Editorial Comment
WE Need To...
How often is it that we have heard from one quarter or another; "we need to pull together to leverage the economic power of our community". If you are reading this then I further submit that you know who WE is. Throughout the history of the United States and the free world WE have not benefited from nor participated in, any of the eras that have defined the industrialization and economic boom cycles that this nation has gone through. I submit that a new awareness must evolve among WE lest we miss this final opportunity to meaningfully participate in the paradigm of this new economic boom cycle that is now upon us.

The American Revolution was fought over money and resources. The cry of revolt was "No Taxation Without Representation". From the beginning The Americas were seen as a land rich in natural resources and land, both of which were and are still in short supply in Europe.

But the years succeeding the American Revolution were marked by a sea change of technological and scientific advancement heretofore unknown to the Western World. This era was known as the Industrial Revolution. Inventions such as the steam engine changed the world and increased productivity to then unforeseen heights. WE in those days were a commodity to be bought, bred and sold as chattel. Thus there was no way for WE to meaningfully in the long term participate in the economic expansion marked by this era. Factor in the Civil War and the economic upheaval that is characteristic of these antebellum years, and again WE come out at the low end.

The early twentieth century is another period of rapid expansion marked by a Golden age of science. Einstein, the Wright Brothers, Edison, Bell typified men who took basic principles and invented products that later changed the face of society. Industrial capitalists like Carnegie, Rockefeller and others then leveraged these inventions to build huge financial empires that fueled the military/industrial complex that resulted in our participation in the two world wars. Again, No WE.

The second world war was the turning point in establishing the United States as the preeminent industrial power. President Roosevelt turned loose the industries of America to produce war materials in amounts never before seen. The airplane and automobile industries grew in capacity and technology to make the United States a world leader in production. How many automobile or airplane companies do or did WE own?

The fifties were marked by the post war boom. The returning soldiers with their GI Bill housing and education benefits carved out levels of prosperity across the entire nation. There were so many children born in these years that they were to first generation of offspring to be labeled. We call them Baby Boomers, and the WE of this era in the persons of King, Marshall, Parks and Malcolm X led the way and fought for an end to segregation. The civil rights years marked the spawning of the third period, the space age. Have you noticed that in all the movies produced about the space age from 2001 A Space Odyssey to Apollo 13 that there are no WEs present? It was not until the late eighties and nineties that WE are represented quite ably by Bolden, McNair, Jemison and Guion in the space age.

To some the seventies and eighties are known as the age of greed. The Milkens and Boeskys of the world broke new ground through creating new financial instruments (junk bonds) and processes (the leveraged buyout). It is in this time that WE began to make some inroads into the economic mainstream. The Lewis Beatrice/TLC LBO was the watershed event.

WE are now in the information age. WE have gained some measure of economic autonomy, WE have some measure of educational opportunity in spite of setbacks like prop 187. WE have a playing field where choices can be made to insure our full participation in this information age. WE can accomplish this by nurturing our high tech businesses in our own communities.

Why can't WE look at our information utility usage habits and change them to make a difference in our own communities. The main culprit is America Online (AOL). AOL claims a subscriber base of over 17 million. Conservatively estimating that 5% of those subscribers are WE, WE are spending over $17,000,000 a month with a corporation that is putting nothing back into our respective communities.

There is no reason for a person living in Los Angeles to write a check to AOL in Virginia every month. Every major metropolitan area of the United States has online service providers run by WE. WE should utilized them to their fullest so that this opportunity to build infrastructure to the tune of $200,000,000 a year will not again pass WE by. I challenge every reader to seek out and subscribe to a Black Owned Internet Service Provider. Through this one industry WE can make an tangible step toward pulling together to leverage the economic and information power of our community.

We welcome your comment and or rebuttal.
Written 1999

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