When one comes to the Energy Yoga class of Jan Hutchins in his Yoga Center Los Gatos at 9 Montebello Way, there might not be an expectation of receiving a deep philosophical massage. But embedded in the gentle soothing commands of his instructions was a lot of deep meaning. The theme of the entire class was compassion.
“There are three things that are most important: compassion — because then you can heal yourself and others around you; patience-because then you are able to see the world around you as it is; and simplicity-because then you can see yourself as you really are,” he cooed.
One has to take him seriously. More than 20 years ago, Jan was the anchor of one of the television evening news programs in the Bay Area, but the Yale graduate walked away from the daily grind to launch his yoga center. He hasn’t looked back since, as the attached article in Active Over 50, describes.
As we observe National Black Business Month during the 31 days of August, I reflect that I’ve never met a black entrepreneur who wasn’t a philosopher. In fact, that philosophy, whether an approach to trimming hair, smoking ribs or providing health care, is almost always the driving force behind why they’re in business.
The most successful black businessman of all time, David Steward, one of our 50 Most Important African-Americans in Technology whose World Wide Technology outside St. Louis regularly tops $1 billion in sales and usually sits atop Black Enterprises Top 100 list, wrote a book in 2004 not just about succeeding, but about an ethical approach to success–Doing Business By the Good Book, drawn more from his Sunday School lessons than his business plans.
Munching whole wheat bread this morning from John Akins’ Cafe Golo at Gough and Lombard in San Francisco, I have to think about all the Wednesdays we spend in the U.N. Plaza Farmers Market seeking to discern the meaning of life. Man does not live by bread alone, but his loaves are a good place to start.
When you think about it, most of the 1.2 million African-Americans in business are clearly not doing it for the money. Less than ten percent have employees and the average income of a black business is less than the median black income of $31,000. In most cases, they would be better off taking a job as a janitor than making a commitment to spend 24 hours in some case a day pursuing their dream. But those are the kind of people who are often known as the “mayors” of their neighborhoods, precisely because of the values they articulate and demonstrate. Jan Hutchins actually was elected mayor of Los Gatos, no mean achievement in a mostly white village.
Popped in on Karen Johnson at Marcus Books, 1712 Fillmore St. in San Francisco, the oldest black-owned book store in the United States. Her parents, Julian Richardson and Dr. Raye Richardson, began a printing business and 50 years ago, began selling books about black people. As a youngster, Karen remembers being quizzical about whether there was a viable business selling books about blacks, since she hadn’t seen many.
There is not a more healing and affirming business on the planet to walk into. The scents of incense wafted through the door as I came in as she played one of her endless supply of Motown songs.
Today, the third day of August, we suggest buying a book from authors like David Steward or from bookstores like Marcus Books Store. Dr. Robert Spooney, executive director of the Orlando, FL Black Chamber of Commerce, has calculated that if most black households take our 31 ways, 31 days mantra seriously and spend $50 a day with at least one black business each day this month, it would mean $19 billion in revenues, a drop in the bucket from the $775 billion blacks receive yearly in the United States.
The ambiance and products are worthwhile, but there’s nothing like the transmission of culture that comes from the discussions and dialogue which can be found in any black-owned establishment or service provider.
Another spiritual hub is found in Washington, D.C., Sankofa Bookstore and Cafe on Georgia Ave. just across the street from my alma mater, Howard University. Haile Gerima demonstrated what it means to have black-controlled media in the early 1990s by producing what I still consider the greatest black film of all time, Sankofa. He financed it by himself, presented it in colleges, churches and homes around the country and grossed more than $4 million. The brand has been extended with the bookstore, which is now a home for new authors and filmmakers. In recent weeks, Sankofa has featured a series on gentrification, a pressing topic in most cities for African-Americans.
When you support black book stores like Marcus or Sankofa or Esowan in Los Angeles, you keep those homes for black culture, philosophy and spirit vital and thriving. They are just as important to our health as a community as blood vessels are to one’s body.
When you shop, you might find you’re also gaining a peace of mind which can’t be sold.