Dear Black Entrepreneur: You Are Enough

I was sitting here drafting a Black History Fun Fact about the first black-owned TV and radio stations but as I read I noticed a disturbing trend. A trend we can still see present today. To start, I was researching WGPR-TV, first black-owned television station in the U.S. and W.E.R.D., first black-owned radio station in the U.S. WGPR-TV was run and operated in Detroit and W.E.R.D. was based in Atlanta. We’ll go deeper into their history in a separate post but both stations became a platform for black artists, from Jazz and Blues musicians to Dr. Martin Luther King Dr. using it to broadcast his sermons and later, Civil Rights announcements. There are two things I noticed associated with each of these companies as the inspiration to today’s post:

  • Jesse Blayton, founder of W.E.R.D., also taught accounting at Atlanta University and tried encouraging young black people to enter the field. He was unsuccessful because the students knew that no white-owned accounting firms would hire them and Blayton’s, the only black-owned firm in the South, was small and had few openings.

 

  • WGPR-TV was successful from my perspective but because it failed to reach a wider audience, it was eventually sold to CBS. WGPR-TV ran from 1975 to 1995 under its black leadership.

With, black-owned businesses, I notice a disturbing mindset among many of my people in the African-American community that success is synonymous with white support and that, without it, we aren’t as successful as we could be. Society has deceived many of us into thinking unless they have included us in the mainstream public eye, we are unsuccessful. I compare it to publishing in the sense that Traditional Publishing is still seen as a more successful route than Independent Publishing. It is still seen as a sign of prosperity to be signed to a publisher than to be your own publisher through the Self-publishing route because of the exposure. Although many Self-Publisher’s are making far more money, unless the Self-Publisher can look like a celebrity, he or she has not made it (whatever that means). This is flawed thinking and causes many to chase the temporary pleasures of money and fame over integrity.

The Oscars is a great example of this and for the record, I admire Spike Lee and Regina King most especially. The talent comprised in these two people is beyond words. However, the black community’s reaction to their Oscar win is a great example of how we do not often see ourselves as being enough. Spike Lee and Regina King are and have always been two powerful artists. What Spike Lee has done with Crooklyn, Four Little Girls, Mo Beta Blues, Do the Right Thing, He Got Game, Malcolm X and more is nothing short of genius work. That Regina King can simultaneously bring to life two characters in Huey and Riley Freeman is nothing short of genius work. Not only did she capture the personas of two little boys but two little black boys. Whether that is Poetic Justice, Boyz N the Hood, Friday, Enemy of the State or Down to Earth, King’s roles are always down to earth. She’s got this skill that allows her to be relatable in any role. She‘s hilarious and you feel she can easily be your sister.

My point here is this: Lee and King did not need to win Oscars for me to recognize their brilliance. Yet, as a community, we champion this as the official ceremony to which we have received a piece of the pie. We have a track record of doing this, in which we do not see ourselves as successful except that we are integrated into mainstream societies expectations of what that success is supposed to look like. Angela Basset does not need an Oscar to be great.

There is nothing wrong with receiving support across all nationalities and nations of people. However, it is important for the black entrepreneur to know and understand that to be young, gifted, and black is also a success by itself and on its own terms.

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The Greenbriar Mall – Pick-up Your Copy of I am Soul Today!

I am Soul is now available at The Medu Bookstore at the Greenbriar Mall in Atlanta. Medu means “power of the word” and is the second largest black-owned bookstore in Atlanta. They called me last week to say that they would like to carry my book in their store.

It has passed their review process which makes me very proud particularly because these are professional reviewers who have to ultimately vote on the book before it is accepted into the store. This means that a book must meet industry standards. I now share shelf space with the likes of Gabrielle Union, Jenifer Lewis, Tamika Newhouse and Urban Fiction power couple Ashley and Jaquavis Coleman. Of course, I still have to sell (lol) but I am excited about it nonetheless.

This makes the second store in Georgia to carry one of my books. If you are in the Atlanta-land area, remember that I still need your support to stay on the shelves. Be sure to stop in and request your copy. Again, the book is titled I am Soul by Yecheilyah. My name is pronounced e-SEE-li-yah. I am also looking to increase reviews for this book. If you’d like to read it in consideration for a review, let me know. (It’s a collection of poetry.)

Also, don’t forget. I want to see you at the Atlanta African American Book Festival event next month! Not only am I a vendor with an author table where you can support my books, I am also a volunteer for the event so I’ll be kinda all over the place and I’ll be looking for YOU!

 

“Savor the taste of your triumphs today. Don’t just swallow the moment whole without digesting what has actually happened here.”

– Dr. Chadwick Boseman

A New Generation of African-American-Owned Bookstores

After a steep decline, the number of black-owned independent bookstores is growing.


Mahogany Books opens in Washington D.C.

When Troy Johnson began tracking the number of black-owned bookstores in the U.S. in 1999, there were more than 325. By 2014, that number had dwindled to 54, a decline of 83%.

“They were closing left and right, and the major ones were struggling,” said Johnson, who runs the African American Literature Book Club, an online book database. Today, Johnson estimates, there are at least 108 black-owned independent stores, a number of which have opened in the past six months, marking a substantial reversal. “Last year was the first year I added more stores to the list than I took away,” he noted.

The surge in black-owned indie bookstores is notable at a time when both bookselling and publishing are wrestling with issues of workforce diversity.

Read through to the ORIGINAL article HERE.