On the fourth day of National Black Business Month, our suggested businesses are civil rights organizations. One might not think of them as businesses, but there more than 2,000 locations of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the National Urban League alone. Their business is nothing short of our freedom.
Just mere weeks ago, some openly wondered whether there was a continuing need for civil rights organizations. The speech by the first African-American president to the 100th anniversary of the NAACP was thought by some to be a denoument.
Why would African-Americans be so foolish?
The pennies and dimes that “colored” folks cobbled together for the past century paid for Thurgood Marshall, Walter White, Roy Wilkins, Whitney Young, the Crisis, Opportunity magazine, A. Philip Randolph, the Congress of Racial Equality, SCLC, SNCC, Operation PUSH, and Transafrica. When this industry segment began, African-Americans were openly segregated and economically deprived; and most of Africa was colonized.
When the Civil Rights Act made it through Congress in 1964, there were fewer than 40,000 African-American managers and professionals in the country. Now there are 3 million. Black income has risen from $30 billion in 1968 to $775 billion. That’s a great return on investment.
At a time when it is commonplace for black intellectuals and executives to fly globally and meet with international decisionmakers, it was telling that on the very day that was supposed to begin the post-racial era–the evening of President Obama’s speech to the NAACP– that Harvard professor Dr. Henry Louis Gates would understand in a personal way the continuing need for civil rights organizations.
Many have lost sight that their personal success was not completely due to their own initiative and talent. Doors had to be opened which still can be shut in an instant.
The environment for black business growth is immeasurably helped by the foundation laid by civil rights organizations. As the Washington bureau chief of the NAACP, Hillary Shelton, recently noted, it is an organization which has a presence at every level–national, state and local. The issues which we lay out in Walls Come Tumbling Down: State of Black Business, sixth edition are still yet to be addressed in most cities, state and definitely at the national level.
If you don’t understand why there is a continuing need for dedicated stalwarts like Shelton and new NAACP president Ben Jealous and vice president of advocacy Monique Morris and the Urban League’s Marc Morial, then just consider where would we be without them? I think you’ll rush to send in your membership.