When the Slaves Get Together
“Now, what does all of this mean in this great period of history? It means that we've got to stay together. 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.” Rev Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.
In today’s environment we need to be critical of those leaders who have big missions, more than likely underpaid, to do the work of advancing communities. For example, last week on the front cover San Antonio’s Express News put the Eastside on blast to their readers. To their readers the headline was “New businesses lagging on the East Side” but as I read the commentary, mostly about Jackie Gorman, the Executive Director of SAGE, and her views on the slower growth, it became apparent to me, San Antonio will not be happy with the progress of the Eastside, until it gentrifies – until crime rates lower – until they feel more in control of the historic community they wish to own. My wife states to me all the time, “the Environment shapes the outcome.” While SAGE’s leader does many things great, she, all by herself does not shape the environment. She does her part to make plans for the East Side to improve. I see that
Jackie Gorman has not sold out the community to make short deals that will benefit others long-term gains. She is using all of her wisdom, her business background to ensure the best is occurring for the community. No progress is not fast on the Eastside. How can it be? Who is impatient? Investors who are not invested lose patience. So the Express News story goes on to address the rampant crime in the District as slowing growth. Well, it seems to me, put pressure on the Police Chief, to develop a different plan to reduce crime by working with the community. SAGE or its’ leader doesn’t control many of the variables to making the Eastside of San Antonio the talk of the city. Let’s remember what Rev Dr King stated about how the Pharaoh kept the slaves fighting among themselves. I will say to SAGE publicly – you’re doing the best job and a good job. Economic development can happen but be careful of what you ask for and from whom you ask.
Second pat on the back goes to Alamo City Black Chamber of Commerce for successfully making it to 80 years. As a past president and current Board Chair for the Texas Association of African American Chambers of Commerce, I commend Chairwoman Deborah Omowale and her Board of Directors who continue to fight for our people. Yes, I hear criticisms of the organization some that originated with me, and others that are because some will compare the membership entitlements with other chambers. I again want our Black community to remember Rev Dr King’s words. Let’s not be overly sensitive to decisions that are made or decisions that don’t go our way. As long as people have opinions, people will make choices that are viewed as good or bad. For Black businesses, we cannot afford to be in the politics of dissent We must bring solutions to problems if we are to keep our families alive. Let’s not practice comparison games, and devalue what we have, or even get into the likes and dislikes of people and personalities. When it comes to business, we will each need each other, at some point and some time. I remind our community, Dr King described us as “poor people”. Every measurement still holds we are not wealthy, even though some have some money. Collectively we are too frail and we must do more, sacrifice, and work together. I encourage the community to visit the chamber’s new location – now housed with St Philip’s College – and please see how you can achieve your entrepreneurial dreams or grow your business by joining this historic group.
I will conclude with Rev. Dr. King’s last words that inspired me…hopefully it will inspire you:
“We just need to go around to these stores, and to these massive industries in our country, and say, "God sent us by here, to say to you that you're not treating his children right. And we've come by here to ask you to make the first item on your agenda fair treatment, where God's children are concerned.
Now, if you are not prepared to do that, we do have an agenda that we must follow. And our agenda calls for withdrawing economic support from you."
And so, as a result of this, we are asking you tonight, to go out and tell your neighbors not to buy Coca-Cola in Memphis. Go by and tell them not to buy Sealtest milk. Tell them not to buy -- what is the other bread? -- Wonder Bread. And what is the other bread company, Jesse? Tell them not to buy Hart's bread. As Jesse Jackson has said, up to now, only the garbage men have been feeling pain; now we must kind of redistribute the pain.
We are choosing these companies because they haven't been fair in their hiring policies; and we are choosing them because they can begin the process of saying they are going to support the needs and the rights of these men who are on strike. And then they can move on town -- downtown and tell Mayor Loeb to do what is right.
But not only that, we've got to strengthen black institutions. I call upon you to take your money out of the banks downtown and deposit your money in Tri-State Bank. We want a "bank-in" movement in Memphis. Go by the savings and loan association. I'm not asking you something that we don't do ourselves at SCLC. Judge Hooks and others will tell you that we have an account here in the savings and loan association from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
We are telling you to follow what we are doing. Put your money there. You have six or seven black insurance companies here in the city of Memphis. Take out your insurance there. We want to have an "insurance-in."
Now these are some practical things that we can do. We begin the process of building a greater economic base. And at the same time, we are putting pressure where it really hurts. I ask you to follow through here.
Now, let me say as I move to my conclusion that we've got to give ourselves to this struggle until the end.”