I recently had the privilege of participating in George Fraser’s Power Networking Conference (PNC) in Dallas. Sponsored by FraserNet, the Conference is one of the most amazing gatherings of Black people that occurs in Black America -- annually attracting thousands of Black professionals eager to embrace George’s vision/mission of “creating wealth that can be passed on inter-generationally and making Black people the number one employers of Black people in the 21st Century.” Once again this year I had the honor of conducting the Libation Ceremony along with Kwa David Whitaker, a longtime friend and mentor of George. I was also a Panelist for the Town Hall Meeting.
Unlike most “business” conferences, from its inception, George has always insisted that the proceedings begin with a cultural/spiritual component. Dr. Asa Hilliard, Dr. Maulana Karenga and Susan Taylor are among the cultural/spiritual leaders who have infused a sense of purpose and direction into PNC gatherings. This is significant because it suggests that George Fraser clearly understands that business without an African/Black oriented set of principles and values will just be “business as usual” within an amoral system. What Black people need are visionary entrepreneurs committed to not only creating profit and wealth to benefit themselves, but enterprises that uplift the race! That means adding a strong measure of “we, us and our” to a proposition that would otherwise be exclusively “me, myself and I,” absent an African/Black value system/framework. It is this commitment to culture and spirituality as an integral dimension of economic pursuits that distinguishes FraserNet and PNC.
This year George seemed almost obsessed with driving home this foundational aspect of his vision/mission. Obviously concerned with deteriorating conditions in Black America in terms of loss of jobs and the enormous evaporation of wealth precipitated by the “Great Recession,” George stepped to the podium at the Opening Ceremony and emphatically declared that “We have to narrowly focus on our culture and improving Black people first. If Black people improve, America will improve.” Kwa David Whitaker noted that he has seldom experienced George speak with such seriousness. Indeed, George’s opening remarks not only set the tone for PNC, it was tantamount to a new charge/challenge to Black America – we must embrace ourselves, focus on building social, political and economic capacity or the majority of the race is doomed to occupy the lower rungs of the “success” ladder in America.
After the session, I was moved to tell George that in my view there is no more urgent priority for Africans in America than relentlessly focusing on our culture and internal development to enhance Black empowerment. In the past few years, many of my Vantage Point essays have drawn attention to the “State of Emergency” in Black America, a multifaceted crisis of joblessness, economic underdevelopment, inferior education, crime, violence, fratricide and mass incarceration of Black people, particularly in America’s “dark ghettoes – urban inner-city areas. The crisis is also characterized by a growing disconnect between the “haves” and “have nots” – the inner-city and the exurbs/suburbs in Black America. Equally important, however, is the disorientation and lack of cultural/historical political consciousness that can provide a sense of purpose and direction for a disadvantaged, dispossessed and oppressed people. In the midst of the State of Emergency, there is little evidence of a widespread call for Black people to refocus on our culture and recommit to reconstruct Black communities as the foremost priority.
Over the years the Nation of Islam and a range of Pan Africanist organizations have remained true to the call for racial consciousness, self-help, self-reliance and self-development. But, more often than not, Black professionals have undervalued or been dismissive of the importance of cultural consciousness/Blackness as a critical ingredient in the success of Black people’ including business/economic development. George Fraser is reasserting his conviction that cultural/historical consciousness is crucial to the intentional development of a business/economic foundation in Black America and the Black World. And, he is assembling an army of Black professionals to espouse this vision/mission. As such FraserNet has the potential to emerge as a model of hope in the midst of disorientation and despair, a vital anchor and center of gravity for mobilizing/organizing human and material resources to combat and overcome the State of Emergency devastating America’s dark ghettos.
At the Town Hall Meeting when I was asked to offer a wish for uplifting Black America, I responded that FraserNet must maximize its potential as a vehicle devoted to improving Black people first. Therefore, I urged the participants to take George Fraser’s charge/challenge seriously, to internalize the vision and work tirelessly to live out the creed and recruit other Black professionals to the cause. The Institute of the Black World 21st Century and FraserNet/PNC share a common vision of utilizing cultural/historical/political consciousness and networking as indispensable tools for Black empowerment. Therefore, consistent with George’s concept of “connecting the dots,” I encouraged the participants at this year’s PNC to make every effort to attend/participate in the forthcoming State of the Black World Conference III (SOBWC III), November 14-18 at Howard University -- to network with African-centered scholars, activists and organizers. Centered on the theme: State of Emergency in Black America: Time to Heal Black Families and Communities, SOBWC III will be an occasion to widen the circle of advocates dedicated to improving Black people first.
George Fraser will be front and center as a Speaker at the Town Hall Meeting and Resource Person for Working Session on Economic and Community Development. He will also receive an IBW Legacy Award for his steadfast commitment to economic empowerment of Black people. That’s connecting the dots. Through Ujima/Collective Work and Responsibility, IBW and FraserNet/PNC can be critical focal points for improving Black people first – and ending the State of Emergency in Black America. When Black people improve, America will improve, and that’s the way it must be!
Note: Organizations or individuals willing to assist with the collective mobilization for SOBWC III should visit the website www.ibw21.org -- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or Call: 888.774.2921
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.