By Denise Clay
Despite having high unemployment rates, high rates of incarceration and low rates of college graduation, African Americans still manage to have the kind of financial power that would make the community the 12th richest nation in the world if it were organized as such.
George C. Fraser, founder and CEO of FraserNet Inc. thinks that it makes no sense that the Black community has this kind of purchasing power and yet still finds itself behind the Eight Ball. For the last 20 years, Fraser and FraserNet have been trying to connect Black people to each other so that they can pool their resources and make things better for their communities.
Fraser will be bringing his expertise in networking to the EweNique Empowerment Expo on May 13-14 at the Kopacz Building, 1426 Callowhill Street. Tickets are $39.95 for adults and $20 for students. VIP passes are also available at $55 for a one-day pass and $90 for a two-day pass. Proceeds for the expo benefit Networking for Equal Education and Economic Development.
Fraser started his career by leading such organizations as Procter & Gamble, the United Way, and Ford Motor Company. Fraser is also the author of the critically acclaimed books Success Runs In Our Race; The Complete Guide to Effective Networking in the African American Community and Race For Success; The Ten Best Business Opportunities for Blacks In America. He is also the publisher of the award-winning SuccessGuide Worldwide: The Networking Guide to Black Resources.
Every year, Fraser holds his annual Power Networking Conference, which brings together thousands of Black professionals, business owners, and community leaders gather to discuss and do business with each other.
The SUN sat down with Fraser who said that in order to fulfill its potential, Black America needs a change of mind.
SUN: Thank you for taking the time to talk with us Mr. Fraser. Can you tell me a little about the talk that you’re going to be giving here in Philadelphia?
GF: I’m going to talk about the importance of the relationships in our lives and the need for Black and Brown people to effectively network so that we can leverage our resources and intellectual capital.
SUN: Could you elaborate on that a little? When you say effective networking, what do you mean?
GF: Sure. Here’s what I mean. We as Black people have every thing we need to succeed. We have the intellectual capital. We have the money. Our financial power is such that we would be the 12th richest nation in the world. African Americans in my age range have about $5 trillion in formal education and training. We’ve surpassed W.E.B Dubois dream, which was that if 10 percent of the Black Community had gotten a formal education, it would lift the other 90 percent of the community. Now 17 percent of African Americans have a college degree. We have a lot of PhDs. Sixty percent of the Black work force has business experience. So we have everything we need…..except each other.
We are a dispersed people. There’s nothing wrong with that, but you don’t also have to be disconnected. Also, we’re the most conspicuous consumers in the world. You can’t consume yourself to power or into having the resources that we need. What I’m trying to do is to help people do what needs to be done to allow us to become producers and have the resources we need to do things in the 21st Century.
SUN: Why do you think this problem exists?
GF: I think we have deep seeded psychological issues that have been passed on from generation to generation. We’re still battling the effects of chattel slavery and this browbeating or psychological holocaust has become internalized. There are still too many Black people who have low self-esteem and a lack of love for themselves. I call it low race esteem. There are people who still think that the white man’s ice is colder and his sugar is sweeter. It’s crabs in a barrel. We don’t invest in each other.
SUN: What do you mean by that?
GF: Black people should be the largest employers of Black people. It is that ways with other races. But we continue to look for a job as opposed to creating your own job. We need to take a risk and move away from the mantra of the 20th Century. During that time, the mantra from our parents was to get an education and a good job. They wanted us to rise further than they did. But in the 21st Century, you should be trying to create a job for yourself and your children. The only way to raise up the poor in our community is for Black people is to become the number one employer of Black people. But it’s going to take another three to five generations for this to happen.
SUN: Why do you think it’s going to take so long?
GF: Because this requires a change in mindset. Since the “I Have a Dream” speech that Dr. King gave that led to us getting civil and voting rights, Blacks are down statistically. The fabric of our community has been ripped and we are in a crisis. Have some things improved? Absolutely. But there are still huge disparities in unemployment, and high school graduation rates. The family building blocks of marriage have been broken. We need a miracle.
SUN: But barring a miracle, what do we do?
GF: You change the kitchen table conversation and this is starting to occur by the way. While the Black Community has a 60 percent growth rate among entrepreneurs, we still have the lowest number of entrepreneurs per capita, the lowest revenues per capita of any small business cultural group. Sixty-five percent of these businesses are single person businesses. While this is a move in the right direction, we need to change our thinking.
Now how do you change that thinking? It will only change when we get angry. Not enough of us are angry. King was able to do what he did not just because he was right, but also because he was angry. [Nelson] Mandela was angry. Malcolm [X] was angry. When people are angry, things happen. The situation is dire. You can’t have only half of your kids graduate from high school. You can’t have more Black men in the 21st Century going to prison than they are to college. Also, 80 percent of the brothers who are in prison don’t have a high school diploma. The more that we talk about it, the more angry we’ll get. People are going to get really pissed off and then things are going to change.
SUN: Does what you’re talking about, building relationships, help with that change?
GF: Yes it does. We don’t lack opportunity. America is a land of tremendous opportunity and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. What we lack is capacity. We need to take advantage of out unlimited opportunities. On MSNBC recently, there was a discussion among Black leaders that asked “What should the Black Agenda be?” because we don’t have one. The Tea Party has one. Conservatives have one and Democrats have one. But what is ours? It’s up to us to craft that agenda and make politicians respond to it like the Tea Party has crafted its agenda and made our President respond to it. I have an agenda. I have 51,000 people in my network and we address economics and business, money and wealth building. We have two goals: help Blacks build wealth that can be transferred generationally and to make Blacks the biggest employers of blacks.
I don’t believe that you can maintain success on your own. Education is profoundly important but it’s not enough. Relationships are more important than education. There comes a time when someone says, “I know you’re smart, but what can you do?” Can you build interpersonal relationships and do you possess emotional intelligence become the real questions. These are the things that we tap into and part of the six-point agenda that I’ve been teaching and preaching for the last 10 years.
SUN: Can you talk a little about the Power Networking conference? I’m sure that after seeing you at the EweNique Prosperity Conference, our readers will want to learn more.
GF: This year’s-conference will be held from June 9-11 in Atlanta. We’ll be addressing some of the things that we’ll be talking about in Philadelphia, connecting the dots, how to build effective networks and why it is important to spend more time cultivating relationships.
SUN: Thank you for your time Mr. Fraser. I really enjoyed talking with you.
GF: Thank you!