port of harlem magazine
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The Black Magnificent Mile: 71st to 95th on Cottage Grove
December 03 – December 16, 2020

dempsey travis

The recent commitment by the Honorable Wallace D. Muhammed to create stronger links between the Muslims and the Black community is a commendable and necessary step toward the salvation of the Black community.

We have been selfish for too long. The individual accomplishments and attainments of Blacks, are without question, worthy of praise. But I frankly think Black people have been celebrating and congratulating themselves for too long.

I have personally had my fill of celebrations for the first Black this and the first Black that. During World War II, I celebrated the first Black soldier drinking 3.2 beer in an integrated post exchange at Camp Shenango, PA. The cost for that celebration was high – three Black soldiers died and six Black soldiers were wounded. I was shot three times.

Celebration is the form of intoxication that leads one to believe that he has achieved power in a posture that is powerless. Power by appointment is not power, but pow-wow.  Power can only be achieved by a PEOPLE who have unified for the purpose of pursuing a common objective. Our objective should be to save the Black community.

The Nation of Islam’s increasing activities in the community could be considered the first one thousand steps toward making this achievement a reality. But it is not enough. We need others to join the parade.

The help we need to achieve our goals and objectives are not outside the Black community; but within the Black community. We have the brain power and the foot power.

Chicago’s Black community has an estimated annual income of $6 billion: and yet, they purchased only $533 million in good and services in the 1975 calendar year from Black business. In other words in 1975, over 92 percent of the Black income was spent outside the Black community.

Black business here topped Black business in all the other cities in the country with gross sales of $533 million—here again, it is not an occasion to celebrate.

In the dual responsibility of both the Black consumer and the Black businessman  to invert this spending pattern if the Black community is to survive as a viable support basis for Black culture.

The Black spending pattern has resulted in a self-imposed colonialism which is reflected in the abandonment of one commercial strip after another. Every closed abandoned store means a loss on the average of four jobs per establishment. If Blacks had spent 17.8 percent more of their income in the Black community in 1975 they would have created an additional 22,000 jobs.

According to a survey released May 30, 1975 by the Chicago Association of Commerce and Industry, the Jewel Company ranked fifth with 21,865 employees in the Chicago area. That figure exceeds by 1,800 the 20,000 persons employed collectively by all the Black companies in the Chicago area. U.S. Steel was the number one private employer in Chicago with 40,000 employees. Black community - - there is nothing to celebrate.

It appears that the only thing we are willing to buy in any quantity from each other is gasoline, which is reflected in the fact that filling stations are the largest Black enterprise in the country. There are some 6,500 Black operated filling stations who gross some $650 million in receipts. 

The second area, is the small food stores of which there some 12,000 who grossed some $448 million in receipts.

The third largest business among Blacks are their eating and drinking establishments which brought in some $370 million in gross receipts. 

It seems like the only things that some Blacks buy from each other with any consistency are those things that would be difficult or inconvenient to buy someplace else.

In the category of food service, I would think that we have taken a step backward in that Colonel Sanders certainly controls the chicken and rib markets with 4,000 outlets covering both the Black and White community. I was delighted to read columnist Mike Royko’s comparative rating of Harvey Collins’s Barbeque with Colonel Sander’s ribs. Collins (which was Black-owned) won out in every category – lean, meaty, juicy, tender, and a delightfully smoked flavor.

If young Blacks don’t get their hands straight, they will never know the delightful experience of their own ethnic dish. The “now” generation is being programmed to think that barbeque is supposed to be ribs dipped in flour, egg-batter, and Contadina.
Note:  Publisher Wayne Young often thinks about this article that he first read as a teenager and filed for saving. The article, No Lye: An American Beauty Story, finally motivated him to digitize and share it. Thank you, Dollars & Sense and my fellow Roosevelt University alumni, Mr. Travis.
Note: Dempsey J. Travis (1920-2009) - As an entrepreneur, Travis sought to revitalize African-American neighborhoods in Chicago via Travis Realty Company and Sivart Mortgage Company. Together, the two companies worked to sell properties located in the Chicago area to African Americans who were being displaced by urban renewal projects. Travis also founded the United Mortgage Bankers of America, served on President Richard Nixon’s Housing Task Force and President Gerald Ford’s Task Force on Urban Renewal. Travis also was historian, author, and Roosevelt University graduate.

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