When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, everyone was busy but not everyone was overtly speaking about business and business ownership. In fact, black people own a vast majority of new businesses in the United States of America, however, when the pandemic hit in 2020, it shined a light on just how fragile many of those wonderful Black-owned businesses were.
If the communities Black-owned businesses serve are having a hard time, then the Black owned-businesses in turn, will have a hard time remaining open. This is why Black-owned businesses at any particular point of success must always attempt to build the community and support one another at all times, as well as know their Black-owned history.
The importance of Black-owned businesses and what good they supply to society isn’t a new philosophy. In fact, in the 1800s, this was how Black people survived and thrived, from the poor to the wealthy. They leaned on each other through business ownership.
To learn the lesson of how important business ownership is for Black people, one can read the text spoken by John Stewart Rock, a Black serial professional entrepreneur and speaker who lived in the 1800s. In a speech celebrating Crispus Attucks, here are portions of what he said about business that resonates today.
“Whenever the colored man is elevated, it will be by his own exertions. Our friends can do what many of them are nobly doing, assist us to remove the obstacles which prevent our elevation, and stimulate the worthy to persevere. The colored man who, by dint of perseverance and industry, educates and elevates himself, prepares the way for others, gives character to the race and hastens the day of general emancipation. While the negro who hands around the corners of the streets, or lives in the grog-shops or by gambling, or who has no higher ambition than to serve, is by his vocation forging fetters for the slave, and is ‘to all intents and purposes’ a curse to his race.”
“How very few colored men are encouraged in their trades or business! Our young men see this, and become disheartened. In this country, where money is the great sympathetic nerve which ramifies society, and has a ganglia in every man’s pocket, a man is respected in proportion to his success in business.”
“We do not expect to occupy a much better position than we now do, until we shall have our educated and wealthy men, who can wield a power that cannot be misunderstood. Then, and not till then, will the tongue of slander be silenced, and the lip of prejudice sealed. Then, and not till then, will we be able to enjoy true equality, which can exist only among peers.”
Wrapped up in one sentence, what John Stewart Rock stated is that Black business ownership and wealth in a capitalist society is necessary to change the negative narrative that was falsely created and shape a secure, positive future for Black people produced by Black people.