economy, as people have more money to spend with those businesses residing within their local communities.

Because these products are now featured on the Internet, blacks around the world, those from countries with Internet access, will have access to these black products, creating possibly a foreign market for goods made principally in our black communities by black workers.

Because the Square will give businesses new customers--not just within their own sphere of influence, but over a vast area--they can now invest more in the black community, spurring job growth, and adding to the local black economy. These black businesses now have market penetration in areas that have been, up to now, closed to them because of distance.

Why a Black Town Square?

On the Internet, as well as off the Internet, location is everything. No matter how wonderful a site may be, if you can't direct Internet traffic to your location, then all is lost. That would be equally true if you had a store in your neighborhood but it was off the beaten path--that is, the main thoroughfare. This is why shopping centers, malls, and what have you, put so much energy into attracting anchor stores, stores already with an identity, and plenty of money to advertise their sales, their product lines, and their location. As a result, anchor stores can risk being a little out of the way, because people will go out of their way to find them.

For example: Applebees generally locate it restaurants near a Wal-mart. Not only does Applebees pretty much serve the same targeted customer as Wal-mart, it allows Wal-mart to do most of its marketing research for it. Therefore, when you find a Wal-mart in your neighborhood you can almost always find Applebees.

Clever, don't you think?

Further, having an anchor store in an area also mean that those smaller, less recognizable stores that surround it will stand a greater chance of being noticed. And it's also the reason why to lease space in those areas will cost more than a side street that gets very little traffic.

Our virtual Town Square will serve the same purpose as these anchor stores, but on the Web. We will advertise. We will use every device at our disposal to bring attention to our Black Town Square--and, whenever possible, to capture such attention without having to pay for it. Because of the novelty of the Square, that in itself will make it newsworthy, attracting to the site those we have targeted--blacks from various locations around the nation, regardless of state, or city within which they dwell.

We will, however, advertise where blacks are likely to encounter an advertisement for our Town Square. That will be one way to attract new visitors, but another will be word-of-mouth, if we can make the Square The Place to visit, for old and young alike.

Any black person with a computer and access to the Internet will be able to find his or her way to the Square and partake of the various things within the Square, some of which will be free--while some will bear a price tag.

Once there, it's only natural for browsers and window shoppers to investigate other areas of the Town Square. Curiosity is a powerful motivator. Ads strategically placed throughout the site will direct attention, and fuel our visitor's curiosity to know more about other Town Square features, and offerings.

What we'll create, then, is a multipurpose site (a Mega-Site), one that offers as many things as is possible--even things for amusement--that, once there, visitors will be tempted to stroll through the various areas of the Town Square in search of value, information, and ways to stay informed about matters that impact blacks generally and specifically.

The Town Square, then, becomes a Hub, an Economic Center, a Clearinghouse, a Central Source, a One-Stop Shopping Experience, and a Black Meeting Place, to name a few. The concept of a Hub is not unique: My research turned up several such ideas. What's unique to the proposed Town Square is its size, and its ability to provide a point of sell for many products, without having to redirect potential customers to another site. Some of the sites featured here--as examples of the concept--also have point of sell capabilities, or a basket approach to making purchases. Yet, they have no mechanism for customer feedback--a way of assessing the level of service from a business, or the satisfaction with a product purchased--an important feature of The Black Town Square. Later, I will provide links to a few of these sites so that you can make your own independent assessments.

A positive trend: Online sells are up 7.2% over last year. Not all blacks will be able to take advantage of this trend, but enough will, which will be the difference maker for those blacks eager to expand their market, and grow their business.

"Over the last year, the broadband-adoption gap between blacks and whites has been cut nearly in half," according to a new survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Broadband is generally defined as high-speed Internet access.

"'Broadband adoption by African Americans now stands at 56%, up from 46% at a similar point in 2009," the study said. "That works out to a 22% year-over-year growth rate, well above the national average and by far the highest growth rate of any major demographic group.'

"The increase has implications for media targeting African Americans, black-owned and otherwise." [1]

It also has "implications" for businesses targeting blacks.

Here's my vision: And I will continue to bring this vision to life in subsequent articles. It is my hope that the Town Square concept will spur new entrepreneurial activity within the black community, leading to more employment of blacks, and a revolution in the economic revitalization of the inner cities, and black communities generally, as it provides broader markets for those who choose to participate in this endeavor--markets that were unavailable to them because of the impediment of distance.

We will sell ad space. We will redirect traffic to other sites. And we will charge for this service. We can take every successful idea on the Internet and repurpose it with a black slant.

We will actively seek out those blacks with a business or a service, and offer them the Town Square advantage--to either have a redirect from the Square, to sell products from within the Square, or to use the Square to promote their business or service.

Therefore, those who wish to Buy Black (also known as the Ebony Experiment) [2] will be able to locate black businesses, black professionals, and others with whom they may do business. If this database is available online, it can be manipulated to generate a variety of information--information that can be used to direct customers to physical or Internet sites. The Ebony Experiment, which may have started this whole Buy Black phenomenon, seems to have morphed into the Empowerment Experiment (EE). The site features some excellent black directories for locating black businesses and professionals--a source that may be useful in our endeavor. Unfortunately, many of the links that I tried are inactive. Hat tip to Ernesto for reminding me of the Buy Black movement.

On this site, I found iZania Market. It has a concept similar to the one I'm proposing, but not many businesses participating.

The Black Business Network, also on this site, comes closest to the concept I have in mind, although participants are few. Where possible, I will reach out and support those businesses featured on the Network. I tried to join the Network, but to join required that I give out information that I preferred to keep secret. The sign-up form assumes that I'm a company with a mailing address. Because sign-up is at least a two-stage process (I couldn't get passed the second stage.), it was hard to tell exactly how to become a member of the "online community" without being a business or, at the very least, fudging.

For our part: We will actively search out black businesses and services that may benefit from having a central location for what they offer--a location that actively promotes itself, and its content.

Further, we will provide for customer review of products and services (a feature that seems missing on many of the sites). This will reduce and discourage fraud, and will be one of the conditions for selling, advertising, or being redirected from within the Square. For example, if there's a black home improvement contractor operating unsatisfactorily, that contractor's shoddy practices will become a part of his or her record. Rating information will be available readily to those who seek it--partly to determine with whom to do business (those with a better rating or review), and partly to expose those who have questionable business practices.

I fully expect the Square to have customers beyond its targeted group, but only those who can be said to have a black business, or is a black professional, or a service provider, will be allowed to have an address or a location within the Square, or be allowed to promote their business, or service.

Ads and other information will be interspersed throughout the Square, regardless of the area in which visitors may find themselves.

[2] The Ebony Experiment domain name expired on 8/15/2010 pending renewal or deletion.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Pathways To A New Black Economy: The New Way (1)

Black Motto: To Give and To ReceiveLet's continue using the hand analogy from the previous blog entry. In many ways it's an excellent visual representation of what I'm trying to accomplish here--create a model for black economic development and autonomy, which draws upon the collective resources of the entire black community.

The cupped hand visual, in the upper left hand corner of this page, is the perfect image for my purpose: It represents the position the hands must be in to give something away, or to receive something that's given. Splayed fingers--fingers spread out and apart--pretty much represents the challenge facing us, as we attempt to bring blacks together in a cohesive manner to work on behalf of the black community in a collaborative way.

To form a cup, the fingers of the hand must be pressed tightly together, with little or no space between them. To form a black collective something similar must occur. But first we need a cup. We need to build a structure that will encourage, and promote, a coming together of members from the black community who have common interests, and aspirations--all working to achieve prescribed goals and objectives.

The cupped hand, then, represents the Black Collective Motto: To Give and To Receive. The fingers pressed tightly together to form the cup suggest the level of black cooperation that's needed to further our economic interests. If we're to progress at a pace commensurate with our need, we'll have to find ways to contract the distance between us--spatially, as well as educationally, socially, and economically.

Here's another visual to give us all an appreciation of the problem, the blue representing black population density. Click or double click on the map to enlarge it.

This next visual will make the above density map a bit clearer, and show those states with the largest black population.

That blacks are densely populated works to our advantage. It makes collaborative efforts that much easier. To the degree that we're splayed, so to speak, primarily East Coast, West Coast, works against us, but even that impediment to black cooperation can be overcome.

Any model constructed for the purpose of black economic development and autonomy, must take into account the construction of a New black Synergy, one that will rebuild black interactivity; a New Black Ecosystem to restore the brain drain that has devastated inner city population centers when blacks abandoned their communities once their economic situation made it possible; and a New Black Cooperation, one built on the Main Ingredient of Trust [1], which undergirds, and gives impetus to, The Indispensable Factor. [2]

During my research, I came across an article by one Hayward Derrick Horton, professor, titled: A SOCIOLOGICAL APPROACH TO BLACK COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT: PRESENTATION OF THE BLACK ORGANIZATIONAL AUTONOMY MODEL. [3]

Under the following heading, Implications For Community Development Practitioners, Horton discusses his model for black economic autonomy:

The BOA [Black Organizational Autonomy] model has three implications for community development practitioners. First, efforts to address problems of the black community are more likely to be successful when indigenous groups are empowered to plan and act independently of external factors. This empowerment is derived from economic autonomy. To reiterate, economic autonomy is not separatism. Nor does it imply that the black community should either reject or ignore external supporters and allies. In fact, the evidence suggests that being economically autonomous is the best basis for gaining external support and building lasting alliances. Otherwise, the black community has a subordinate, dependent status. One might argue that such is the current status of the black community. Recent studies documenting the attitudes and opinions of white America toward black America certainly demonstrate that dependency makes the black community vulnerable to scapegoating (Gans, 1988; Kluegel, 1990).

I agree largely with the professor's description of what an Autonomy model should look like--first, that it's not "separatism," and, second, the black community can be economically autonomous, and still have "external supporters and allies."

In the following abstract of his article, the professor offers this overview:

This paper presents a sociological model of black community development: the Black Organizational Autonomy (BOA) model. The BOA model argues essentially that viable black communities are those with organizations that have the following characteristics: 1) economic autonomy; 2) internally developed and controlled data sources; 3) a focus on black history and culture; 4) the development and incorporation of females in leadership roles; and 5) socially inclusive leadership. A case study is presented that supports the model. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications of the BOA model for community development practitioners. [4 ibid]

In the comment section of an earlier blog entry, I left these words. Now seems the perfect time to resurrect them, and give them new life:

Here's part of the problem [to black economic development]: Blacks have never enjoyed complete [economic] autonomy. Not even Marcus Garvey could achieve such a feat, although he did make the attempt with the formation of the "Universal Negro Improvement Association and began speaking out publicly in favor of worldwide black unity and an end to colonialism." [...]

Worldwide black unity is still a great idea, and should be the goal of blacks in this country, as difficult as that task might be--with black unity here being so elusive.

Our dependence on whites in this country in order to advance materially is too all-inclusive. Think of the power blacks would possess, if the black nations of the world could come together and forge alliances with black people scattered around the world--as a result of what has been called the black or African diaspora--for the advancement of blacks throughout the world, regardless of their nation of origin.

There's a United Nations. Why can't blacks create something similar: A Union of Black African Nations (UBAN), with black delegates from black nations, and non-black nations, setting health, social, economic, and political goals, and developing the organizational structure, and mechanisms to achieve those goals.

Now, if we could pull something like that off, using the vast black resources (the intelligentsia, and natural resources) available to blacks worldwide, we'd be a powerful force to be reckoned with.

The New Way
The New Way will forge new relationships, and a new cooperation among blacks using the technology at our disposal, primarily the Internet. Because distance will no longer be an impediment to black cooperation, black synergy can now exist across miles of separation, allowing blacks to interact in ways never before thought possible. Had the Internet been available during Garvey's time, he and his contemporaries would have found it considerably easier to achieve their rather ambitious goal of uniting blacks for the purpose of building a sustainable black economy.

The New Way will bring black resources--social, political, cultural, economic--under one tent, recognizing that, although the tent will be pitched in the midst of the larger economy, it doesn't have to take on the amoral and immoral character of the whole, but strive to create an economy that's humane and life-supporting.

With The New Way leading the way, I propose the following concept, The Black Town Square, a concept that I'll explore in greater, but not exhaustive, detail in subsequent articles. The proposed town square will be a virtual town square--not one built from bricks and mortar. And that's a good thing: It will make the Town Square accessible to blacks across the nation, and from any part of the world that offers access to the vast networks of the Information Highway. In the United States, the town square will be called The Black Town Square of America--America, because it's here that the concept will first be tested, Black, because blacks will be the racial group targeted, and Town Square, because the name projects friendliness, welcomeness, and warmth.

I propose further that, with the success of the American model, we expand it to other areas of the world that have high black concentrations. For example, in South Africa, the town square there might be known as The Black Town Square of South Africa. Taken together, the various town squares will be known as The Black Town Squares of the World.

How is that for thinking big!

Just as I did in previous articles, I will now leave you with something to chew on. It constitutes a rather large mouthful, but it will give us something to sink our teeth into as we explore ways to address those issues that are unique to blacks, and the black community--all with an eye toward constructing a model to foster black community development, empowerment, and economic autonomy. No date is given for the article below, but it seems to have been written sometime during the first half of the current decade. Although many blacks may have seen their fortunes reversed as a result of the recession that now grips this country, I wanted to present the information below, despite its sanguinity. I wanted to show what we can do collectively, if the economy is healthy, and we invest appropriately.

African American Wealth: Powerful Trends and New Opportunities

African Americans are steadily increasing their wealth, boosting their holdings in real estate, stocks, and savings vehicles, as they seek to fund college educations for their children and create a secure retirement for themselves. It's a process of becoming ever more keenly aware of the need to save, invest, and plan for the future. "The level of interest in financial independence, economic empowerment, and investing has just exploded," said Duane Davis, founder of the Coalition of Black Investors quoted in a 2003 article that appeared on www.IMDiversity.com. Davis characterized this growth as "a real groundswell."


Davis' view was reinforced by results of the 2002 Ariel Schwab Black Investor Survey cosponsored by Ariel Mutual Funds and Charles Schwab. The Survey, published annually every year since 1998, publishes data on African American households earning $50,000 or more a year. According to findings from 2002, the percentage of African Americans investing in the stock market increased 30 percent between 1998 and 2002, from 57 to 74 percent.

Unfortunately, that number dipped to 61 percent according to the 2003 Survey, as many African Americans left the market, no doubt bruised by the poor returns that characterized the stock market for the second consecutive year. Equally unfortunate, many stayed on the sidelines this past year and missed the recent market rally. "The recent market upswing shows that you may have to go through the valleys to reach the peaks," said Charles Schwab vice president Carla A. Foster, in the Survey's analysis section.


Homeownership among African Americans, however, has shown a steady increase. The percent of African Americans who own their own homes increased from 42 percent in 1990 to 48 percent in 2003, according to data compiled by the Consumer Federation of America and BET.com, and cited in an October 2003 press release.


African Americans spent $645.9 billion in 2002, an increase of 104 percent from 1990, according to Target Market News, a black consumer market research and information company (www.targetmarketnews.com) However, as noted African American author, speaker, and financial advisor Brooke Stephens points out in her book Talking Dollars and Making Sense, making money is important, but saving it is more important. Stephens cautions that while the African American community can be proud of contributing hundreds of billions to the nation's economy, it's essential not to lose sight of the importance of savings in creating economic empowerment and building personal wealth. "You're not building wealth if you use all your money for consumption," she writes. "Real wealth is being able to say, 'I have the freedom to do what I want with my life, and I don't have to stay in this job if I don't want to.'"

The 2002 Ariel Schwab Survey noted steady progress in the area of personal savings among African Americans, with the average monthly savings increasing from $200 per month in 2001 to $237 per month in 2002. (2003 figures aren't available yet.) Building a secure retirement ranked highest among the respondents (46 percent) as their primary reason for saving, with sending a child to college ranking second at 19 percent. [...]

Black Enterprise magazine has created the Circle of Wealth, a black wealth initiative that seeks economic empowerment for African Americans by changing attitudes toward money management. The Circle is an ongoing cycle comprised of 1.) Knowledge, 2.) Commitment, 3.) Investment, 4.) Portfolio Management, and 5.) Wealth, all enabling Reinvestment in Children, Businesses, and Community.

As part of this powerful initiative, the magazine developed the Declaration a Financial Empowerment, the following 10–point wealth–building pledge:

"I, from this day forward, declare my vigilant and life–long commitment to financial empowerment. I pledge the following:

To save and invest 10 to 15 percent of my after–tax income.
To be a proactive and informed investor.
To be a disciplined and knowledgeable consumer.
To measure my personal wealth by net worth not income.
To engage in sound budget, credit, and tax management practices.
To teach business and financial principles to my children.
To use a portion of my personal wealth to strengthen my community.
To support the creation and growth of profitable, black–owned enterprises.
To ensure my wealth is passed onto others.
To maximize my earning power through a commitment to career development, technological literacy and professional excellence."

(Source: www.blackenterprise.com) [5]

[1] The Main Ingredient: Trust is the element, the ingredient upon which a New Black Economy may be built--as well as nation states--and form the basis upon which all enterprises may flourish, provided people of goodwill have developed the will to put the good first.

[2] The Indispensable Factor: It's a black collective willingness to collaborate in large enough numbers, on a broad enough scale, to push our economic agenda forward with great deliberation, and great haste, taking advantage of those means at our disposal to expedite this push.

[3] A Sociological Approach To Black Community Development: Presentation Of The Black Organizational Autonomy Model.

[4 ibid]

[5] African American Wealth: Powerful Trends and New Opportunities

Friday, September 10, 2010

Pathways To A New Black Economy: The Indispensable Factor

Ali & Malcolm XHands are fascinating things, more fascinating to me than feet, although feet, too, have a fascination all their own.

When you give it some thought, you realize that we rarely use one finger to accomplish much. We can use one finger with which to scratch, but an itch of any magnitude wouldn't long stand for that, and would cry out for more than one finger, or all of them at once, to bring faster relief.

Similarly, with one finger we can type in a "hunt and peck" kind of way, but if you've learned to type, even in a rudimentary way, you know that typing, using all eight fingers and two thumbs, is a quicker, and more efficient way to transfer letters onto sheets of paper, or along imaginary lines of cyberspace.

I don't think I have to belabor the value of hands working in unison, and toward a common purpose (Rarely does one hand not know what the other is doing.) to drive home the point that individual action alone--although desirable at times--cannot surpass, or compete with, the concerted effort of even a few participants committed to a common cause.

On such occasions, committing both hands to the task (all digits on the hand working together), makes an arduous task easier, efficient, and quicker. In the picture above, Ali is cradling a writing pad in his left hand, while penning something with his right--a cooperation of mind and body that runs deeper than this simple act.

And, too, nature knows a thing or two about things working together to achieve common goals. Our ecosystem is designed for such cooperation, and when man intrudes upon this system, as is often the case, and upsets this carefully balanced cooperation, and interrelatedness, disaster may strike, and the whole may suffer because a part of the whole has either been ignored, or has, in some way, been damaged.

The next two blog entries (articles) will explore one of the means available to us to create a Black Synergy, a Black Ecosystem, and a Black Cooperation that will allow us to overcome the hurdle of distance, and help us create a structure, a system, and a mechanism by which we may combine our energies, and our resources, so that we may integrate them to create a New Black Economy using our collective will.

We often hear the oft-repeated saw: "There's strength in numbers."

True. And when those numbers are in agreement, working toward one purpose, with one mind, pursuing the same goal--the intention that is built up around that common idea is virtually unstoppable, and irrepressible.

And we're reminded of that other saw: "There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come."

It's that kind of devotion to a cause that's often required to achieve on a large scale, but that level of achievement only comes when we can put aside our differences, and our individual pursuits long enough to create and develop the kind of synergy required to carry out, and carry through, a common purpose.

So, as someone has already mentioned, finding those of like mind, with a similar desire to pursue a common goal is requisite, and would permit the Fourth Pathway to a New Black Economy to be a piece of chocolate cake.

Muhammad Ali, and Malcolm X appearing together in the photo above are emblematic of the kind of cooperation that's needed among our people if we're going to seriously advance our cause with diligence and speed.

Ali, the cocky prize fighter, and Malcolm X, a student of race relations in this country, both, at the time, representing a breaking with the economic and political power structure of their day--one that dominated black life, and frustrated the realization of black economic autonomy.

Ali used the system to earn millions of dollars, a fortune that would assure him a life of luxury, and financial independence. Malcolm, on the other hand, opposing the system, achieved the same end--financial independence--but with an additional advantage: Malcolm possessed the knowledge of how best to use his fortune, and invest it back into the black community, so that all blacks could prosper. Had the Nation of Islam not been a religious movement, but, instead, an economic movement, for the betterment, and advancement of the black community, I believe we'd be farther along in our efforts to build a mostly independent black economy.
The Indispensable Factor
If you've come this far in the article, you have certainly intuited what factor represents The Indispensable Factor: It's a black collective willingness to collaborate in large enough numbers, on a broad enough scale, to push our economic agenda forward with great deliberation, and great haste, taking advantage of those means at our disposal to expedite this push.

Just as the hand rarely operates efficiently and quickly by relying solely on one finger to bear the burden of the whole, neither should we rely on the efforts of one individual (even if he's the president of the United States), if we're going to progress at a pace that's meaningful, and ameliorative. If we don't find ways to conflate our sundry interests, then progress will be slow and laborious--not unlike what it's been up to now.

I believe that Booker T. Washington, and W.E.B. Du Bois, would have expected more from us, although Du Bois believed that issues around the "color-line" would dominate the previous century, when he wrote: "The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line—the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men in Asia and Africa, in America and the islands of the sea."

And their vision for blacks in this country--Washington, and Du Bois--wasn't all that incompatible, although Washington was seen as an accommodationist, and Du Bois an agitator for social change. Both visions could have stood side by side, and should have.

Had the two men found ways to meld the interest of both, and worked on behalf of the other, social, political, and economic progress would have come in leaps and bounds, rather than small, halting steps.

I've always contended that the Negro has no problems, at least not an inherent one. His problem exists as an existential one. Yet, it's a problem that he has within his grasp the means of besting. We've heard the saying, "There's safety in numbers." Well, there's another thing that recommends "numbers," especially numbers of great size, representing millions of people with a common cause. Those numbers are the kind of numbers that force others to take notice, and give their respect.

The next article will serve as the flagship article for the series of articles exploring the development of an autonomous black economy. But for now, let me leave you with more statistics for consideration, but this time giving background information on blacks as consumers.

The Black Consumer Market

"The Black population is younger than the rest of the U.S population. In 2008 the median age of the Black population was 41 compared to the general U.S. population at nearly 45. In addition, females represent a greater percentage of the Black population in the United States. While the Black American median household income is lower than the U.S. average, the percentage of Black American households with an income of $50,000.00 or more grew 13.5% between 2003 and 2009, compared with 8.4% for the total U.S. households.

"According to the University of Georgia’s Selig Center for Economic Growth, the buying power of Black Americans was $855 Billion in 2008 and estimates the buying power in 2012 to reach $1.1 trillion. In that same year, the US Census Bureau estimated the number of Black residents at 40.7 million, comprising 13.5% of the total US population. The number of Black-owned businesses was 1.7 million in 2008, a 58% increase since 1997 and Black businesses generated revenues of $92.7 Billion that year. Black Americans are also gaining ground in education. In 2008, 18% of Black Americans held Bachelor Degrees and 1.5 million held advanced degrees (Master’s, J.D., M.D. PhD).

"Black Americans are attracted to companies that represent their lifestyle with targeted messages and images. It is the responsibility of marketers to attract and maintain a relationship with the Black consumer.

"'Black folk are not just dark-skinned white people. Marketers who consciously establish a relationship with this lucrative yet under-served market, by better understanding the African-American culture, mindset, attitude, behavior and lifestyle, will reap significant long-term rewards from a loyal, influential, increasingly affluent customer base,' - Herbert Kemp, Founder & CEO of What is Black about IT? LLC."