By William Reed
"Business as usual" means African Americans continuing to own less than 2 percent of the nation's businesses and spending 98 percent of their wealth outside their group. Although members of the race have proven their entrepreneurial acumen for centuries, Blacks of today need re-exam our grasp of the traits and tools of entrepreneurial ship. "Business as usual" means African Americans continuing to own less than 2 percent of the nation's businesses and spending 98 percent of their wealth outside their group. Although members of the race have proven their entrepreneurial acumen for centuries, Blacks of today need re-exam our grasp of the traits and tools of entrepreneurial ship. It's time for African Americans at all levels of economic strata to focus more on accomplishments in entrepreneurial ship.
To remedy the "disconnect" African Americans have in the capitalistic system, at minimum we need to teach our children about the process. A Washington, DC-based organization exists "to equip children with the knowledge and skills essential to improve personal wealth and advance the development of their community". The International BusinessKids Foundation provides educational programs for children 6 to 18 and Executive Director Endura Govan says, "If you want your kids to learn about entrepreneurship talk to them about what it's like to own a business. Even better, help them to start a business and teach them skills that will be useful to them as entrepreneurs or in life".
Entrepreneurship among African Americans is not new. It's a concept enterprising Blacks have embraced for centuries. "Our youth should know as much about Anthony Johnson and Thomas Jennings as they do of Oprah and P Diddy's successes," says Govan. Ex-slave Anthony Johnson became one of Virginia's wealthy landowners in 1651 and Thomas Jennings was issued a patent in 1821 for his dry cleaning invention.
Govan says Black parents should expose youngsters to concepts of running a business as early as possible. Kids in her classes make products, and then learn how to market and sell them. Kids from the International Business Kids summer and after school programs have put their lessons into action while manning booths at Bishop T.D. Jakes' MegaFest, Congressional Black Caucus' Annual Legislative Conference, the National Urban League and NAACP conventions; a method Govan said is safer and more business savvy than the traditional door-to-door sales methods kids often use. "We do all of the conferences so that they can sell their products in front of large audiences," says Govan.
Govan has been recognized by the Congressional Black Caucus for her entrepreneurial work with children. She operates programs in five cities under the notion that entrepreneurs occupy a central position in market economies and activate all economic activity. She collaborates with schools, churches and community centers to create "an atmosphere of achievement" for students and says "a society is prosperous only to the degree to which it rewards and encourages entrepreneurial activity. It is entrepreneurs and their activities that are the critical determinant of the level of success, prosperity, growth and opportunity in any economy. The most dynamic societies in the world are the ones that have the most entrepreneurs and economic and legal structures that encourage and motivate entrepreneurs to greater activities".
Financial literacy should be a part of each family's basic training, but Govan points out that less than one in four parents talk with their children about personal financial responsibility. She says that that there is a direct connection between personal financial illiteracy that affects the urban underclass as well as and the upswing in bankruptcy rates, record debt, and home foreclosures among middle-class Blacks. Govan says her programs teach young children how to make wise financial decisions, understand the difference between desires and needs, and manage personal debt. "Teaching personal financial responsibility is an investment in brighter futures for the