Thursday, August 13, 2009

Who Owns the Hood?

I live in a predominately Black neighborhood by choice. It was ALL Black when I initially moved here, but I noticed the white folks creeping in. It is not what folks think of when they think of a predominately Black neighborhood. It’s not a rich neighborhood, but it is a striving one. Folks keep their property up; there is no graffiti, no sofas in the front lawn and such. Even if you have a non running car in the yard, you keep it washed and presentable. Folks who visit from out of town often seem surprised that it is predominately Black hood. Anyway….

As much as I live amongst my people…. As much as my people are not completely and obviously destitute…. Why is it, none the businesses in my neighborhood are not owned by people that look like the people that live in my neighborhood? Let’s look at it shall we?…. There are gas stations…. Middle Eastern people. Nail Salons….. Asians. Restaurants… Asians or Middle Eastern people. Car repair…. Asians. Beauty Supply Stores…. Asians. Cleaners… Middle Eastern, Asians. There is a tire place owned by Jamaicans and the braid salons are owned by Africans. You see where I’m going with this? Where are the Black American owned businesses? And why are we so content as a people to work for other folks rather than ourselves?

Now some would argue that all the people I just mentioned are Original people. And I don’t dispute that. But I’m speaking about my neighbors. I am aware of who lives in my neighborhood and I have yet to see any Asians or Middle Eastern folks cutting the grass. When I ask my neighbors about there jobs, they are proud to tell me that they are preachers, got on at the post office, teachers, work for this big company and so on. Why are American Black folks so scared to go into business for themselves?

I may have an example to show varying differences in mind sets. My parents. Different as day and night. My father was the type of guy to try anything. He would try one career, didn’t like it, shake the dust off his boots and move on to the next one. He had absolutely no shame in mopping floors during the in-between. He eventually found his niche as the sole proprietor of his own insurance agency. He worked that job until he died at age 71. He would work that job all night long and just to calm down when he was stressed. He had no insurance outside his VA benefits (Mommie floated him a bit), nor did he provide any for his employees. Wasn’t all gravy. There have been times that he ran into financial straits and had to declare bankruptcy. He moved things around in our names for a few years until he got back on his feet. He had no retirement, but didn’t need any because he planned to work until he died… and did. He did not die broke. His business still stands today.

Mommie took the opposite approach. My mother worked for the government in the name of the public school system as a media arts specialist. She worked when they told her and was off when they told her. She was extremely satisfied with a predictable paycheck. We had the state’s insurance and my mother retired at age 60 with a fat pension and all that goes along with it. She’s not broke either. Far from it. But she also does not have anything to show for the 40 years that she labored for the government. Which one of my parents had a better life?

Hard to distinguish ain’t it. I suppose it has everything to do with what you want. But I want more than getting by. Paying bills ain’t as satisfying as it sounds.

Where does that put me? My brother inherited my father’s business. And he should have. I never had any real interest in it, and when I did work for him, I was a big screw up. That wasn’t my shtick. But I have never been happy working for other folks, yet I crave security in a big way. My brother has Daddy’s business and he works for that state. We are two mixed up individuals. I learned a trade that should have allowed me to open my own practice. But I found out after learning this trade that I didn’t like it that much. My dream is to open my own holistic facility in my own neighborhood and employ and empower folks that look like me to do the same. At the same time, I also want to be a college professor. I can do both. I don’t have to be at the center 24/7, but I will need to shower my baby with my attention (that includes resources) until it can stand on its own two feet. Hmmmm……. I guess we are both cut from the same cloths.

***whisper*** I gotta go. The white man that signs my paycheck is coming!