Ken L. Harris serves as the President/CEO of the Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce with access to more than 79,000 black-owned businesses in Michigan. Commissioner Harris was elected to the Detroit Charter Commission in 2009. Harris currently serves on the U.S. Black Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors in Washington, DC and as Midwest Director for the US Black Chamber over 12 states. Harris is an active life member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, and a 33rd Degree United Supreme Council Prince Hall Mason. Harris received the U. S. Small Business Administration (SBA) 2007 Minority Business Advocate of the Year Award in Michigan and was inducted into Crain’s Detroit Business Class of 2007 40 under 40. Harris was also featured in DBusiness Magazine 30 in their 30’s Most Influential and Ebony Magazine in 2011. Harris a former NCAA Basketball Academic All-American point-guard for Clark Atlanta University graduated with a B.A. in Psychology and M.A. in Counseling Psychology from Clark Atlanta University (HBCU) in Atlanta, Georgia and an Educational Specialist (EDS) Degree from Wayne State University in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. Ken Harris is a PhD candidate at the Michigan State University in African American and African Studies and the Eli Broad School of Business Program.
As you may know, I am a PhD candidate in African American Studies with a specialization in Entrepreneurship at the Eli Broad School of Business at Michigan State University.
Through the Eli Broad School of Business Research Program, while preparing for my dissertation research, I will have the exciting once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience a unique international service learning and research-intensive course in South Africa May 9-28th, 2013. I am aiming to conduct original research in Africa that will significantly contribute to the field of entrepreneurship. I will visit Johannesburg, Pilanesberg, Port Elizabeth, Tsitsikamma, Oudtshoorn, and Cape Town, South Africa. While interning, I will have the opportunity to conduct advanced field research in Pretoria, Cape Town, and Soweto, while I simultaneously work with other South African communities and institutions which primarily focus on contributing to important cultural and economic development and policy. This is a unique opportunity to explore how innovation-driven entrepreneurship impacts global economies in Africa, as well as how economic agencies influence, foster, and cultivate such innovation.
At the University of South Africa in Pretoria, the University of Cape Town in Cape Town, and the University of Johannesburg in Soweto, my primary goal in the study of Innovation-Driven Entrepreneurship in South Africa is to conduct high-quality research that identifies and analyzes South African economic development successes in order to ultimately prepare contextual views of entrepreneurship in the urban marketplace. Of particular interest are the positive economic developments that have taken place in South Africa over the last decade. What are the roots of these developments? To what extent are they sustainable and transferable to other African countries, in addition to Black-owned businesses in the United States?
I want to learn as much as I can about the South African entrepreneurial mindset, culture, and environment in the hope of making the study of South Africa a more mainstream endeavor for applied economics and entrepreneurial development. Lastly, I plan to systematize the available data on South Africa. To do this, I plan to establish a website that will act as an inventory and clearinghouse of economic data on South African cities and townships visited during the course of this project. The website will host datasets in cases where existing public data is not otherwise available online. It will serve as a space to house the information collected, observed, and researched as a means to accelerate the dissertation process.
What is closest to my heart in this endeavor is the opportunity to define what constructs successful Black businesses throughout Africa and the Pan-African Diaspora. My research will be able to be used to systematically link global economies with the intent to connect industries and sectors both domestic and abroad.
As I embark on this incredible journey, it is with honor and glory that I will research entrepreneurship and its innovations back in the motherland, while visiting my roots in the southern part of Africa. Home could never have been closer than the opportunity to link two nations as a scholar activist, and for that I am grateful.
Keep economic hope alive. Until my return on June 3, 2013.
After the election of President Barack Obama, we thought that the United States was becoming a post-racial society. Nevertheless, in Michigan, racism is boiling over in party ranks. Gloria Platko, a township clerk in Buena Vista, Michigan was caught on tape calling her supervisor, Dwanye Parker, “an arrogant nigger,” as reported by Newsone. Interim Township Manager Dexter Mitchell taped the 63 year-old during a phone conversation using the racial slur to describe her boss.
The incident caused an uproar in the community and protests from the Saginaw branch of the NAACP asking for her immediate resignation. However, Platko is not going to resign, after acknowledging she has eaten dinner with black friends at their homes during an interview with a reporter from NBC 25 http://newsone.com/2419901/gloria-platko-racist/
“I’m sorry to my five other board members, and I’m entirely sorry to this entire community. I’ve eaten Thanksgiving dinner with black friends at their house. So I’m far from prejudiced. You need to go interview some of the black people who have supported me for the last four or five years.” - Gloria Platko
It is sad that in 2013, the outward expression of insidious racial epithets toward black leadership is considered okay and freely expressed. When leaders voice their opinions openly, they are expressing how they think and how they feel, even if they claim it is a “slip of the tongue.” Come on…really?
Michigan has historically been the epicenter of racism and racially charged incidents, but even today, we can see just how far we have come since blacks marched for civil rights. At the end of the day, some folks still consider African Americans “niggers” in Michigan.
“Buena Vista Residents Support, Condemn Gloria Platko as Township Board Passes Resolution Seeking Her Resignation,” MLIVE reports:
We have much work to do on race relations. African Americans cannot stand idly by as strong racial sentiments are expressed by white leadership in any situation. It is not acceptable to call anyone “an arrogant nigger,” nor is it okay to improperly address people in this day and age. It is unacceptable, and black people must stand for civil rights, economic justice, and outright respect in Michigan’s racially-charged environment.
We shall overcome some day. Gloria Platko apologized for her remarks, but does that make it okay? In my opinion, she should resign today and reflect on her indiscretions toward black people.
At the end of the Civil War, freed slaves were promised “forty acres and a mule” by the U. S. government. Post emancipation, plantation owners had been instructed to provide former slaves with a settlement of land equity to set up farms of their own.
In January 1865, General William Tecumseh Sherman ordered that abandoned plantations along the Georgia and South Carolina coasts be rationed and that a share of the land be divided among the freed slaves in the South. Because Sherman’s order was not federally legislated policy, the land in question was returned to former Confederates under the administration of President Andrew Johnson, prompting the eviction of freed slaves from their newly acquired 40 acres shortly after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.
In January 1865, President Lincoln’s secretary of war, Edwin Stanton, organized a meeting regarding freed slaves, which Sherman attended. Local Black leaders, clergy, and freed slaves expressed their desire to build farms and townships for the Black population. Secretary Stanton acknowledged the effect that land equity and ownership would have on the former slave population, and observing that the Confederacy had rebelled against the federal government, he declared its land officially forfeited and available for free slaves.
Congress created the Freedmen’s Bureau shortly after Sherman’s Field Order No. 15 demanded the redistribution of land to former slaves. The Freedmen’s Bureau was created to ensure that millions of free slaves would begin to receive economic equality and empowerment, their 40 acres and mule, shortly after the Civil War ended. President Johnson, however, reversed Sherman’s policy and issued an order for all land to be returned to the Confederacy’s White landowners and confiscated from the free Blacks.
Freed slaves never received their 40 acres and mules, never gaining economic parity to own land and produce and market their own commodities, goods, and services for fair wages. It has been more than 150 years since emancipation, and Black people in general have never truly gained any economic advantages post slavery, nor leveled the playing field of economic opportunity. The African-American community has much work to do in search of economic equity, land ownership, and parity. Maybe now Black folk, as well as all minority cultures and immigrants, can begin to realize that ownership and entrepreneurship are the keys to economic wealth, distribution, and empowerment.
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