“Yes, let me get a beef and cheese please.”
I stood in observation as my husband passed the cashier the card to complete the purchase. It was nice and warm out yesterday and the Little Caesar’s boomed with life. The bright orange and yellows of the colors blended perfectly with the chipper atmosphere that always accompanies warm weather. The young woman in front of us bounced around, smiling and joking as she completed the purchase, buzzing around the restaurant to finish other things, like what the young man behind her (slightly older, I round him off to be eighteen) was pulling up on the laptop. Yes, the laptop. Maybe it too wanted to take part in whatever it was going on up front, eager to be cradled in the arms of its owner. As my nose preoccupied itself with fresh dough and pizza sauce, I let my eyes roam the rest of the store. The warm ovens and counter-top blocked my direct view, however the bodies spilling over the sidelines and walking back and forth did not allow for much obscurity. Plus, the cooking area that I could not see wasn’t very concealed, resounding like the halls of a high school, the chit chatter of non business conversation floated into the air. An older woman sat waiting for the remake of an order as if she’d rather be watching the news, and a young man with three small boys came in behind us. The itty bitty’s could not have been more adorable, though they looked like three little men. Two of which sported white t-shirts and blue jeans, Jordan’s, light complexion, and a head full of what we used to call bee-bees (when the naps let you know it’s time for another haircut). These boys looked to be no older than a year and appeared to be twins. The other boy was darker in complexion and a couple years older with softer hair outlining a Mohawk. He was, by far, more outspoken if you will and decided it was time to climb on top the counter and see what all the commotion was about. He even decided he’ll stand up and had plans of jumping until his father caught wind of his body in his arms. Whew, that was close.
A couple more customers came in, two young women. The sun was out and so were they. I smiled at my husband who preoccupied his eyes with his cell phone. I’ll tease him about all the booty standing in his way later. Let’s just say there were enough thighs to go around. They were there to see if such and such had come into work today and discussed this with their friends, emptying conversation over the tops of counters and over the people’s heads.
As I sat back and watched this scene play out before me, feeling more and more like this was my kitchen and my children had invited their friends to dinner, I began to wonder: “It would be nice if the same black people who worked this store could also own it”. They are so content right now, making the hourly wage that could support Jordan and cell phone habits. But, what if we taught young people to look at their 9-5s as potential businesses? Often we ask ourselves, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” But our interest never completely change as we transition into adulthood. They are just better developed but they never completely change. So instead of the ancient “What do you wanna be when you grow up?” Is it possible to start asking the question: “What do you enjoy doing?” And, “in what way can you turn that into a business idea?'” If you work part time at a restaurant, why not see what it takes to own one like it one day? If you like doing hair, why not set out to have your own shop and list of clientele? Housekeeping at a hospital? What does it take for you to become licensed and contract yourself out to hospital chains and apartment complexes?
I could go on and on about why I think Black Entrepreneurship is important, but it is best that we look at the facts together:
“Koreans own the beauty supplies and nail shops; Arabs and Mexicans own the fast food restaurants and liquor stores; Jews / Europeans own the banks, pawn shops, and other lending institutions, and east Indians own the gas stations. The so called African American owns little to no businesses in his own community.”
African Americans are the biggest consumers and yet they own no businesses within their own communities. To be a consumer means you are not an investor, you are not an owner, you are instead a spender. Before the collapse of one of the most prominent African American communities in the nation, the dollar in the greenwood community of Northeast Tulsa Oklahoma rotated 36-100 times before it left the community. This means, the people in that community spent money at the local stores before going outside that community. For instance: Clothes bought at Elliot & Hooker’s clothing at 124 N. Greenwood could be fitted across the street at H.L. Byars tailor shop at 105 N Greenwood, and then cleaned around the corner at Hope Watson’s cleaners at 322 E. Archer. Today, the dollar leaves the black community in less than 15mins.