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The real legacy of Dr. King

As I explore issues facing African-Americans in our country, I sporadically listen to some of the conservative radio talk shows to hear their views. On one of the stations, I noticed that whenever African-Americans call-in and raise questions or offer comments about the racial inequalities that still exist in our country, the host consistently asked the callers: “Do you like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.?” and “Do you agree with him that we should be ‘judged by the content of character and not by the color of skin?’” The talk show host would then go on to tell the caller and the rest of his audience that this is the legacy of Dr. King.

This limited view of Dr. King’s legacy is seriously distorted and, dare I say, comes very close to mocking Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, from which the content-of-our-character quote is taken.

By far, Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered on August 28, 1963, was one of the most moving and inspiring in history. And even today it offers deep insight to the heart, spirit, and intellect of one of the greatest servant-leaders (if not the greatest) this country has ever produced. While, I could point to the many statements and positions from the speech that would discredit the conservative radio talk-show host’s belief that the content-of-our-character component is the primary focus of Dr. King’s legacy, instead I’d like to point to Dr. King’s “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech as the basis for my position that it is not.

In the “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, delivered on April 3, 1968 in a Masonic Temple in Memphis, Dr. King focused emphatically on economic issues. Five long years had passed from the day the iconic “I Have a Dream” speech was given on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. And most would agree that Dr. King grew into a more enlightened leader during that five year period and was even more aware of how African-Americans needed to establish a stronger economic base—despite the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The idea that Dr. King’s legacy is that blacks develop a stronger economic base is cited by many discerning Americans as the true legacy of Dr. King. Consider the statements he made in “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop”, delivered on the eve of his assassination:

  • “…It’s all right to talk about ‘long white robes over yonder,’ in all of its symbolism. But ultimately people want some suits, and dresses, and shoes to wear down here. God has commanded us to be concerned about the slums down here, and his children who can’t eat three square meals a day…”
  • “…Now the other thing we’ll have to do is this: Always anchor our external direct action with the power of economic withdrawal. Now, we are poor people, individually, we are poor when you compare us with white society in America. We are poor. Never stop and forget that collectively, that means all of us together, collectively we are richer than all the nations in the world, with the exception of nine. Did you ever think about that? …the Negro collectively is richer than most nations of the world. We have an annual income of more than thirty billion dollars a year…Did you know that? That’s power right there, if we know how to pool it…”
    • “…But not only that, we’ve got to strengthen black institutions. I call upon you to take your money out of the banks downtown and deposit your money in …”
    • “…(through boycotts) we must kind of redistribute the pain.”

 

  • “…Now these are some practical things we can do. We begin the process of building a greater economic base. And at the same time, we are putting pressure where it really hurts. I ask you to follow through here….”

Not once did I hear that conservative radio host address the issues raised by African-American callers concerning the pervasive and gross inequalities between blacks and whites in this country. Typically, their questions and comments were surrounding such topics as:

  • The unemployment rate for African Americans remains twice that of whites (the same since 1975).
  • The median net worth—total assets minus total debt—for blacks is almost 70 times less than for whites ($1,700 vs. $116,800).

 

  • African Americans representing 50 percent of the U.S. prison population, but only 13 percent of the national population.

 

  • An almost non-existent representation of African-Americans in media ownership.

 

  • And African Americans accounting for only 0.4 of 1 percent of America’s total business revenues. (Note: when you consider African Americans account for 13% of the U.S. population, African-American businesses should be producing $13 out of every $100 of this country’s business revenues. Sadly, black business doesn’t even account for .50 out of every $100 of this country’s business revenues.)

 

The content-of-our-character rhetoric exposed by the conservative radio host didn’t address any of these issues. Rather, his inappropriate and one-size-fits-all use of the quote always appeared to me as a veiled attempt at hypnotizing and shaming his black callers by pointing to it as the center of Dr. King’s legacy to shut them up about the real issues they wanted to discuss. However, from this list and from the quotes taken from “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop”, we can clearly see that the real legacy of Dr. King—to ensure that African-Americans developed a stronger economic base in this country—is still very relevant.

FAMDO wholeheartedly embraces the true legacy of Dr. King and strives to empower African-American communities through the influence of black business owners and other role models, through the use of technology, and through give-back donations from FAMDO’s after-tax profits. To learn more about us and to support this grass-roots empowerment movement, log on to www.famdo.com.

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Open letter to Stephen A. Smith (of ESPN) regarding Colin Kaepernick

Dear Stephen A:

Being a sports fan, I enjoy watching your debates on ESPN’s “First Take” when I can. I also respect you for your adroit coverage of the National Basketball Association (NBA) for more than 20 years, and your rise in the media world to arguably become the face of a multi-billion-dollar division of the corporate conglomerate, Walt Disney. However, your position on Colin Kaepernick, the ex-quarterback of the National Football League’s San Francisco 49ers, is flat-out wrong. And let me tell you why.

According to your view on Colin’s protests of unarmed black men being shot by the police, you believe the number one thing that would bring change to this dilemma is to vote in elections. You emphatically stated this after hearing that Colin did not vote in the last presidential election. There are a number of reasons why voting is not the first thing African Americans should do to bring revolutionary change to this problem.

The first thing to bring solution to the issue is African Americans must disapprove and stop the mainstream medias’ defining African Americans with the worst-of-black life in its content. Whether it’s diabolical rap music getting play on a radio station or inhuman behavior displayed by African-American characters on TV, mainstream media oppresses African Americans with its material. This grievous content, that’s controlled by others outside of our community, gives people reason to view African Americans as worthless and valueless. As long as this negative media continues to inundate the country’s airwaves, unarmed black men will be viewed as a “threat,” valueless, and a target in which police officers can shoot first and ask questions later. Further, we should acknowledge here what Malcolm X said regarding those who control media: “Media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the ability to make the innocent guilty and make the guilty innocent, and that’s power…because they control the minds of the masses.”

Secondly, since you often quote Pastor A. R. Bernard of the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, NY, I’d think you’d be open to me quoting a scripture regarding ‘seasons.’ Ecclesiastes 3:1 states:

3 To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

As you know Stephen A, an athletic example of seasons changing within the NBA is how decades ago basketball teams won championships because they valued big men such as Bill Russel, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Shaquille O’neal. These big men dominated games with their close-to-the-basket shots and presence ‘in the paint’ on defense. Currently, it is the season for teams with players that can shoot the long-distant three-point shot that gives NBA teams a greater chance of winning the championship.

We must recognize the season of voting to empower African Americans has ended and it was short-lived during the 1960’s. Yes, African Americans made strides with the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1963 and the Voting Rights Act of 1964. The current season of politics has changed and it’s the season for those who utilize their enormous sums of wealth to get legislation passed. Legislation gets passed by politicians who accept money from lobbyists and the wealthy. The idea of ‘voting first’ to bring change to the issue of unarmed African-American men being shot by the police is too costly for us as a community. We just don’t have the money or the governmental power to get laws (that would reduce these shootings) passed.

The third thing we should do is offer overwhelming financial support towards a do-for-self economic plan. The success of this plan would change the view of how others, including police officers, view African Americans. The combination of positive media and a noble do-for-self economic plan would re-brand our image so that the lives are our young men, and all others from our community, are perceived as valuable. This marketplace solution would also watchdog and correct the media outlets that depict African Americans in a negative light. And no government agency will ever be able to do that.

Finally, Stephen A, I will give you props for your position of how you will “do what you can but eventually handover the issue of our communities’ oppression to those that are fighting for equality in the black community.” As I follow through with a marketplace solution, I ask that you stay the course with your commitment of getting with those that are doing something about the unjustified police shootings against black males.

 

Peace,

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What Ever Happened to FUBU?

 

For Us, By Us…what a concept!

Daymond John, the genius behind the clothing line FUBU, started the company after realizing that others were neglecting the untapped urban market.

FUBU’s entry into the clothing marketstarted when Daymond began to manufacture “tie-top” hats which he sold on the streets of his hometown of Hollis, Queens. With the sewing skills his mom had taught him, Daymond simply sewed a string from the top of wool hats creating a “tie-top” effect. Eventually, Daymond added rapper, LL Cool J, and a close-knit circle of friends to take his company to great success.

At its peak in 1998, FUBU had sales of $350 million. With this skyrocketing success, you’d think FUBU clothing would still be a staple in many national retailers. The sad news is that I can’t recall the last time I saw a FUBU shirt or pair of jeans in a store. And with African Americans spending over $25 billion each year on clothing and with the majority of the urban market still going untapped, an important question to ask ourselves is: What ever happened to FUBU?

I believe one or more of the following occurred:

  • Daymond John had the opportunity to either sell FUBU or enter into a marketing/distribution agreement with one of its investors, Samsung Electronics. By leveraging either of these options, Daymond was positioned to walk away with a great sum of money. He chose the latter option and I’ve read that his net worth is now between $100 million and $250 million. Clearly he’s in a great position to leave a lasting financial legacy for generations to come. I’m not mad at Daymond and his business dealings with Samsung as many wealthy business people have sold their businesses or given up some level of ownership for the sake of earning large sums of money.

 

  • Daymond wanted to get into writing books, public speaking, investing in start-up companies and TV—which is what he’s currently doing. Daymond has had a steady presence on the acclaimed business-entertainment show “Shark Tank”, which has been airing on network TV for years now.
  • And, thirdly, here’s an option African Americans, as oppressed people, should seriously be thinking about:

There’s a chance that the unseen powerful people are enjoying lucrative successes at the expense of our communities. Perhaps Daymond was approached by such people—those with an agenda to keep our communities indefinitely dependent—with a plan to make him rich and keep us poor? After all, somebody is getting rich from the more than $25 billion blacks spend on clothing!

With their strategic planning machines always on the lookout for ways to gain a competitive edge, these powerful people can quickly discern when financial success is within the grasp of an oppressed people’s economic freedom. And FUBU’s ongoing success would have definitely provided a solid platform for developing an economic plan for the more than $1 trillion that blacks spend annually.

 

Just think about the name itself, “For Us, By Us”. Building on that branding alone would have continued to inspire black consumers to buy all kinds of products and services from a company we could take pride and cultural ownership in. If FUBU decided to give a portion of its profits back to our communities, African Americans would have rejoiced at the opportunity to support such a company. I truly believe that! But instead, FUBU abandoned its mission of catering to the African-American market and the economic empowerment of blacks was yet again waylaid.

African Americans have long been in dire need of a do-for-self economic plan to equip our communities for success. But instead of FUBU building on its great success and beginning this process, others, including FAMDO, are committed to answering this calling. We seek to return as much of the more than $1 trillion—which blacks spend each year—as possible for the empowerment of our communities.

Fam, this may not be a rah-rah message, but it is real talk. What are your thoughts?