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SEWE Left Charleston $50 Million Bucks, Black Businesses Got Zilch
2/26/2014 4:14:06 PM

By Barney Blakeney

Show me the money!

The phrase from the 1996 movie “Jerry Maguire” starring Tom Cruise and Cuba Gooding Jr. seems somewhat fitting when I think about the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition that left Charleston last week. In its wake the three-day event usually leaves some $50 million in the local economy. I thought of that after a couple of things happened during the week.

I covered the unveiling of the Denmark Vesey monument Saturday, Feb. 15. It was phenomenal. Over 100 people showed up. Black folks usually don’t turn out in such numbers unless someone’s giving something away. In a way I guess they were giving something away - historic pride and dignity.

After the ceremony I had to go downtown to pick up some information. I rode with my brother from another mother and his wife. We had to pick our way through traffic to get to the main county library on Calhoun Street. We couldn’t figure out why traffic was so snarled. We soon realized the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition was in town. Them folks was all over downtown, Marion Square was abuzz.

Later that evening I got a phone call from another brother. I call this guy my big brother. He’s older than me and despite my hard head still tries to teach me stuff.

Big bruh was upset about something. He never really said what was bothering him, he just went into this conversation about Black folks’ failure to work collectively.

We often have that conversation. He knows how I feel about us and collective effort. It doesn’t exist with us except in a few instances. We had that conversation in the watering hole the other day. Black folks won’t trust each other, not even in the Black Church. We continue to miss the dollar worrying about the dime.

Anyway, I told big bruh when Black organizations begin to work cohesively, maybe the rest of us will have a chance. There are a lot of social organizations in the Black community which really could have a greater impact if they cooperated more. That includes fraternities, sororities and yes, Black churches.

I shared my thoughts about Black business and the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition. All that money comes to town - the exposition drops some $50 million annually in its wake locally - and Black folks see almost none of it.

A few days later, my boy Anthony Moore sends me an email about some study conducted by Prudential which says though Black folks are making financial progress they continue to face challenges.

Moore is one of my ‘go to guys’ when it comes to money matters. He runs the Greater Charleston Economic Empowerment Corporation. I usually get the real skinny from him, but I couldn’t figure out what he expected I’d get from that info.

A small sampling of African Americans whose incomes are above $25,000 annually were surveyed in addition to an even smaller sampling of general population people with the same background. Several things stood out at me.

It mentioned a growing Black middle class, that about half the respondents earn $75,000 or more, one-third have financial assets of $50,000 or more and Blacks are more likely to have some type of debt especially student loan and non-mortgage debt.

The survey also concluded that Blacks are more likely to live in female-headed and multi-generational households and that Blacks retire earlier than their general population counterparts though they are less prepared for retirement.

Much of that seemed encouraging, then I got to wondering why all that affluence doesn’t translate into more Black businesses that benefit from events like the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition. The promo for the exposition says its economic benefits are staggering and encourages corporate partnerships that can participate in the unique opportunities for marketing and client entertainment SEWE presents.

Every time I talk to Moore, he says Blacks must be more open to diverse entrepreneurial opportunities. The Metropolitan Charleston community is growing by leaps and bounds. In addition to our massive tourism industry, the retail business scene is off the chain.

North Charleston is the state’s leader in retail sales! Mayors Joe Riley and Keith Summey are positioning their towns to reap great gains from the aeronautics and technical industries. Where is Black business in the fray?

I keep hearing business people say Black folks teach their children how to get jobs while other folks teach their children how to create jobs. I wonder if that’s what Big bruh was trying to tell me?

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