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Troy

Black Pioneers in the High-Tech World

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Crossing the Digital Divide Black Pioneers in the High-Tech World,

Ebony Magazine, June 2000

 

I found this gem of an article on Google's site.  I tried to find this article on Ebony's website but I could not.  It remains unclear to me why Ebony does not make their digital archives available online, directly, on their own website.

ebony-blackpioneers.jpg

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Reading this article is both nostalgic and depressing.  Living through that period and comparing it to today is the main reason I often rant about the state of Black content and ownership on the web.  

 

As we lose publications, and the remaining ones struggle to survive, articles like this are virtually nonexistent today--even in Ebony.

 

The potential reflected above has all but disappeared.  Netnoir, The Black Word Today, Black Geeks, and many of the other sites mentioned above have disappeared, without fanfare or remorse.  

 

Ellington's, quote was quite telling; when looking for support from Black media companies, they either wanted to shut him down or buy him out.  This mentality helps explain why we have lost so much and run so little today on the World Wide Web.

 

I have tried to work with all of these companies at one point or another from collaborating with Omar Wasow on an interview an interview with Johnnie Cochran, before he started Black Planet, when he was running a digital bulletin board called New York Online  I have been working with Gwen and Willie Richardson for years now; our most recent collaboration is the two year old Power List site for best selling book read by African Americans.

 

I lament how slowly The Power List is taking to gain traction, because I know if the year was 2000, we would have so much more support.  In 2015 the story is very different.

 

Today, Black entrepreneurs cross the digital divide alone.  It is no different that when I started creating websites in 1995.  Interestingly the early 2000's mirrors the heyday of Black literature.  This, of course, is no coincidence.

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There isn't much to add to this at all. I was talking with a guy yesterday who was asking me about my Center Court Basketball website I shut down in 2011 and actually stopped running in 2009. I had sent over a 100 basketball players to college on scholarships. He was asking if I had any plans to do it again because so many players in the area are being left behind. I told him that I wouldn't, but I am more than willing to talk with anyone looking to set a site up and camp system to help players. I've been saying this for over 5 years and no one has called to sit down and do it and it's sad.

 

I guess what it says is that people simply don't want to do anything that takes time anymore. If it's not immediate, it's not worth it. If it isn't in line with a stream on social media then why do it. I hate it, but this is blackness for most of our people.

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Is this malaise just present among Blacks?  Percentage wise does the white majority have more independent entrepreneurs and  businesses that thrive through networking and cooperative patronage?  Or is the average white person like the average black person, just a wage earner working for a company where they hope to earn promotions and salary raises and retire with a good pension?  It does take a lot of energy and drive and vision and money to start your own enterprise in capitalistic America, which is apparently why so many small businesses fail.  In this uncertain world, people opt for security; risk takers are in the minority and you only hear the inspirational exceptions to the rule who succeed.The many that go under don't get any publlcity. 

 

Do you guys ever watch "Shark Tank on ABC, a reality show where wanna-bes try to get the panel of 5 millionaire moguls to invest in their projects.  Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks and Damond John, the black founder of FuBu(a real rags to riches success story) are among the panel.  This program showcases how hard it is to excite investors about your product and half the contestants go away without making a satisfactory deal while others opt to take a chance and settle for what they hope will work in their favor.  "Sharks" is a good name for the panel members because they mercilessly attack those whose ideas they think are not feasible, leaving them to make their exit with their tails between their legs.

 

The black race needs a do-over; it needs to refine its hustle.  So many times when they are given a chance at doing business they are not prepared and can't deliver.  Time and time again black contractors are awarded jobs by the city of Chicago, and they always end up embezzling funds and doing the half ass jobs that gets them replaced.  Chicagoans will be going to the polls to vote for mayor next week, and one of the candidates is a self-made black business man, a millionaire who owns 4 McDonald franchises and a medical equipment supply company.  But he's very inarticulate, mumbles Ebonics, and has no political finesse. In a debate with the other candidates, he kept referring to them as "whitey's".  His campaign gives no specifics as to how he will delivers on all he promises. and he promises everything.  Of course, he's no worse than his slippery shady opponents but  he continues to embarass himself, explaining why one of his sons has disowned him by saying he didn't think the boy was his anyway because his momma wasn't no good and that was why he put her out.  I luv it. 

 

Somebody has to make up the bulk of consumers and this seems to be the niche of Blacks folks buying what they want, instead of what they need.

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No Cynique, the issues I raised are not unique to Black folks.  It is just that Black folks, suffer the impact more profoundly (harsher and greater duration), and recover more slowly than our white counterparts.

 

I know most people are not like me in this regard, but I have less than zero interest in reality TV.  The programs always strike me as contrived, designed to entertain more than anything else.  I've just resigned myself to the fact that I'll never be able to join in any conversations regarding these programs.  I have nothing again people who enjoy them, I'm just not one of them.

 

As far as your Mayoral candidate.  I'm sure there are many white elected officials who how have done worse--especially in Chicago--than the brother you are referring it is just that Brothers forget they can't get away with the things white folks do.  He has no chance of winning.

 

I know something will be done about the wealth gap very soon.  This morning I read an brief article in The Economist that said 0.1% of Americans have more wealth than the bottom 90%.  This is the great wealth gap in the history of the country.  Needless to say this includes a lot of white folks.  

 

When so many white folks are adversely impacted, things start to change and improvements are made to remedy the situation.  Because when the great masses of white folks begin to suffer, they are liable to revolt and this is not good for business.  Black folks of course stand to benefit from whatever changes are made. But we are never the reason for the change and any benefits we are accrue are purely incidental.  This goes for the Emancipation Proclamation to the Civil Rights legislation.

 

Funny how hard we fought for the right to vote.  Now we don't bother to vote.   I guess this is another example of us doing what Carter G Woodson described. "...if there is no back door, he will cut one for his special benefit..."

 

Chris I really do believe that if the Black media talked about these things, it would make a difference.  Sure there is plenty of information available online, but you have to dig, it does not readily present itself in the filter bubble the social media driven thing the internet has become. But I also realize (trust me) that it is really difficult to make money talking about these things.  

 

100 players scholarships--that is impressive.  Any idea what percentage of those student/athletes got their degrees?

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As with all of my comments I take a personal approach. I don't consider CBP a small business because I couldn't quit my job to run it. I've been in business since 2011 as my full time job, and I've had the business since 2005. During that time the most difficulties I encountered dealt with Black people. White people went out of their way to support the ventures and I had to extend my reach to very small towns to help and get Black support. As a matter of fact, in every business I've been in my prosperity derived from working with other races. My downfall came in trusting and working with Blacks. I've had some success when trying to do a few things with Blacks, but those Blacks were not American. I hate to be vague, but it would take too long to explain it all. 

 

I guess what I'm saying is I agree with Troy that the problem of black business is profoundly affected by the behavior of Blacks. Whites and others have the same problems, but our fractured behavior compounds the problem for us. We simply don't share information or help others without expecting reciprocity or ownership. Other cultures understand there is a hierarchy and that you can gain by working with the structure as opposed to working against it. Blacks want to be the boss immediately and will fracture a relationship to start their own thing even if they aren't ready to do the job correctly. We tend to desire accolades as opposed to doing the work and sustaining.

 

In regard to the players, I've never really done a followup, but I would have to say the graduation rate is pretty darn high. I really only worked with guys who were overlooked. Those guys tended to work a lot harder than others and that translated to more success in the classroom. The camps and website have actually produced at least 5 high school coaches and 1 college coach, 1 NBA player and in my head a lot of those guys have become successful fathers and husbands. I should probably put together a book about that time because that would be a pretty good story. Right off I'd have to say at least 50% earned degrees. Some are working on their doctoral degrees or are in grad school.

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