I have no intention of making this argument into a scholarly or a deeply sociological one; the truth is this space is too limited, and I absolutely need your attention and interest to make a commonsense argument in support of Black women, the most disenfranchised community in the modern history of mankind. Please note I said “modern history” – that is an intentional reference to the sanitized version of history we have had to consume at the hands of our oppressors, (and even in this distorted version), the overt oppression of Black women is legendary! One uncomfortable detail must never be overlooked in our attempt to correct the shameful and repugnant history of our systematic oppression of Black women, and that is – the role of Black men in this perpetual cycle of injustice and degradation. Ever since I became aware of my own story, and that of my family, a psychic awareness was awakened, which exposed the numbing trauma – a deep awareness of the pain and agony of my ancestors, I have identified with their suffering, and dehumanization at the hands of their oppressors.
Looking into my mother’s eyes, and at the set of her strong and unyielding visage, I saw something that remains with me until now – those eyes and that face said, “I am unbeatable, defiant and unflinching.” She was my father’s wife, partner, advisor, and muse until his death, after almost 60 years of marriage; my mother’s 93 years of life was lived on her terms, she built a marriage, a family, and a business in an era synonymous with the life and teaching of Marcus Garvey. My mother believed that self-education, reading, writing and the pursuit of business ownership was an indispensable tool in the development and self-determination of Black people, and in her case Black women. She taught me the strength of a woman, and the power they exert in building a family and community. She lacked a college education, yet amassed wealth and respect equal to that of my father, and more than most men and women of her time. My mother’s store was the community center for social and political activity, the epicenter for the resolution of grievances, and family conflict, and the oasis for food and refreshment. At no time did she fail to echo Garvey’s message of Blacks supporting Blacks, and the woman’s role of creating and preserving families and communities. Whenever my mother was questioned by other women as to whether she really owned her grocery and bakery business, she knew exactly what they meant; their real question was, “how are you a Black woman able to own your own business?” Instead of taking umbrage she would simply say, “make some time to come and spend an hour or two with me, and I will teach you how to make a better life for yourself.” Few ever accepted that offer!
Why did I tell you that personal story? Simply because despite my father’s experience and wisdom, it was really my mother who taught me the people skills and the art and science of business – today we call that entrepreneurship. My mother had learned, and sincerely believed that ownership liberates and empowers the owner, as well as the community; ownership allows access to privileges and opportunities socially and economically, this by extension allowed our family a better life. If you conclude that I am saying women can close the injustice gap by becoming owners – you are absolutely right! Once women decide that they are owners of their minds, bodies and businesses, the gaping disparities, inequities, and atrocities will submit to that demonstration of ownership. For the many that have made the choice to live in submission to the status quo, this may seem to be a radical solution, but stop and think for a moment – wealthy White folks have always relied on Black women to care for their children, family, and homes. Black women and men have survived the most dehumanizing atrocities for longer than it seems humanly possible, so, what’s so hard about changing our mindset for the sake of freedom and liberty? Ladies, here’s something to consider, you, like most of us have been brainwashed to think that ownership of a home should be your first economic priority. Why doesn’t the system emphasize that you should own a business instead, after all the entire United States economy is built on and are dependent on small business ownership for its financial stability. Could it be that they fear an explosive growth of Black Wall Streets – Black entrepreneurship – Black ownership – Black power, economic equality?
There is no question in my mind that business ownership is the giant leap, the next frontier for Black women in their quest for equality, equity, and social justice. It means debunking some stereotypes about capability, experience, reliability, and discipline which ironically are all feminine strengths. The strengths of Black women need to be reinforced by the willingness, and determination of the Black man to be their partners in their mutual quest for justice, equality, and social equity.
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