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Knowledge, Contact, Respect, Love, Unity: The Spirit of Business and Building II

In the most beautiful and intimate of settings, we had among us virtually every school of thought, station, generation, and class of our people represented at one time, all ready to serve. From Corporate Executive, Street Organization Member, African National, Black Professional, Hip-Hop Artist, FOI, MGT, Professor, Grandmother, Martial Arts Master, Investor-Entrepreneur, Married Couple, Black Nationalist, Staff Member For A United States Senator, and many, many more, we practically had it all present with us from October 26th to 28th in Washington, D.C. for’s annual “Business and Building” II gathering.

Brother Charles Muhammad and myself were honored beyond words to have been in the company of so many intelligent, passionate, spirited, and humble persons, who although coming from various perspectives, were all on the same page regarding concern, love for, and intention to do something together to change the condition of our people all over the world.

Thanks to our dear Sister, Stefanie – the Event Planner sent from God to us – we experienced three of the most beautiful, warm, and yet stimulating and sober days we can remember.

And that point – the atmosphere in which we came together bears a special mention.

It is one thing to come to an event with the right spirit, which everyone of our Attendees did, and it is another to be able to beautifully create an atmosphere through physical structure, color, process, and arrangements that reflect, protect, and embolden that spirit. To be able to coordinate, people, venues, art work, design, and the subtle and small things so that your event communicates to its participants, even when no one is speaking is truly a talent, gift and cultivated skill.

And whatever ‘it’ is, Stefanie definitely has it.

Want more proof? Ok, how’s this:

Although we worked together for three months, I never physically met Stefanie before the night of our first event, on Friday, October 26th. The same can be said for so many others with whom I have shared the unity of spirit for years prior to meeting them in person this past weekend.

What “Business and Building” showed me very powerfully is that there are people who Brother Charles and I have physically known for years and have an emotional connection with but no real unity of spirit, and there are so many of you – many who are reading this - who could not be with us this Weekend who are really one with us, and part of a new and special family that time and circumstance are bringing together, rather than blood or physical proximity.

The Bible and Holy Qur’an are full of verses that describe this very painful yet ultimately beautiful phenomenon that we all experience.

Beginning with Friday night’s reception at Parish Art Gallery, and its wonderful owner, Mr. Norman Parish; and where we were re-united with’s Former News Editor, Andy Solages, the tone of intimacy and honesty was set. Surrounded by the incredible art work of Mr. Todd Williams, we broke the ice, ate great food, had fun, and began building with one another in the spirit of – informed dialogue marked by fresh ideas, diverse perspectives, and an enlightened self-interest. You ain’t seen nothing until you see Martial Arts Master Sifu Shaheed (and Brother of the late Florence Griffith-Joyner) use his knowledge from the arts, world travel, and study of the world’s many cultures to accurately interpret the art work of Todd Williams (Mr. Williams confirmed everything that our Sifu saw in his work.) Business cards were exchanged, questions were answered, and jokes were cracked. Childhood friends were reunited, old relationships were solidified, and new ones that will last a lifetime were initiated. And keeping us centered with her consistent support, Brother Charles’ Mother, Ms. Mable, remained the wisest and most beautiful person present - with that awesome perfume on, that I have to ask her about.

On Saturday it was on and poppin’ when E From Queens and Saving Our Selves (SOS) from Newark entered the building for “The Cedric Muhammad Invitational,” and the first pins were struck to the 85 beats per minute “Good Life” by Kanye West featuring T. Pain - all with Laquana from Jersey City elegantly dancing on the lane. Yup, L.B. we saw you. Not bad with bowling shoes on, Sister. And early on, with his 14-pound ball at 15.9 mph not hitting the pocket, it was clear, Cedric Muhammad would not be representing as the B&B II bowling champion. The crown went to Jody from SOS, who despite constant distractions (even from her own playfully hateful squad) maintained focus for the day’s highest score. But there was more to the story. How about that networking, those side conversations, and plate after plate of good food? But nothing beats the end of three hours capped by a lane full of the beautiful little children of our Attendees bowling. And yeah, pound for pound, it was Cedric’s squad – Michael and Tisha from San Diego; Danielle from D.C.; Marc from all over (Florida, Philly, New York and Malaysia); and yours truly, that had the highest average score.

Only hours later, the lights were dimmed, and we were at U Street’s Mahogany Restaurant - the entire upper level of Bohemian Caverns to ourselves - enjoying Neo-soul, Jazz, and R&B music. The restaurant’s atmosphere was comfortable and cozy but nothing was more beautiful than the table full of M.G.T. – my Sisters: Audrey, Tara, Pamela, Tisha, and Akilah – talking about…well, it was an all woman’s meeting, so I don’t know, but it sure looked real righteous, and serious. Since Audrey, Publisher Of Virtue Magazine, was there, we’ll add that it looked real ‘virtuous.’ And then, there was Bomani Armah, who touched the open mic (did we mention that Sister Pam’s beautiful little daughter has righteously remixed the ‘Read A Book’ chorus and performed it for me at Lucky Strike Lanes? And yes, it only makes her want to learn how to read more.) There was Glenn and Pierre from Foundation Investments Group LLC, who gave a word from our sponsor, letting us know what real cooperative economics among Black men looks like, Philly-style. It looked like there was one hell of a conversation going on between Bishop of SOS building with Brother Michael from San Diego and Brother Terrence from Houston. There was Brother Hakhi in his remarks, bringing the heat to all ‘sell out Negroes.’ And we finally got to meet Carole, who unofficially became known as the Chief Corporate Officer Of Building and Business once we learned her job title and who she worked for. My boy Sabuurr flew in from Atlanta, Victor drove in from Alabama, but nothing could match Atiga, who flew in from…Ghana to be with us (As he said in his powerful open mic remarks, “America is nice but I did not come here to sight see.” And yes, I became a victim of calling my Brother Awe, by the name of his twin Atiga, and vice-versa, just like everyone else, before the weekend was over). And how about my Green and Black velvet and silk jacket that only the birthday girl - Nikki from Vegas - could persuade me to wear?

On Sunday, led by "Business and Building" Initiative Director Raghib Muhammad (the man with the greatest grasp of the ideological integrity of, with rapport, familiarity, and warmth established, or should I say, knowledge, contact, and respect – we got down to business.

The conversations were all off-the record but the highlights and results are not.

- Gil and Sam from Jersey made an absolutely incredible Power-Point/Excel/Overhead Projector with music presentation showing us the power of pooling our wealth together in our Black-owned Bank Initiative. The Working Group is in motion will consult with our Adviser Mr. Kelvin Boston and One United Bank and you can expect guidance and a call to action for ’08 the like of which has never been made before, where financial cooperation and our Black banks are concerned, nationally.

- Awe, Atiga, and Maurice ended the romanticism and rhetoric, and added some much needed realism on the subject of the Motherland (Awe had the best line about people claiming ancient Nubia while unable to point out where it was on a map of Africa), guiding a spirited conversation over our “United States Of Africa-Diaspora Group,” which is slated to hurl truth at falsehood regarding the warmed image of Black Americans projected to Africans and vice-versa, all while focused on supporting and challenging the effort to unite the 53 Nations of Africa in a way that includes the important Diaspora and Original people in North, and Central and South America. It was decided that this International Affairs Initiative and its Working Group would lay and execute plans to use the power of our own media, innovative guerilla and viral marketing, and dramatic public ‘showdowns,’ with propagandists to focus on informing and connecting both sides of the Atlantic culturally, politically and economically. We will consult with our Adviser, Randall Robinson and make an announcement in '08.

- Bishop and Pop shared with us the vision, strategy and unique approach of Saving Our Selves, touching our hearts, challenging our minds, and stimulating some creative thinking regarding the group’s alliance with, announced earlier this month. Their understanding of the connection between ‘gangs,’ youth culture, Hip-Hop, the ways of the streets and the historic struggle of our people is something special and makes it clear why Bishop and SOS have a valuable and much needed leadership role to play at a time when poverty, violence and despair is destroying our families, and communities.

- And in the previously vacant area of Political Action, in a room where a Staff Member of a United States Senator, A Chief Political Strategist, Grassroots Activists, and Former Advisers To Presidential Initiatives were all present, it was agreed, through the stand-up role played by Gary from Connecticut, that’s “Business and Building” Community could not be silent allowing our people to be roped into a silly Obama vs. Hillary conversation in ’08, while ignoring critical issues like political reform, felon disenfranchisement, and the importance of influencing Congressional advocacy or local politics like School Board, City Council and County Commissioner Seats. The Working Group is in motion and poised to dialogue and refine plans, consult with our Adviser Cynthia McKinney, and make an announcement to guide us in ’08.

All in all, I teared up five times, but never shed a tear – sorry Sabuurr, you almost had me Brother. Each occasion was different. Sabuurr has seen my suffering and reminded me of some of what I have went through to be where we are today. Watching my childhood friend and entrepreneurial and financial expert Gil make the case for the power of what our wealth and unity could bring if applied in our Banking Initiative was almost too much. Listening to Brother Hakhi passionately speak from his worldview made me feel the spirit of underappreciated and tragically deceased giants like Ken Bridges, Muhammad Nassardeen, and Amos Wilson present with us. Reading out loud the fact that one of our Viewers, Brother Dion from L.A. who could not make it, still found it in his heart to make a donation to “Business and Building” on behalf of a and Black Coffee Channel viewer who recently died, was especially poignant. And hearing Bishop from SOS explain how he got to be the man he is today, and that he had no regrets, touched me deeply.

As I write this I am reminded of a prayer that I made in 1991 before I came into the knowledge of self. I prayed for the rise and unity of our people, and I prayed for it to happen a certain way. I was not sure who I was praying to, but now, of course, I understand was praying to a God outside of myself, a God inside of myself, and that I was reflecting the longing of my ancestors for change. I forgot that prayer for years and was reminded of it in May of 2005 when I saw the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan shed tears in Washington D.C. to announce the well-attended broad cross-section of Black leaders who initially came together to support the Millions More Movement. It was the beautiful picture of the actual unity that he has been longing to see fulfilled since he was a little boy that made him cry, as he explained, that day.

Finally, exhausted but unable to sleep late Sunday night while in bed, and counting all of my blessings - like the night I made that prayer in 1991 - the tears finally came.

But, a picture of unity, for a day, and even a Weekend of unity is not enough for the Minister, or me.

We all have work to do, but now we can do so, in unity and love.

We took a big step forward from October 26th to the 28th.

Now it's on to the 'F-word,' Follow-Through so that all Four Initiatives Are Up, Running And Strong In '08.

You Can Continue To Help Defray Expenses And Support The Future Work Of "Business and Building." Become a Friend For Only $75.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

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