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Opinion – COVID-19 and the Black Business Community

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We’ve heard it, perpetually-year after year, decade after decade, generation after generation—the African American community is the most maligned and underrepresented population per capita, in US history.  Notwithstanding a legacy of accomplishment despite excessive personal attack; academic achievement despite underfunded institutions, freedom despite mass imprisonment, and human survival despite genocide: the African American business community must and will survive.

We are presently facing the direst human contagion of the last century; a novel corona virus, COVID-19, threatens to destroy the African American community. We have not faced a medical battle of this proportion–nearly 75,000 Americans have died in less than 100 days–since the 1918 Spanish Flu decimated the US population by some 200,000 fatalities.  How did America become the greatest and wealthiest nation on the planet following that epic health crisis? The likely answer is on the backs of African Americans, Spanish Americans, Asian Americans and Native Americans—the collective peoples of color.

Where is the documented history of our survival and wealth building since that time, save the unthinkable assassinations wrought from Jim Crow and Civil Rights eras?

Despite the unthinkable assassinations that occurred during the Jim Crow and Civil Rights eras, and with some atrocities still occurring, we must and will survive. As we rise from this present-day annihilation, we further resolve [that] our economic vitality will not be held hostage nor lay in a perpetual state of weakened life support. As Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. declared in his 1963 March on Washington speech when he said, “we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check…America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked ‘insufficient funds.’ But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.”

And still today, the wealth inheritance for the African American community whether held back, denied, stolen or misappropriated is still past due.

Our survival is part of a continuum. The African American [Black Business] community will again create its own funding vehicles following the successful footsteps of many history-making and successful businesspersons such as Madame C.J. Walker – First female African American millionaire and inventor; Arthur George “A.G.” Gaston – Noted hotelier and entrepreneur; John H. Johnson – Founder and Publisher of Ebony Magazine; Sheila Johnson – Co-Founder of Black Entertainment Television Network, first African American female billionaire, hotelier and Oprah Winfrey – Billionaire media mogul and philanthropist.

We must and we will survive by following their examples of self help and mutual support.    

Cathy Adams, President of the Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce (www.oaacc.org) states, “The African American business community will survive this health crisis but the degree of our recovery will be determined by the financial resources and healthcare services made available. Before we were staring COVID-19 in the face, the Black community was swimming upstream against a current of inequities and insufficient services to balance the quality of life across racial demographics.  Nonetheless, we have pushed forward.  The goal now is to recover, equally, during and on the other side of this debilitating economic and health crisis.”

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