Dave Bing and Earl Graves

Dave Bing and Earl Graves (1986)
Duration: 00:29:01

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Themes: Urban Challenges | Poverty, Progress, and the Rise of African-American Businesses and Professionals | Motor City and Motown |

Guests: David Bing, Earl Graves
Host : Ed Gordon
Producer : Dianne Atkinson-Hudson

Summary: The search for economic autonomy and self-determination has long been an important concern in the African American community. This 1986 program explores the state of that search through a discussion between host Ed Gordon and two prominent African American businessmen: Earl Graves, editor and publisher of Black Enterprise Magazine, and Dave Bing, president of Bing Steel and a former member of the Detroit Pistons.

Central to the discussion is the question of how African Americans can use the economic power that they have to gain even greater economic clout. Graves, who was in Detroit to address a national convention of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, argues that African Americans need to exercise their strength politically and economically.

Black organizations, Graves says, need to bring their conventions and other activities to cities like Detroit and Atlanta where African Americans have established political power. And they need to think carefully about where they spend their money. They should not, he says, patronize businesses - such as hotels or auto dealers - where African Americans are not given opportunities for participation and advancement.

Bing discusses how he built his steel company - not a traditional enterprise for black entrepreneurs - into the 12th-largest black-owned business in the country. He saw an opportunity in Detroit, a city where auto companies needed steel and the political establishment was supportive of black businesses.

In response to a caller, Bing acknowledges that his fame helped open some doors, but he says that success requires providing a quality service to his customers. "Once I got in the door, if I could not perform it mattered not to my customers who I was."

Another caller raises concerns about increasing numbers of Arab-owned businesses in black neighborhoods, but Graves argues the growth of Arab or Korean businesses should be as an inspiration rather than as a negative.

"They're there because we didn't take advantage of the opportunity when we had the opportunity," Graves says. "I think there is an opportunity for us to do what those other racial and ethnic groups are doing."

Graves says African Americans have been making significant economic progress, particularly as company owners in such fields as communications, auto dealerships, radio and television stations, and fast-food chains. But he adds, "We also need to need to look at the opportunity of setting up our own brokerage firms, our own finance firms . . . we need the leverage of having our own economic wherewithal."

This program illustrates, not just the state of black business in the mid-1980s, but also the issues that concern African Americans as they expand their control over their own economic circumstances.

Related Production Materials held at MSU Libraries, Special Collections:
Box 1,File 11, Detroit – Economic Growth Council – October 26, 1976
Box 4, File 6, Blacks in Money Management –June 17, 1991 – Show # 2231
Box 8, File 30, Money Strategies – March 30, 1994 – Show # 2525
Box 15, File 10, Black Money
Box 16, File 22, Economic Clout – July 14, 1986