Spirit of Leidesdorff still aims high

Several stories about the site where a Virgin Islands-born seafarer decided to turn a sleepy mission into a major international port, Sam Tadesse and Behailu Mekbib have assembled a parking juggernaut which controls 20,000 spaces in the Bay Area, Pacific Park Management.

That same spirit which led William Alexander Leidesdorff to put a shipping warehouse at a site which was to become the center of San Francisco’s Financial District also cause Henry Collins a decade later to create the first African-American bank in 1857.

The 400 block of California Street could be described as a sacred spot for black business nationally.  In fact, the founder of California’s first black church, Barney Fletcher, worked at that very same location.

As we observe National Black Business Month in August 2009, we not only recognize the superlative entrepreneurs of today such as Tadesse and Mekbib, but also honor the timeline of African-Americans who saw the visions of their dreams instead of the obstacles before them.

Like Leidesdorff and Collins, the magnitude of the historic accomplishments is heightened by the awareness of the circumstances that similar pioneers like Jean Baptiste duSable in what is now Chicago or Pio Pico in Los Angeles operated under.

More than 1.2 million African-Americans today are living out the same quest for self-fulfillment through their own enterprises.  As we’re demonstrated through the State of Black Business series, the barriers are no less daunting today.

Wednesday, Aug. 26, we’re holding a Founders Reception for National Black Business Month where the leaders of Pacific Park will join other San Francisco superlative entrepreneurs.

In our digital souvenir booklet, we are also listing a timeline of historic accomplishments for black businesses in the city.

Although we cite the likes of FarmerBrown restaurant today, the tradition of black-owned restaurants in the city goes back to the dance halls on Pacific Street in 1850 described as “the most democratic in the city.”  That’s a story which can be seen in the exhibition JazzGenesis: San Francisco and the Birth of Jazz in the Visitor Information Center of the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau.

One should not be surprised at the success of a Progress Investment Management Co., which specializes in spotting the most forward thinking investment advisors.  It is a spirit that has been at the heart of the development of black business in America since its earliest day.

That’s why we encourage everyone to seek out at least one African-American owned business during each of the 31 days of August.  More often than not, you will draw new inspiration and admiration as you learn about the accomplishments and attributes of these firms.

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