By Hazel Trice Edney
Rev. Jonathan Weaver
National Bankers Association President Michael Grant, U.S. Black Chambers Inc. President Ron Busby, and A.M.E. board member Rev. Jonathan Weaver
discuss a new plan for economic development through the Black Church.
When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, he and other protestors had won passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Therefore, his agenda had turned toward the next major issue – economic empowerment for Black people.
Therefore, on April 3, 1968, planning a march on behalf of oppressed sanitation workers, Dr. King told preachers at the Mason Temple in Memphis, Tenn., “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!
“It’s all right to talk about streets flowing with milk and honey, but God has commanded us to be concerned about the slums down here, and his children who can’t eat three square meals a day.
“It’s all right to talk about the new Jerusalem, but one day, God’s preacher must talk about the new New York, the new Atlanta, the new Philadelphia, the new Los Angeles, the new Memphis, Tennessee. This is what we have to do.”
The next day, Dr. King was assassinated.
Nearly 47 years later, as America last month celebrated the King birthday holiday and is now celebrating Black History Month, a group of church leaders appears to be carrying out this Black economic empowerment goal in earnest. Invited to speak to a recent gathering of pastors and leaders of the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church, National Bankers Association President Michael Grant cited the words of human rights champion Paul Robeson:
‘”We realize that our future lies chiefly in our own hands,'” Grant quoted. “‘We know that neither institution nor friends can make a race stand unless it has strength in its own foundation; that races like individuals must stand or fall by their own merit; that to fully succeed they must practice the virtues of self-reliance, self-respect, industry, perseverance, and economy.'”
Grant continued in his own words: “We played a major role in growing America from a small colonial outpost to the greatest industrial giant the world has ever known. We don’t have to argue about our ability to grow wealth. We have made everyone else rich, some filthy rich. Isn’t it time that we finally make our efforts productive for ourselves?”
Grant was keynote speaker during a special session on “Economic Development through the Black Church” during the A.M.E. Church’s 2nd District Mid-year Opening Plenary Session in Raleigh, N.C. late last year. His speech preceded a panel discussion that also included Marie Johns, former deputy administrator at the Small Business Administration; Ron Busby, president/CEO of the U. S. Black Chambers Inc. and Rev. Jonathan Weaver, senior pastor of Greater Mt. Nebo A.M.E. Church in Bowie, Md., and board member of the A.M.E. organization that deals with economic growth and development projects.
Following the forum, Weaver says A.M.E. pastors, led by Bishop William P. DeVeaux, are now poised to carry out a specific plan that they hope will spread to other denominations and ultimately catch fire in other denominations and the Black community throughout 2015.
“Clearly where we are at this point is to actualize and implement what we discussed in Raleigh,” said Weaver in an interview. “The whole thrust was how Black churches can help to empower Black businesses.”
The starting plan, in a nutshell, is for churches located in the A.M.E. Second District – North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and D.C. – to commit to the support of two Black-owned businesses. They are Thomas Morehead, president of a BMW dealership in Sterling, Va. and Donnell Thompson, co-founder/co-owner of RWDT Foods, Inc., a chain of restautrants based in N. Snellville, Ga.
AME church members buying from those two businesses will cause the churches to benefit from those sales; then identify other businesses in and around the states and “replicate this process”, Weaver described. After tracking the sales, initiated by the churches, the hope is that other church districts will get involved and that the movement will spread to other businesses and other churches.
“And we certainly hope and pray that this will become a much larger Black faith effort and we will reach out to the Baptist community, the Church of God and Christ and the list goes on,” Weaver said. “If we’re able to affect a significant change in terms of relationship with Black businesses, can you imagine if we’re able to boost their profit margin and therefore they are going to have to hire more people and therefore they will be reaching back to the faith community. More people will have jobs, they will have better jobs; therefore there will be less frustration, economically, in our community.”
So far, the congregations have been receptive to the idea, Weaver said. “Quite frankly, I’ve not met any resistance thus far.”
In his speech, Grant reminded the audience that a legacy of Black economic develop was at the core of the founding of the A.M.E. Church.
“I agree with that great A.M.E. historiographer, Dr. Dennis C. Dickerson, who said that the history of the African Methodist Episcopal Church – founded – by Bishop Richard Allen – reflects the black liberationist narrative of African – American history,” Grant said. “Nearly eight decades before the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, Allen, a free man, was already promoting Black economic development. So it is fitting that we come to his church today with an urgent message: The time for Americans of African descent to take our place at the round table of economic opportunity is now. With each passing day, the price of not having a well – thought out economic agenda for Black America continues to extract a toll and degrade our position in this country and throughout the diaspora.”
Grant, who last year received the U. S. Department of Commerce’s Lifetime Achievement Award for his Black business advocacy, ticked off statistics that undergird the need for an economic movement to support Black-owned businesses and Black-owned banks:
There are currently 1.9 million Black-owned businesses in America, but only about one in 20 have more than one employee and less than 2 percent have annual gross receipts of more than $1,000,000.
In terms of relative wealth, White America is 20 times richer than Black America, according to a recent Pew Report.
In the 1960’s, we had 60 Black-owned banks. Today, that number has dwindled to only 30. What is insane about this tragic loss is this: The bank is the only institution in our community that can leverage or multiply dollars 7, 8, 9 or 10 times. That means for every $1,000,000 dollars of invested capital in these banks, they are able to loan out 7, 8, 9 or $10 million for economic development, business growth and job creation.
Grant said African-Americans lost significant ground in business ownership after integration, largely because African-Americans were no longer forced to support each other.
“As long as we were forced to trade with each other and barter with each other, our businesses (small as they were) thrived. But in our minds, we were never quite good enough. We had internalized the lie about our lack of inherent worth,” he said. “When the doors of integration gave us the long – awaited pass to wine and dine with our former oppressors, we enthusiastically abandoned our own in search of an elusive White acceptance. We believed then – and many of us still do – that association would bring on assimilation.”
Dr. King concluded on April 3, 1968, the eve of his assassination: “We’ve got to stay together and maintain unity. You know, whenever Pharaoh wanted to prolong the period of slavery in Egypt, he had a favorite, favorite formula for doing it. What was that? He kept the slaves fighting among themselves. But whenever the slaves get together, something happens in Pharaoh’s court, and he cannot hold the slaves in slavery. When the slaves get together, that’s the beginning of getting out of slavery. Now let us maintain unity.”
In one of a series of political forums to help inform voters about candidates running for office, the Chicago Westside Branch NAACP held the 24th Ward Aldermanic forum at Carey Tercentenary A.M.E. Church located at 1448 S Homan Ave. The forum was held on Tuesday, January 20.
After the introduction of the two-member panel of Phyllis Logan, 1st Vice-president for the chicago Westside branch NAACP and Isaac Lewis, Jr., Publisher of the North Lawndale Community News, the five candidates were given a chance to make opening statements. The panel began asking prepared questions then all candidates were given the same amount of time to answer from one minute to a minute and thirty seconds.
……. In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
In response to a feeling of being snubbed and the failure to be equally acknowledged or even mentioned in some cases by major media and the Mayor’s office in recent news coverage, the University of Illinois/North Lawndale Obama Presidential Lawndale site supporters held a press conference. It was held outside at the Southeast Corner of the proposed site bounding Roosevelt Rd on the South, Kildare on the East, 5th Avenue on the North and Kostner Avenue on the West. The land for the site is owned by the City of Chicago and does not have the challenge that the University of Chicago site has with gaining Chicago Park district and park advocates approval for acquisition of public-park owned property.
The idea for the press conference came from Dwayne Truss, a supporter who lives in the Austin Community during a recent hearing on the proposed transfer of park land so that the city may convey land in the event the University of Chicago is the successful bidder for the Obama Presidential Library. “We pulled this together within 24 hours, and I believe it was successful,” stated Valerie Leonard, a UIC/North Lawndale Site advocate.
Paul Norrington, the originator of the idea and catalyst for the passion that the North Lawndale site should be a choice for the Obama Presidential Library, shared his thoughts concerning the vision for the Obama Presidential Library site in North Lawndale. “But here, on this vacant lot, surrounded by light industry and the people who struggle to make ends meet, Barack’s Library would also be 5 minutes from the Hispanic community of Little Village, along with their concerns and the multi-ethnic suburbs with theirs. Here, in North Lawndale, the city and suburbs would benefit. Here, Black and Hispanic communities would benefit. Here, Barack can continue benefiting the wide demographics of America that he has always fought to benefit; not just one city or one group of people.
North Lawndale, as a community, developed its own bid before seeking and forming a partnership with the University of Illinois. We are the only community-based bid remaining on the field. We have tapped into that power that lies dormant in many communities across this city and country. We offer a working example of The Power of Community,” stated Norrington. The committee also secured a financial pledge of $5 million dollars from the Steans Family Foundation (SFF), if the North Lawndale site is selected. SFF is a private family foundation that has been offering support and targeting its grantmaking efforts in the North Lawndale Community, since 1986.
Leonard reminded the audience that Mayor Rahm Emanuel promised to support both bids. Darren Tillis, one of the founding members of the North Lawndale Obama Presidential Library Committee stated, “right now the North Lawndale Community’s 23 acre site is shovel ready, while the city seems divided around where the Library should go, we should make sure we secure the site here in Chicago.” The Obama’s have to select from two semi-finalists.
Marcus Betts, provided updates and insights into the project from his experience being the spokesperson for the North Lawndale Presidential Library Committee. Mr. William Kyle shared his perspectives being a longtime resident. Cook County Commissioner Robert Steele, and 28th Ward Alderman Jason C Ervin showed support as elected officials; clarifying public processes for transfer of public land; made reports of regional support from elected officials from Western Suburbs and shared economic development plans. This site is further along than the southside site. We just need to push the button and go over here,”said Ald. Ervin. “
One concern that the Obama Foundation had with the UIC/North Lawndale site was that a change of leadership will be taking place at UIC with the The campus and University of Illinois expecting to have a new president, chancellor and board chairman within the next year. The incoming chancellor and president has reached out to the Obama Foundation and communicated his support for this bid,” said Marcus Betts.
Raising supporter approval with cheers was a response by Cook County Commissioner Robert Steele, I’ve reached out to the President of the village of Cicero and gotten a letter of support from him for this Library…the Village of Forest Park and Oak Park are on board with what we are doing here and want to be a part of this project with us.
Also Marcus Betts stated that the development with the community site and the academic site would have a 1.25 billion impact economic our community. Steele also mentioned that we’re not waiting for the site to be designated. We are working on the Roosevelt Rd. Renaisance. That’s a plan for Roosevelt Rd from Kostner to Western Ave to be developed. We are working on that plan with the University and the Urban Lands Institute and other parties. We look to have a lot of community development to begin in the next year.
Dr. Dennis Deer of Deer Rehab services shared his perspectives as a longtime resident and successful business owner. Cherita Logan, the District Director for Congressman Danny K. Davis, reiterated the Congressman’s support for the project. There were nearly 100 people in attendance, and the crowd included youth who were as young as 11 to senior citizens who appeared to be in their 80’s. There were educators, business people, rank and file residents, students, representatives from organizations, etc. represented in the crowd.
There were more men than women. Twenty-fourth Ward aldermanic candidates include Frank Bass, Roger Washington, Michael Scott, Jr. and Darren Tillis. News media included the North Lawndale Community News, Austin Weekly News, DNA Info, WGN-TV and WBBM-TV.
Corey Rae’s CD Release Listening Party held at the Society Art Gallery
By MS. Chevette M. Conley/Writer/ Photographer/Journalist
Jazz artist and saxophonist, Ray Silkman, held a CD release party for his protégé, Corey Rae. The event took place at the Society Art Gallery, located at 2140 W. Fulton. The event was hosted by the famed news anchor Robin Robinson. She was beautiful, energetic and excited about the evening! Robin expressed to the standing room only crowd, how impressed she was and how much she was a fan of Ray Silkman. She also stated how she has followed his career for many years.
Ray and his band began the show while everyone indulged in the outstanding food that was served. Robin Robinson then introduced the star of the evening, Mr. Corey Rae who is being produced by the “Soul Serenader,” Mr. Ray Silkman. The room was filled with many excited guests, fans & friends. The track lighting was beautifully done in red, blue, pink, yellow, and green. There was a large photo of Corey Rae’ hanging behind the stage, where he performed a melody of his new hits. The tables were dressed up in Black table cloth and there was a candle at each table.
The low lighting set the mood as Corey Rae entered the stage like a firecracker! He came out with dancers, background singers dressed in all white, and Ray Silkman’s Band. Ray played along, and it was amazing. Corey sang up beat songs and after singing many songs, Corey left the stage for a wardrobe change.
Corey returned in dramatic fashion singing Luther Vandross’ song,” Do you remember.” He had the audience screaming! The performance was very sensual and soulful, and the band was fantastic. The room was now dark and romantic as he sang wonderfully. He brought the house down with his performance.
The title to his C.D., “As I Am,” was very powerful. Afterwards, champagne was served. The fans swarmed Corey for autographs and photographs. It was a successful evening. Look and listen for Cory Rae. He’s going upwards in the music business.
Roll Call “Ballin” the “Click or Ticket Campaign”
The past few summer months Roll Call has been campaigning to promote safe driving throughout the Westside of Chicago. In partnership with the Illinois Department of Transportation, University of Illinois-School of Public Health (IDOT/UIC-SPH) implemented the Safe Communities of IL (SCIL) project in which several organizations and community leaders were given a grant to host five campaigns promoting the message, “Click It or Ticket It” and “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.” There are three campaign dates that are required during the national holidays, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day and two campaign dates in which the grantees could select a date to get the message out. The target population is African American & Hispanic males from the ages of 18-34 years old, in several high risk communities throughout Chicago.
Roll Call’s first event, “Open Mic Night” kicked off with a bang, in the Lower Westside community at the Major Adams Community Center (MACC), located at 125 N. Hoyne. The North Lawndale Community News (NLCN) had the opportunity to attend the second event, “Ballin for a Cause,” a basketball tournament also located at the MACC also; this event was a great success with well over 150 attendees in and outside the gym. The gym was filled with mostly, African American males from different parts of the community that came to play ball.
Roll Call’s Executive Director, Milton Golden stated, “to create a safe haven for our children,
If you’re going to use drugs, don’t drive. If you don’t do that, you’re saving lives.” The “Click it or Ticket It” campaign for Roll Call, coordinated by Administrative Director Linda Weatherspoon, was noted for her passion for the program. Weatherspoon stated, “to get our target population out between the ages of 18-34, Hispanic and African Americans we hosted a basketball tournament, which had an incentive of $150.00 for the winner. Other incentives were books, donated by former Chicago Bulls player Mickey Johnson, and other prizes given out between games. “This is something positive that black men are doing,” stated Angelique Orr, Managing Consultant for Safe Communities of Illinois.
Alderman Burnett of the 27th Ward gave his support by attending the event. “I think this is a great thing. It also gives younger people a chance to break down the barriers and stereotypes giving them a chance to know each other. I appreciate Roll Call for trying to turn things around making sure brothers and sisters don’t make the same mistakes that they made and that we have safe communities.” Roll Call was honored in the SCIL newsletter as “Grantee of The Month” in their July Newsletter which can be viewed online at http://www.scilchicago.com/#!news-letter/c23ih.
NLCN also had the opportunity to attend the third event, “Ballin’ For A Cause 2″, basketball tournament this time located in the Austin community at the Austin Resource Center located 150 N. Central Ave. at the event sponsored by MTV’s “Are You the One” star Simone Kelly. Simone, who is also the daughter of Linda Weatherspoon agreed just the night before after a call from her mother to make sure the event took place. Rev Robbie Wilkerson, Executive Director of the newly acquired Austin Resource Center was formerly the Austin YMCA. “I was asked by the Alderman to take over the facility,” said Wilkerson, which during the interview, was full of youth playing in the gyms.
According to SCIL’s website, in 2012, 145 people died in the city of Chicago as a result of a motor vehicle crash. Of those fatalities, 28 were African-American males and 19 were Hispanic males, representing a third of all motor vehicle crash fatalities. To tackle this problem, 37 communities have been identified as having high fatality rates from low seat belt use and high alcohol use. The Westside of Chicago has received a multitude of deaths because of alcohol and other substance abuses.
Two other events are being planned by Roll Out for the “Click it or Ticket” campaign, a Cookout @Hamiln & Madison Garfield Park – August 23, 2014 12:00 p.m. – until dusk and a Labor Day Cookout across from 3668 W. Roosevelt – September 1, 2014 – 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. For more information contact Roll Out at 773-940-1552.