George Fraser may not be among the most well known figures in Black America, but in my judgment he is one of the most important leaders of our time. By sheer force of vision, skill and will, he may be destined to make an extraordinary contribution to the historic struggle of Africans in America for freedom, justice and equality -overcoming the longstanding and seemingly intractable wealth gap between Blacks and Whites in this country.
To achieve this task he has set an ambitious goal: to create wealth that can be passed on inter-generationally, and to make Black people the number one employers of Black people in the 21st Century. Imminently aware of the obstacles to attaining these goals, George Fraser has adopted a unique approach to overcoming the wealth divide; he is determined to create a culture of success and empowerment as a force for dramatic change in Black America.
While we celebrate the election of the first African American President of the United States, this historic triumph will not automatically translate into substantial and sustained economic progress for Black people. While some in America view Barack Obama’s ascension to the White House as a sign that structural/institutional racism or the historical effects of same have vanished, disparities in health, education, income and wealth remain a stark fact of life in America.
The persistence of the wealth gap is particularly troublesome. According to Thomas Shapiro, author of Black Wealth/White Wealth and The Hidden Cost of Being African American. In 1998, the net worth of white households on average was $100,700 higher than that of African Americans. By 2007, this gap had increased to $142,600. For generations Blacks have owned less than ten cents of wealth for every dollar possessed by Whites. Shapiro concludes that “Racial wealth inequality is the hidden fault line of American democracy. We need a new civil rights movement for the 21st century that focuses on economic opportunity and inclusion and closing the racial wealth gap.
George Fraser has accepted the challenge of teaching and inspiring Black people to achieve economic equity/parity in this century. His methodology/approach is grounded in an understanding of why Africans in America dramatically lag behind their White counterparts in wealth accumulation. Despite the fact that there have always been leaders in Black America who focused on community and economic development, institutional racism and internalized oppression have been major barriers to sustained economic advancement. George Fraser understands that in no small measure White wealth was extracted from centuries of free Black labor during slavery and decades of exclusion of Blacks from opportunities available to Whites because of legal and de facto social-economic and political apartheid. There was no forty acres and a mule granted to formerly enslaved Africans after emancipation to provide an economic toe hold in a Capitalist political economy where property and wealth are prized. Moreover, affirmative action and other race based remedies which could have ameliorated the effects of past and present discrimination/exclusion quickly ran into a ferocious White back lash.
And, as if White resistance to equity/parity by Blacks was not enough, centuries of racial oppression, cultural degradation and destruction left large numbers of Africans in America with a sense of inferiority which has been an impediment to building a viable economic infrastructure in Black America. This is not to say that Blacks have not developed successful entrepreneurs and businesses. However, we have never reached the scope and scale of economic development to close the racial wealth gap. To some degree this is due to a lack of the kind of racial solidarity necessary to under gird and expand the economic infrastructure in the Black community. Though attitudes have improved since the era of the 60’s, there are still far too many Black people who believe the ice is always colder.
To counter these obstacles/barriers to Black wealth attainment, George Fraser has devised a formula and strategy for Blacks to unlearn negative beliefs, attitude and behavior and replace them with positive attributes for promoting economic development and wealth creation. He is striving to instill a culture of success and empowerment. Culture is a way of life; it involves the values and attitudes, dos and don'ts, prescriptions and proscriptions that guide ones behavior. For George Fraser the core values are spirituality, African-centered self-affirmation, networking, sharing and Ujima/Collective Work and Responsibility. These are the vital elements of the culture he seeks to impart to every Black person willing to listen and learn.
Recognizing that spirituality has been a pillar of Black survival and development, this ingredient is always incorporated into Fraser’s formula for success. Similarly, he always includes a healthy dose of African history, culture and the legacy of achievement of people of African descent in the rehabilitative process. To be successful, Black people must believe in and support Black people. Having laid the predicate, the indispensable element in the chemistry of success is networking and the selfless sharing of ones skills, talents and experiences with other Black people. Networking is the key to the kind of collective work and responsibility that will empower Africans in America to build an economic base to employ Black people and generate wealth to achieve equity/parity as an indestructible foundation for freedom/liberation in America and the world!
Equipped with this formula, George Fraser has utilized his best selling books, Success Runs in Our Race, Race for Success and Click and his gift as a speaker to become an evangelist, spreading the good news of the power of networking. To institutionalize the process, twenty years ago he founded FraserNet, Inc. as the nerve center for a global networking movement. Eight years ago he began convening annual Power Networking Conferences to provide an intensive immersion in the culture of success and empowerment through networking. Today FraserNet has more than 30,000 members, the largest network of Black professionals in the world! Treading in the footsteps of Richard Allen, Marcus Garvey, Mme. C. J. Walker, W.E.B. DuBois, A. Philip Randolph, Honorable Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr., leaders who espoused economic empowerment as a path to freedom/liberation, George Fraser, with his army of apostles, may yet instill a culture of success and empowerment that will lead us to the promised land! May the ancestors bless him in this remarkable endeavor.
Dr. Ron Daniels is President of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century and Distinguished Lecturer at York College City University of New York. He is the host of Night Talk, Wednesday evenings on WBAI 99.5 FM, Pacifica New York. His articles and essays also appear on the IBW website and www.northstarnews.com. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.