Ken Harris 'Black Bottom Entrepreneur' (30)
This speech was said to have been delivered by Willie Lynch on the bank of the James River in the colony of Virginia in 1712. Lynch was a British slave owner in the West Indies. He was invited to the colony of Virginia in 1712 to teach his methods to slave owners there.
“Willie Lynch wrote,
I greet you here on the bank of the James River in the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and twelve. First I shall thank you, the Gentlemen of the Colony of Virginia, for bringing me here. I am here to help you solve some of your problems with slaves. Your invitation reached me on my modest plantation in the West Indies where I have experimented with some of the newest and still the oldest methods for control of slaves. Ancient Rome would envy us if my program is implemented. As our boat sailed south on the James River, named for our illustrious King James, whose bible we cherish, I saw enough to know that your program is not unique.
While Rome used cords of wood as crosses for standing human bodies along
the old highways in great numbers, you are here using the tree and the rope on occasion. I caught the whiff of a dead slave hanging from a tree a couple of miles back. You are not only losing valuable stock by hangings, you are having uprisings, slaves are running away, your crops are sometimes left in the fields too long for maximum profit, you suffer occasional fires, your animals are killed,
gentlemen . . . you know what your problems are; I do not need to elaborate. I am not here to enumerate your problems, I am here to introduce you to a method of solving them.
In my bag here, I have a fool-proof method for controlling your black slaves. I guarantee everyone of you that if installed correctly it will control the slaves for at least 300 years. My method is simple, any member of your family or any overseer can use it.
I have outlined a number of differences among the slaves, and I take these differences and make them bigger. I use fear, distrust, and envy for control purposes. These methods have worked on my modest plantation in the West Indies, and it will work throughout the South. Take this simple little test of differences and think about them. On the top of my list is “Age”, but it is there because it only starts with an “A”; the second is “Color” or shade; there is intelligence, size, sex, size of plantations, attitude of owners, whether the slaves live in the valley, on a hill, East, West, North, South, have fine or coarse hair, or is tall or short. Now that you have a list of differences, I shall give you an outline of action—but before that, I shall assure you that distrust is stronger than trust, and envy is stronger than adulation, respect, or admiration.
The Black Slave, after receiving this indoctrination, shall carry on and will become self refueling and self generating for hundreds of years, maybe thousands. Don’t forget, you must pitch the old Black vs. the young Black male, and the young Black male against the old Black male. You must use the dark skinned slaves vs the light skinned slaves, and the light skinned slaves vs. the dark skinned slaves. You must use the female vs. the male, and the male vs. the female. You must also have your servants and overseers distrust all Blacks, but it is necessary that your slaves trust and depend on us. They must love, respect, and trust only us.
Gentlemen, these kits are your keys to control, use them. Have your wives and children use them. Never miss [an] opportunity. My plan is guaranteed, and the good thing about this plan is that if used intensely for
one year, the slaves themselves will remain perpetually distrustful.
Concluded by Willie Lynch 1712”
What would the former Mayor Coleman A. Young, Jr., the first African American elected as the mayor of Detroit in 1972, at which time Blacks constituted slightly less than 50% of the city’s population say in response to the question, “Is the ice colder outside Detroit rather than inside?” If you cannot come up with a response, ask those Detroiters who are baby boomers, senior citizens, or lifelong residents of the city. Ask anyone who experienced or witnessed Jim Crow laws, segregation, or when Mayor Young disbanded STRESS (Stop the Robberies and Enjoy Safe Streets), which had been connected to the deaths of eight Black people in its first four months of operation and 18 people in its first 14 months in Detroit. What would the people say who helped to elect Young as the first African American mayor of Detroit, a major, highly populated U.S. city?
“Now is the accepted time, not tomorrow, not some more convenient season. It is today that our best work can be done and not some future day or future year. It is today that we fit ourselves for the greater usefulness of tomorrow. Today is the seed time, now are the hours of work, and tomorrow comes the harvest and the playtime.” (William Edward Burghardt “W. E. B.” Du Bois) I question whether Black people have gained any economic independence in Detroit’s political economy. We should request our elected leadership with a clear conscious and uninfluenced mindset to increase the contracting and procurement pool for African American entrepreneurs and Detroit-based business owners. I would also ask anyone elected in the city of Detroit for a short-term and long-term economic plan or vision for a city that is at least 80% African American and that has a total population of more than 500,000. Anyone not able to give a clear answer, in my opinion, should be fired.
I beg to interrogate those in power who control and make decisions pertaining to the economic destiny of Detroit and its residents’ hard earned tax dollars. Is there a connection between our city government and the residents of this city who are poverty stricken, illiterate, disenfranchised, marked by incarceration, psychologically and mentally distressed from generations of economic difficulties, or just loyal, lifelong taxpayers who never gave up on a dream for a people, the same dream that our ancestors envisioned during American slavery for Black people today. When will we gain control of our lives, economics, politics, and education as a people? When will leaders step out and step up as a voice for the voiceless in righteous and truthful terms invigorating vision, knowledge, and wisdom? The chains of slaveries past plague our communities. We must break free of all forms of oppression and oppressive acts, policies, or politicians. It is time for results-driven leadership, leadership with a caring heart, and leadership with a proven track record in the community and a concern for its people regardless of race, creed, or color.
“To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships.” (William Edward Burghardt “W. E. B.” Du Bois) A slave mentality does not improve the circumstances, but ownership and economic independence does. We must begin to own our own or continue to be owned by someone else, duly elected or not.
Black Bottom Entrepreneur: The Entrepreneur Mindset In today’s climate, long-¬-term private and public employment opportunities are becoming scarce throughout urban communities, especially cities such as Detroit, Southfield, Oak Park, Pontiac, Flint, and Saginaw with majority African American populations. People are now finding themselves without the means to pay the rent, the mortgage, and the car note, let alone keep insurance. Residents have to drive far into suburban neighborhoods just to find quality food, commodities, goods, and cheap gas prices. To speak frankly, folks have got it real bad in certain parts of the state. However, because of their survival instincts, the relentless spirit to not fail in life, and the burgeoning desire to provide for our families, we are developing the entrepreneur mindset.
In the early 1920s, French settlers farmed in an area known for its dark, fertile soil and low elevation named “Black Bottom.” Black Bottom eventually became one of the most entrepreneurially driven African American communities in Detroit pre-¬- integration. During the great migration of the 1900s, many African Americans from the south migrated north for gainful employment, but faced extreme racial segregation and discrimination; this forced them to settle in the Black Bottom district. The district reached its entrepreneurial peak in the 1920s, with more than 350 businesses, including 17 physicians, 22 lawyers, 22 barbershops, 13 dentists, 12 cartage agencies, 11 tailors, 10 restaurants, 10 real estate dealers, 8 grocers, 6 drug stores, 5 funeral homes, 4 employment agencies, and 1 candy maker. By 1951,140,000 blacks were renting or residing in Black Bottom before the community’s eventual demolition, which was sanctioned by urban renewal projects and the eventual construction of Lafayette Park in 1956. History tells us that having an entrepreneurial mindset can create wealth.
Today’s climate is ripe for entrepreneurship and for those who have an entrepreneurial mindset. Let me tell you why. There are more than 79,000 black-¬- owned businesses in the state of Michigan, 32,000 in the city of Detroit, and 15,000 in Oakland, Genesee, and Saginaw Counties, throughout the southeastern Michigan corridor. We purchase or consume an estimated 4.3 billion dollars as African Americans in commodities, goods, and services. If black people spent just 10% of this $4.3 billion with black businesses first, we could rebuild our communities and neighbors block by block without any help from anyone. Just do the math!
Entrepreneurs are successful because they identify what people cannot live without and make a business to meet that need. In an environment of uncertainty, entrepreneurial thinking has become second nature and entails an entrepreneurial mindset that captures the benefits of that uncertainty. Entrepreneurs are action-¬- oriented and utilize their network as their net worth. They are the people who turn contacts into contracts. They learn how and master ways to simplify complexity. These entrepreneurs can make a dollar out of 15 cents, or turn a simple idea into a multi-¬-million dollar enterprise doing business across the country and throughout the Pan-¬-African continent. We identify these savvy businessmen and women with their entrepreneurial mindset.
Entrepreneurs take advantage of unexpected occurrences, exploit incongruities, process needs of the community, analyze the industry and market changes, study demographics and the consumer climate, and adapt new knowledge to unlock the mind’s innovation and creativity. Do you have the entrepreneurial mindset? Because if you do, there may be a community ready to embrace your business idea.
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