During my discussion Legacy Syndrome, we discussed the issues that occur as a result of the African diaspora lack of legacy especially in regards to culture. One aspect of the legacy syndrome that is often overlooked is the economic penalties paid due to the inability to pass on culture from one generation to the next because we also did not pass on trades, skills and business as part of the estates our descendents were entitled to.
When we look at any culture, we soon notice that a sort of natural specialization or differentiation of business occurs in regards to the products and services said culture produces. Specialization in this case refers to the ability of a business to differentiate its services and products from competition. So in essence, produce services and products that no one else can produce like you, so the customer has nowhere else to go to get your product or service. Every company tries to ensure that its product stands out to consumers and culture business is no different in this regard. Culture is usually the bedrock of economic prosperity for every culture. The products and services that spawn from culture are as different in nature as the group of people who create it and when you consider no 2 groups on earth are exactly the same, the variety of culture business is a spectacular display of diversity.
Lets look around the world and take note of the many businesses that spawn from culture. In fact there are so many we can only try and group them in genres for the purpose of this blog. There is food, clothes, music, literature, art, inventions and even ideas that have cultural roots and also form businesses that serve to financially enable the parent cultural groups. The selling of these products and services are unique to each group of course. You search for the best Chinese food in Chinatown, the Jamaicans have exported their reggae music world wide and likewise the Kente cloth of the Ghanaian are a popular clothing item. These businesses have made billions of dollars and are the life blood of the communities they originate from. Especially during mass world migration these businesses often serve as the initial financial starting point the new immigrants use to 'get on their feet' in their new environments. The Chinese immigrants to the USA used their establishments of Chinatowns all over th USA to fund the college education of their children. 'Tiger mom' is a term used to describe Asian immigrant mothers who are relentless in ensuring their kids make the most of the limited immigrant resources to gain educations that will in turn upgrade the next generation of Chinese Americans. So the 1st generation may slave away in the kitchens of Chinatown only so the 2nd generation will go to Harvard. Recently, I met a young man who is a history major at Boston College. This young man fits this description perfectly. His mom migrated to Boston in the 1990's. Even today she can not speak English well, he told me. She is a 'Tiger mom' who vigorously ensured her children got the best education. His older brother was now a doctor he told me. We are familiar with the phrase ' it takes a villiage to raise a child' and he can attest to the truth of this statement growing up in Chinatown. His culture and the culture business that his mom used to fund his education, along with thechinese immigrant community at large are responsible for this story of the american dream come true. Now imagine the same community and this resourceful immigrant family without their culture to guide them.
So lets apply the lack of original culture to the African diaspora in the USA. Without said cultural advantages in terms of skills, knowledge and cultural unity, the results have been no viable initial financial starting point to eventually send their children to school. We will for sake of argument assume that the African diaspora in America were even be allowed/encouraged to attend school for the vast majority of the time spent in the USA, the resulting graduates will have no community to come 'home to' or no home to grow and fit into and definatley no educated society for said graduates to fit in to. Furthermore, there are no naturally specialized products and services to offer the world. The survival culture that is developed can not compete with the original cultures that have developed over the centuries and as a result do not benefit the African American the way other cultures enjoy. So even down to hair braiding which is a common African skill that garners high returns as a cultural service, its the newly immigrated Africans that dominate this field and ironically the Asian communities often supply the African hair products to the African American communities. This unfortunate phenomenon translates to clothing, food and every other cultural business one can think of.
The next aspect of business that suffers due to the lack of original culture is the legacy these business provide future generations. In Boston, just go to the North end. The Italian restaurants in this area have been passed down from generation to generation. The exponential appreciation of passing down these businesses span into so many other financial systems. The property, intellectual property as well as accumulated wealth have served to uplift these once immigrant communities to the status they enjoy today. So without these cultural businesses the many Italian doctors, lawyers and businessmen would not exist.
I often say the only way to learn how to manage a million dollars is to spend 3 million dollars. You need to practice as with any skill at least 3 times to grasp the concept and most likely practice many more times before you master said concepts. So without said cultural businesses to learn how to manage, the concepts of building and growing a business from scratch becomes an unimaginable feat instead of a learned process handed down from generation to generation. Practise makes perfect and our African diasporan brothers and sisters have had limited experience in this regard, and in turn work for other cultures in order to survive.
The cultural pride is the final aspect we will touch in this blog. The positive reinforcement that comes from a thriving business is invaluable. The pride one receives from getting financial affirmation of ones culture feeds confidence and cultural vigor. I always notice the glow my Haitian brothers and sisters have when my non-Haitian children enthusiastically burst out requests for Haitian food. The pride serves to also fight negative stereotypes in the general community. It always leaves agood impression when a business thrives. The owners and culture it represents gain from reinforcing the mind set that this group of people are hard working,organized or clean etc.
In closing, exposure to African culture in the diaspora will hopefully spawn African based cultural business that will form the foundation of economic empowerment for the African diaspora community. Simply getting degrees while beneficial on an individual level will not have the widespread empowerment required to form the unity that is needed to THRIVE. The cultural unity is critical to building true economic freedom because if we simply get 'good jobs' and become arbitrary entrepreneurs then our success will be limited and not aid the community as a whole to acheive its collective goal.