The Glover Report: HARLEM: Still a ‘mecca’ of Black Business
By Doni Morton Glover, www.BMORENEWS.com
(HARLEM – December 2, 2011) – Forgive me if I get a little selfish here, but this one is for all those times I heard people put down black businesses. Me? I’m an advocate “for” black businesses. Lifelong. And, unapologetically so.
After our United Nations program last week, Marsha Jews and I headed uptown. Mind you, the last time I was in New York was in ’02 as I met my colleagues at La Guardia for a flight to Jordan. And that was just a drive-by. Before that, 2000.
Having cousins in Brooklyn, New York has been a part of my travel diet all my life. And there’s no place like it. Sure, Lagos ain’t no chump. And Hong Kong will give any city a run for the money, but there’s just something about New York City.
When we hit 116th Street, I submit it was like I had died and gone to heaven. What? Black businesses, of course! Barber shops. Beauty salons. Book stores. Restaurants. Black-owned restaurants. Black waitress. Black busboy. Black everything. And I loved every minute of it!
Fastforward four hours south to my city: Baltimore. Like Harlem, majority black. What was different? As it relates to black business, Baltimore isn’t doing the worst. Having visited other cities, I have seen strong black populations own seemingly nothing. There are some cities in the US where black business is far from being important. Baltimore has long had a black business culture where black folks, by and large, understand the concept of why it is important to go to the black funeral director. So, Baltimore is much more progressive in terms of black business than many if not most of the rest of the country.
However, compared to Harlem: Baltimore has a long way to go.
Just yesterday I had a person ask me why there were no black-owned businesses at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. I can only say this: If I were the Mayor or a person of enough influence so as to make this happen, there would be a strong push to grow black businesses in Baltimore – from the Harbor to Belvedere Square . And – for a number of reasons.
When black businesses flourish, black people get hired.
Want to reduce crime immediately? Put blacks in Baltimore to work.
Want child support to work? Give a brother a job.
Want children to do better in school? Give his momma an employment opportunity.
Want families to reunite? Make growing black businesses a priority. Why? Because nobody is going to hire black people more than black people. Sure, the Korean merchant will afford one job to a black person. However, by and large, it is the black business owners who are most likely and who historically have given the ex-offender a job. Who is the ex-offender? Our brother, our cousin, our father, our son.
Fact: 44% of America’s prison population in black and brown. Fact: Black people comprise no more than 12-20% of the US population. Fact: When that ex-felon hits the street, he is the least likely member of society to get a job. Hence, the person most likely to hire him will be one of his own.
Touring Harlem was so rejuvenating. It was a reminder of how it must have been back when I was a child: When black folks supported black businesses as a norm and to go elsewhere was downright shameful!
So, ‘Thank you, Harlem!’ Thank you for remaining a shining example of black pride and black unity. And ‘Thank you’ for all of the pleasant reminders of black history, like that oh so beautiful statue of Harriet Tubman. Thank you also for so many streets named after black people.
As for Baltimore, well – DMX ‘did’ say that we are slow.
Although we have more black elected officials in Maryland than ever before, and even though we have a black President of these United States just 45 minutes to the south, and even though our Mayor is black, our Lieutenant Governor is black, and our Congress person for Prince George’s County is both black and female … Baltimore’s black businesses are not where they should be. Political power must be parlayed into economic wealth – if we, as a people, are to be relevant, viable, and prosperous.