The reciprocity virus

We have seen in the H1N1 strain of flu how quickly a virus can spread around the world.

Ideas can move just as quickly, particularly in an online, digital world.

I like to suggest a viral infection that is good for the African-American community — an outbreak of reciprocity.

August is the sixth annual National Black Business Month, an idea based on the simple power of reciprocity.

Yesterday,  I picked up a new client for my company who sent an initial payment.  The first level of reciprocity is to actually do the work they contracted to do.

But I chose to go to a second level.  Went around the corner to B’s Barbecue at Divisadero and McAllister St. and had my favorite choice of a half-order of brisket, with some banana pudding.   On the other side of the intersection is a dollar store owned by an Ethiopian American couple.  I needed some hosiery and underwear and they were both convenient and inexpensive.

The whole premise of National Black Business Month is to encourage as many of the 35 million African-Americans and any one else who cares about the economic viability of our communities to consciously seek out African-American owned companies.

We’ve created a calendar for the entire 31 days of August at  We can best demonstrate the power of this concept by focusing on specific types of business each day.

However, this is an observance which can go on any day of the year.   If you are near Los Angeles this weekend, there are two great opportunities to celebrate black creative professionals.

The Leimert Park Book Fair has more than 150 authors, music and art in the Leimert Park Village on Saturday, June 6.  The web site is

The Hollywood Black Film Festival begins today for a run through Sunday, June 7 with more than 100 films, industry workshops and a gala celebration.  The web site is

This week is also the end of the school year for many youth.

As parents scramble to find positive activities for their children over the summer, the online community has suggestions for African-centered summer vacation activities, many at historically-black colleges and universities which can give young people an academic and career boost.

As many of our non-profit cultural institutions face budget cuts in this economy, summer programs are a cherished way for them to generate cash flow and keep artists and youth workers employed.

As you can see, the reciprocity virus can spread quite rapidly.   It will not be a moment too soon.

As cheered as folks have been to have a black president,  the Obama administration just put thousands of black autoworkers in the Midwest out of work.   Detroit, in particular, did not need this additional body blow of GM and Chrysler going into bankruptcy.

The 15 percent African-American unemployment is likely to go up this summer.   One of the premises of National Black Business Month, which we describe in Walls Come Tumbling Down: the State of Black Business, sixth edition, is that small gains in employment among the 1.2 million African-American businesses have a wider impact than attempting to regain jobs at failing big companies.

For most of those million black entrepreneurs, the incremental sales of just having more traffic from additional customers is a significant financial boost.  After 21 years in business, I still get excited every time eAccess Corp. gets a new customer.

Most importantly, it is something we can do for ourselves, without legislation or a lot of fuss.

A great example of reciprocity passed this weekend.   Dr. Henry Lucas had only been out of dental school for three years when he joined Everett Brandon and Louis Barnett to form PACT (Plan of Action for Challenging Times) in 1963 to help black students prepare for college.  Today PACT helps 3,000 students per year.   Lucas’ career didn’t suffer either.  He was named one of the top 10 dentists in the country in 2004.

Because of PACT, Rick Moss went to college, became a noted historian and founding curator of the African-American Library and Museum in Oakland.

So it really doesn’t feel as if Dr. Lucas has died.   His reciprocity virus will continue spreading through the thousands of young people he’s touched.

If you want to become eternal, start spreading that virus.


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