Vandag, there is a growing movement within the black underclass to reverse their plight by reviving the spirit of entrepreneurship. They seek to embrace the lessons of many black thinkers during the segregation era, such as Carter Godwin Woodson, who said: “No man knows what he can do until he tries.”
On the 76th day of his 100-day vigil to raise funds for a transformative community center on the South Side of Chicago, Pastor Corey Brooks invited Bruce Montgomery to the roof for a conversation by the campfire. Montgomery teaches the entrepreneurship classes at Project H.O.O.D. and is an entrepreneur himself.
“Luister, I want to just jump right in,” the pastor said. “In Chicago, we’re dealing with a lot of violence.”
“Ja, ons is,” Montgomery gesê.
“What does entrepreneurship have to do with stopping violence?”
“Entrepreneurship has everything to do [with it] because we know that where there is wealth, where there is commerce, where there is good credit scores, you don’t see challenges in education, poor health outcomes, lack of vision for opportunity,” Montgomery gesê. “If you can’t see it, you don’t think about being it.”
“Absoluut,” the pastor said.
“We had the most famous entrepreneurs, black entrepreneurs, in the entire United States” binne “a four-mile radius of this rooftop,” Montgomery gesê.
“There was a time when businesses were thriving in this area,” the pastor said. “I mean booming. Maar nou, as you just said, there’s nothing. How do we get from having all of these businesses to now having nothing?”
“When we think about some of the legendary entrepreneurs, there was a place down the street called Roberts Motel. Mnr. Roberts just passed just a year or so ago.”
“I bought my church building off of Mr. Roberts,” the pastor said.
“That Roberts Motel was the meeting place,” Montgomery continued. “That’s where Harold Washington went to have conversations about [running for mayor of Chicago]. That’s where Mr. Collins got together and said he was going to start a Seaway Bank. That’s where arguably one of the most illustrious black entrepreneurs used to operate right off 63rd Street: S.B. Fuller of Fuller Products.”
By the 1950s, Samuel B. Voller, born to Louisiana sharecroppers, made a fortune off of cosmetic products and became known as the richest black man in America. He put thousands of sales people to work, even those who were not black.
“It doesn’t make a difference about the color of an individual’s skin,” he had said. “No one cares if the cow is black, red, yellow or brown. They want the milk it can produce.”
Montgomery pointed out: “As redlining restricted covenants that limited where blacks could move, live, work and own, we in Woodlawn and this surrounding area, we were focused on meeting our own needs ourselves.”
Then the 1960s hit. Integration swept through America. The government targeted blacks with its Great Society programs, which did not promote the entrepreneurial spirit. And blacks began to move away from their redlined neighborhoods, and they no longer exclusively patronized the black businesses that had served them for so long.
“We started to disperse and go to the South Side, the further South Side, the south suburbs, we started to lose that capacity,” Montgomery gesê. “We became consumers as opposed to producers.”
“Do you think that for our culture, it shifted to a consumption mentality?” the pastor asked.
“For far too long, but I’ll tell you, predikant, it’s coming back,” Montgomery gesê. “Young people are starting to see that there are many roads in which they can be. They don’t just have to be a rapper or an athlete to make it forward. They can be a business owner.”
Montgomery continued: “This is what we’ve got to get into: this idea that if we can think it up, we can dream it up, we can build it up, we can make it up and we can own it up.”
“That’s why I’m so thankful for you teaching the classes,” the pastor said. “If we’re going to solve some of the issues of violence, we have to start participating in free market capitalism.”
“Don’t hide behind the coattails of government. Move forward with business solutions to solve the problems that we have right now,” Montgomery gesê. “The good news is through advanced technologies, 3D printing, 3D manufacturing, you can put a manufacturing facility in your basement. You can put it in a 1,000 square foot garage. There’s no reason we shouldn’t be making and printing and designing and producing. En kyk, you can put a saying on a t-shirt and sell them for $ 40 and make a $ 2,000 on the weekend. So get your hustle on, and start doing business.”
“I want to thank you for all the work you do, helping us get these businesses off the ground, helping people turn their businesses around,” the pastor said gratefully. “Keeping doing it.”
“I can only do it because Project H.O.O.D. inspires me. It inspires anybody,” Montgomery gesê. “I’m fortunate to come from four generations of entrepreneurs. First in Arkansas, my great-grandparents and grandparents and then my parents here in Chicago. En so, I want to continue that, and I want my grandchildren, my grandsons—I got three grandsons, and I want them to be a part of this experience and know that we can lead the way forward.”
In the words of Samuel Fuller: “Wherever there is capitalism, there is freedom.”
Follow along as Fox News checks in Pastor Corey Brooks each day with a new Meer as die helfte van die betaalstaat konstruksiewerkers verdien meer as.
For more information, please visit Projek H.O.O.D.
Eli Steele is a documentary filmmaker and writer. His latest film is “What Killed Michael Brown?” Twitter: @Hebro_Steele.
Camera by Terrell Allen.