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The Spirit Of “Business and Building” – Sober, Progressive and Committed

Words are really inadequate to express the gratitude and spiritual impact that I feel regarding the recent “Business and Building” Weekend in Washington, D.C. So I will not try to use this space to express all that I feel regarding what took place on October 28th and 29th. In the coming days I will be personally conveying my heart-felt thanks to all of you who directly made this event what it was – significant.

Those who attended the event came in exactly the spirit I prayed for and expected. These are serious, sober, progressive, passionate, humble, brilliant and experienced individuals who are intimately acquainted with the suffering of our people and committed to addressing it, in their local neighborhoods, America, and all over the world. They expressed themselves articulately and firmly, but also listened respectfully to others. They thought critically and creatively. They had a sense of humor. They all said words that indicated that they possessed hearts of love for their people. And they all acknowledged the need for unity in solving the problems of our people and satisfying their basic needs and wants.

Until now, I never explained one of the reasons why we selected the Frederick Douglass Museum and why we placed the image of Mr. Douglass, with such a serious pose, in our advertisement and promotional materials for the event. It was because we wanted people to see an ex-slave looking right at them, as they considered this event. I had something very specific in mind. It was the words of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, who said and wrote that we would have to have as much or more enthusiasm in getting out of slavery, as the slave master had in putting us into slavery.

Think over that. How many of us display this attitude and will power in our daily struggle?

I saw that enthusiasm this weekend. And I feel that if Frederick Douglass were to have walked into any of our gatherings, he would not have felt we disrespected the suffering that he and others endured in slavery.

And that is the point of the “Business and Building” Weekend and the Four Initiatives that we are now in dialogue over, and which will eventually be placed before the entire community. What we are dedicated to achieving is the complete liberation of our people from the legacy of slavery.

While most every Black person agrees that slavery existed, a lesser number agree on the effects of its legacy, and even less, on how to overcome them.

The position of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, clearly expressed, in a 1960 article entitled, “What Must Be Done With The Negro?” was that although chattel slavery had ended, until we, as a people, discontinued providing our talent, skills, wealth and labor to other people more than we applied it for the benefit of self, we were not “free.”

We have to be honest with ourselves – to what degree are we giving, selling, or trading our wealth, the talent, skills, and labor more with others than we are among ourselves? And to what degree could this dynamic be a factor in our inability to make progress away from the effects of slavery?

By properly uniting a critical mass of people, and leveraging that unity in specific areas: Community Development, International Affairs, Business and Investment, and Political Action, the “Business and Building” Community Members intend to provide an example for our people and hopefully an inspiration to many of our existing organizations dedicated to helping our people. We don’t wish to create something totally ‘new,’ but rather, to build something that renews many of us already working on the rise of our people. Perhaps we can serve as a catalyst.

On this note regarding talent, skills, and labor I must remark on the joy I felt in being in a room full of intellectuals, professionals, entrepreneurs and highly-skilled individuals who are not an elite group, but rather a vanguard, because they are connected to the masses of our people – physically, mentally and emotionally. I don’t know if this is the Talented Tenth that W.E.B. Du Bois spoke about, or those whom the Honorable Elijah Muhammad described as being essential to the next phase of the development of a Black Nation, but it sure did look like it. What a sight. Everything we need to solve our problems, and form a formidable community, was in that room. We aren’t just loaded with talent and experience, we are overflowing with the right spirit to use what we have, if we continue on the road we have chosen.

I cannot begin to express how powerful it was to have several married couples present with us. It was something. And I think it added a profound dimension to our gathering and deliberations. It seemed to make things a bit more ‘real’ and add some wisdom to the process. Wisdom is the right use of the understanding of knowledge, and it appeared to me that the wisdom necessary to make a marriage work, and raise a family is a well-spring that the “Business and Building” Community will continue to drink from.

In my brief remarks made on Saturday night at the Mixer, I made reference to Surah 38 verse 5 of the Holy Qur’an which reads, “Makes he the gods a single God? Surely this is a strange thing.” I then began to explain that we all have a ‘god’ - a source of our value system or school(s) of thought that we subscribe to. In applying this verse to the effort to reach agreement and unity, I explained that many people find our effort to bring together a diverse and eclectic group misguided, unrealistic, too ambitious, or, well, ‘strange,’ as the Qur’an describes.

But to me, these ‘gods’ that we subscribe to, lack the full explanatory power to describe our dilemma and problem, and they, in and of themselves, lack the insight and reach to raise the masses of our people. And the same is true for our organizations. Not a single one of them has been able to address the basic needs and wants of our people in totality. What is needed is cross-pollenization and synthesis. What the “Business and Building” Community is about is bring the ‘gods’ in one room and through a five-step process of Knowledge, Contact, Respect, Unity and Love, arrive at a state of consciousness and combination, as embodied by a certain Arabic word. On this I wrote recently, “Look deeper at that concept ‘a state of combination,’ embodied by this Arabic word ’Asa. That is what we are looking for in our community, people who are in a right state of combination – their talents, skills, and interests in alignment with the mission of raising our people – morally, politically, economically and culturally – all over the world.”

That is why it almost brought tears to my eyes, several times to see a room full of individuals coming together from Pittsburgh; The Congo; Ghana; Newark, New Jersey; Huntsville, Alabama, Hampton, Virginia; Austin, Texas; San Diego, California; Detroit, Michigan; Queens and Brooklyn, New York; Las Vegas, Nevada; Cleveland, Ohio; Houston, Texas and more, and more, and more.

And not only that. We had members of the Nation Of Gods and Earths, Christians, Pan-Africanists, those who subscribe to Indigenous Spirituality and Tribal Beliefs, Muslims, Agnostics, Atheists, and as one Brother told me – folks who are ‘just here. And all of us ready to learn from one another, according to the best of what we believe or hold fast to.

And that same spirit was at work in the brilliance and broad-mindedness displayed by our 'Coffee Talk' Facilitators, International Economist, Mr. Marc Mealy, and Ms. Dee Brown of Brilliant Corners Research and Strategies. It was also apparent with our speakers which included the “O.G.” of the modern era of Black Conservatism, Armstrong Williams leading off in his courageous and inimitable fashion; Cynthia McKinney speaking with politically progressive and informed passion; Minister Abdul Khadir Muhammad, challenging and exhorting us; Kelvin Boston seeking to instill a wealth consciousness in us through a message of financial and emotional empowerment; Dr. Steven Hanke taking us into the 'back room' and providing a riveting and rare picture of how decisions are made by principalities and rulers in high places that affect economic conditions all over the world; and Reuven Brenner connecting the dots between the democratization of capital, Katrina, and Black entrepreneurship.

The highlight of the speaker presentations and Q & A was the exchange between Cynthia McKinney and Armstrong Williams. You will have to get the DVD and CD to see this warm, and hilarious exchange that evolved out of an issue of seriousness and a sense of accountability. To, me, it represented a microcosm of what the gathering was all about.

A regret is that due to scheduling errors and mistakes on my part we were not able to facilitate more interaction between those in attendance toward the latter part of the evening.

We will correct that in “Building and Business II,” tentatively scheduled for May of 2007 - with one major speaker already confirmed.

I think we have laid enough of a foundation to now get busy with the serious work of our 120-Day process, which will complete a critical stage in our evolution from information to education, to a community of action.

Yes, I think we have in this group and process as much enthusiasm in getting out of slavery as those had, who put us into it.

Time will tell...

Cedric Muhammad

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

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