When I ran for Mayor of Baltimore in 2020, my primary platform for change in the city was economic development, particularly for the African American community. Every analysis that we conducted, utilizing the “5 Whys” of problem solving, concluded that the root cause of the social issues confronting the African American community (i.e. poverty, homelessness, violence, addictions, poor education performance, etc.) is all rooted in lack of economic opportunity and economic inequality. This inequality is rooted in America’s centuries old decision to institute white supremacy policies in its social and governmental institutions which inherently uplift people if they are of European descent and oppress people if they are black and brown or of non-European descent.
These destructive policies have included redlining, refusal to allow black veterans to utilize veteran benefits, and are as subtle as restrictive covenants in housing, preventing non-Christian and non-Caucasian people from buying homes in certain neighborhoods. The economic equality is further exacerbated by the generations of segregation and racism which allows white wealth to flow to the next generation while each black generation seems to always have to start from scratch.
So, where do we go from here, especially if you are a working parent who is interested in breaking the cycle of generation poverty and building a platform for generational wealth for your children and family? In my book, Black Wealth through Black Entrepreneurship, I discuss how foundational entrepreneurship and “entrepreneurial thinking” is fundamental to the construction of this wealth platform. For example, I suggest:
- Teach your children the rich history of black and brown entrepreneurs in America and throughout the world. Tell them about Sarah Breedlove (Madame C. J. Walker), Robert Gordon, Annie Malone, Lewis Temple, as well as Oprah Winfrey, Janice Bryant Howroyd, Chris Williams, and yes, Robert Wallace.
- Instill in your children and community an “entrepreneurial mindset” or even “intrapreneurial mindset.” So, if you work for someone else, perform your job function as if it was your own business and learn to add value in all that you do.
- Expose your children and community to local business people and get to know them on a personal level.
- Provide the children a foundation in math and science. All future wealth creation will either be directly or indirectly connected to math, science, and engineering. Teach them the foundation and get them comfortable with these emerging technologies and industries. These include Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Block Chain Technologies, Cryptocurrencies, and others.
- Hold your political leaders accountable. Make sure that a major part of their political platform encompasses economic opportunities for black and brown communities. Then, hold them accountable for achieving these economic objectives. If they fail you, vote them out!
The foundation of my thoughts on entrepreneurship and economic empowerment were established during my years as a graduate student at the Amos Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. There I began my ground breaking research on the success factors and success profiles of minority entrepreneurs. It was at Tuck where my business and economic mentors taught me the power and importance of entrepreneurial and economic participation for black and brown folks. I remind myself daily of the admonition of one of my professors who said, “If you are not at the table, then you are on the menu!” Commit right now to not being on the menu so that your children and your children’s children retain a permanent seat at the economic table of our nation.