In the film “Black Panther”, Wakanda Queen Ramonda shouts out to T’Challa, her son, “Show him who you are!” She made this plea because T’Challa was on the verge of defeat at the hands of M’Baku during a ceremonial fight for the royal throne, and the mantle of Black Panther. We all know how the story ends, T’Challa defeats M’Baku to retain his high position, only to lose it, and nearly his life, to Wakandan outsider Eric Killmonger.
I believe this plea – “Show him who you are!” – rings true today for all members of the Black Diaspora. Regrettably, we have been placed in a position that requires us to show the rest of the world who we are. But how do we get there, to a place where we know ourselves better than they do? By creating programming that draws from the past to inform our present.
What many people don’t realize is the original Tulsa, Oklahoma Black Wall Street was a thriving (mostly Black) community that populated a 35 square acre district. According to a video posted on the Black Excellence & Abundance YouTube Channel, the Greenwood District, founded by Black millionaires O.W. Gurley and J.B. Stafford in 1906, had over 600 businesses. But what impresses me most about Gurley and Stafford’s Black Wall Street is how a single dollar would circulate from one hand to another within their all-Black community between 36-100 times, continuing to be spent there for almost a year before being spent elsewhere.
My nonprofit organization ACHIEVEMENT SQUARE Development & Training Centers, Inc. is endeavoring to inject this same entrepreneurial mindset in Black youths through its BOSS Project. The BOSS Project was created to cultivate authentic leadership and entrepreneurial thinking in the hearts and minds of Black children and youths. Black youths between the ages of 13 and 17 will engage in online and offline activities that enhance their understanding of the values and principles that allowed Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Black business leaders to build opportunity and sustain success in hostile social and economic environments. Ultimately, the BOSS Project will serve as a catalyst that Black youths can refer back to while pursuing and obtaining post-secondary education and/or training, and starting and running their own successful business enterprises.
Services that will be offered by the BOSS Project include:
PERSONAL PROSPERITY PLAN DEVELOPMENT, where Black youths will be provided with online instruction that helps them establish firmer foundations for individual and collective prosperity.
BUSINESS PROFESSIONAL (BP) CONNECT, where Black youths will connect with adult mentors to help them develop and implement their Personal Prosperity Plans and gain experiences that enhance their understanding of business operations.
BUSINESS PLANNING & OPERATION, where Black youths will receive support with business plan development and the initial operation of their small business enterprises.
POST-SECONDARY PREP, where Black youths will receive instruction and gain experiences that heighten their desire to pursue and take advantage of post-secondary educational opportunities (i.e., college/university, trade school, military).
The centerpiece of the BOSS Project is the LIFE 101 Workshop Series. Each of its four educational modules – PEDAL Prep, Educational Safari, Enterprise Zone and Peer Positive – consists of interactive lessons that help Black youths become better nurturers, learners, workers and leaders. Ultimately, the workshop series is designed to increase participants’ capacity to lead independently fearless and empowered lives upon graduation from high school.
MODULE ONE (PEDAL Prep) will teach Black youths the importance of healthy relationships. Special emphasis will be placed on helping them develop an accurate understanding of what it means to be a Reliable Friend, a Committed Spouse and a Present Parent.
MODULE TWO (Educational Safari) will teach Black youths how to develop and maintain educational success, and provide the impetus they need to apply, enroll and succeed in college.
MODULE THREE (Enterprise Zone) will teach Black youths how to start and operate small business enterprises.
MODULE FOUR (Peer Positive) will teach Black youths how to form their own giving circles, ultimately using the model to increase their understanding of Social Responsibility.
In conclusion, our intent is not to raise up a generation of Black youths who hoard their wealth, knowledge and resources for themselves and the Black community. No. Through our program, Black youths will undoubtedly acquire tools that enable them to freely share their time, talent, treasure and testimony with the rest of the world. They will be in a better position to share because they will have a better understanding of who they are as individuals and as members of the Black Diaspora.
From there, our hope is they will build bridges, not walls, for all of us should be committed to promoting more equitable exchanges of ideas and resources with the rest of the world. How these equitable exchanges occur will be determined by the key stakeholders. But when all is said and done, we must do what King T’Challa encouraged us to do during his address to the United Nation’s General Assembly. We, the human race, must find the will to operate as one tribe.
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