Black Consumers and Black Business

Black Consumers and Black Business (1992)
Duration: 00:27:145

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

Guests: Herschel Richey, Ricardo Solomon, Clifton R. Wharton
Host : Cliff Russell
Producer : Tony Mottley

Summary: Host Cliff Russell discusses the issue with Herschel Richey, president of the Virginia Park Community Investment Association, who is in the studio, and Wayne County Commissioner Ricardo Solomon, who participates via telephone link.

The program begins with a series of brief man-on-the-street interviews and videotaped excerpts of a speech by Clifton R. Wharton, chief executive officer of TIAA-CREF, an investment firm that focuses on retirement planning for public-sector employees. Wharton was the first CEO of a Fortune 500 company, and had been president of Michigan State University in the 1970s. Viewers also participate by calling in questions and comments to the live broadcast.

Russell poses the question provocatively, asking whether blacks still discriminate against each other. One person interviewed on the street says there is a "dog-eat-dog" mentality within the black community that discourages blacks from supporting each other.

Richey says his group's study of new black businesses in the Virginia Park area indicated that several businesses that failed, did so because of a lack of internal unity among the owners or because of a lack of business expertise. "The black consumers were beginning to support those businesses," he says. He adds that while the community needs to be educated about the need to support black businesses, business owners need training, too, in order to provide both the quality products that customers want, and the standard of service that they expect.

Solomon says African Americans - consumers, business owners, and community leaders - need to consider the economic power that is represented by the more than $400 billion spent annually by African Americans.

"So often times African Americans, even today in the '90s, will say to you that they are not going to go to a black doctor or a black lawyer," Solomon says. "We've gone from civil rights to political rights and now we have to promote economic empowerment, ownership and self-help programs."

He says African American churches can not only be an important center for developing that economic empowerment because of their long history of community leadership, but also because the churches control a lot of money themselves. They also remain one of the main places where African Americans come together on a regular basis, he says.

Richey says African Americans could learn from the experience of other groups - such as Korean Americans and Jewish Americans - who often have pooled money to establish or advance businesses in their communities. "We've got to learn to cooperate and pool support," Richey says.

Callers also suggest a range of approaches. One caller says black professionals who have moved out of Detroit should look for ways to come back and "invest their professionalism." Another caller suggests promoting more trade between African Americans businesses and the nations of Africa.

Overall, the program provides a wide-ranging look at the issues involved in the relationship between black-owned businesses and the black community.

Related Production Materials held at MSU Libraries, Special Collections:
Box 5, File 12, Black Businesses: Striving to Succeed – February 24, 1992 – Show # 2317
Box 8, File 22, Black Business in Detroit – January 12, 1994 – Show # 2517