Designing Greatness

The times they are a-changin’.

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Last week the question was asked, “How can we shift economically depressed areas such as Baltimore and create strong economies, such as “Black Wall Street”.  I chimed in but  not for long since launching such  a project (NYuKCo) actually takes up quite a bot of my  time.  Many seemed to think that it was the “Politicians” duty to create employment.  The fact is employment opportunities are created when businesses need to hire staff to help meet demand.  No demand no jobs. Not  spending in businesses that hire locally means no jobs.

If you choose to be part of black social communities (yes many blacks actually avoid them), you cannot help but see two threads.

There are two threads that continually cross my social media stream. A “conscious” movement that reminds of our “historical Greatness of Blacks” and those who see the way forward through the financial success of black businesses mostly via “funding and marketing” They may seem at opposite sides on the debate on solutions but I woke up thinking that what is missing from both conversations is “meat”, the essence on a strategy of “How to get from “point A to point B”

The conscious movement is a segment that (I believe) has begun to intellectualized “Greatness”. BLACK wall street was GREAT because each member of that community committed to financial and lifestyle practices that kept the money in their community. On the other hand seeing the tech and silicon alley as an easy ‘Nirvana” negates the path of hard work, strategy and risk that those who built the success took. While they understood the power of individuality, this is a community that leveraged collaborative strategies for personal gain.. yet even then it was about personal choice to participate to change and create change.

I am not sure why but there does not seem to be a connection between daily personal choices and it’s role in “Greatness” or economic growth within one’s community.

Many will say that they cannot relate to Silicon Alley’s white culture… So lets take a closer look at BLACK wall street. Let’s get past they were financially successful and self-sustaining to look at the what and how. At that time America was segregated so what made this community successful and wealthy while others were not!

Missing also in the conversation that every great society has its social strata… Not very one was a king or queen, there were at least servants and sometimes slaves. There were bakers, candle makers, garbage collector, washerwoman, blacksmiths, soldiers, teachers and philosophers, actors and jesters. Yet we seldom see “jester” or “teacher” attached the profiles it’s usually empress, or king…

In negating the importance of all within a successful society we set an environment that is not conducive to our success as a community.

Today being a successful black means living outside a black community… In fact many of today’s successful black do their best to AVOID “living Black” Their aspiration is not to build their communities but to move to more better communities. Not to make their neighborhoods safer but to be gated n wealthier neighborhoods. That was not possible during that time… there was no choice.

But what of the matters of choice, what they wore, where they ate… where they partied. Whenever there is a black business meeting It’s in DUMBO. despite the fact that few actually live or have property there why? I recently called out a local Brooklyn BID they were celebrating April as Black Fashion month yet not one person in the image  of the press conference was wearing clothing from a Black fashion company… and there lies the huge difference

From what I understand

  • The shoes on their feet – made by someone in the community – check your feet
  • The Pants shirt dress – made by someone in the community , someone they knew – Check your closet
  • The supplies for those clothing came from someone in the community. check your labels
  • The houses they lived in was built and owned by someone in the community – Who is your Plumber, roofer, Landlord,
  • The bank they used – Black owned. Where do you bank?
  • Professional services in the community. Who is your lawyer, doctor, dentist and trust me I’m sure there were fewer than there are now.
  • Transport system,  Black owned run and operated.
  • The bread they ate –
  • The fruits and vegetables –
  • The Milk and meat. Why not check  the label in your fridge

and if you checked those businesses that supplied their pantries, the workers were from the community. Their suppliers were from the community. They understood the economic power of circulating and saving which was different from “HOARDING FOR SELF”

They did not buy cheap at the cost of others, while saving to vacation in luxury resorts … in fact the vacation destinations they had access to would have been black owned.

The also respected the artisans and crafters and entertainer and supported them through  economic purchases.

NO society that is economically successful is built on personal greed… those systems self destruct or are destroyed by rebellion or revolution …

I am sure their streets were clean and beautiful because they took pride in them… they did not wait for “politicians” to clean them up… they wanted where they lived to show their greatness.

There is no reason our community parks homes (even the “projects”) or schools need to look disheveled… especially if people have free time.

The mindset of GREATNESS would not allow it – they would probably organize block parties to clean and use their skill to raise the money for the supplies.

Societies built on respect are only destroyed from the outside.

Whether its Baltimore, Brooklyn Pretoria… whether black or white you build from the inside.

Think about it is, their greatness was a the sum of daily personal choices…

The lesson for me from the story of Black Wall Street is that we can make the choice daily as people to live in a society of wealth. I know from running projects to build businesses in the community that what often stops someone from doing something is their disbelief that it is possible. Their unwillingness to be uncomfortable for a short period to achieve a long-term goal.


The question is what shifts are you ready to make for the cause.



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