In celebration of Black History Month, I would like to share a speech that I recently gave at an event.
Here it is:
Throughout history, blacks have fought for economic equality and were inspired by an “I Can” attitude. The Black Economic Empowerment movement was designed to transform the economy to be representative of this diverse and great country. And our forefathers and mothers envisioned a world where you and I would acquire economic equality and one day stand with our heads held high and say with confidence and conviction “I Can”.
They dreamed, shed blood and gave their lives: Dr. Martin Luther King, JR., a civil rights activist, human rights icon and youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, dreamed that, “One day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal”; He dreamed; Fannie Lou Hamer, a voting rights activist and civil rights leader, was beaten severely by the police, almost to the point of death after returning from a literacy workshop in South Carolina; She bled; Medgar Evers, a civil rights activist and committed member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), became the first major civil rights leader to be assassinated in 1963. He gave his life. They dreamed, shed blood and died so that you and I can say with confidence and conviction “I Can”.
Carter G. Woodson, a scholar, historian and the Father of Black History Month, founded the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) to ensure that our struggles and achievements were not ignored or misrepresented; Madame C.J. Walker, a humanitarian, business owner and founder of a beauty empire became the first African American woman to make $1 million dollars. They embodied and promoted the idea of economic justice in the early twentieth century so that you and I can say with confidence and conviction in 2014, “I Can”
As a sign of gratitude for those who sacrificed, struggled and died in their quest to ensure economic justice, you and I have an obligation to maintain an “I Can” attitude; an attitude that promotes black economic empowerment.
We must teach poor Blacks to be self-sufficient instead of providing them with social welfare. We must embrace the true meaning of the Chinese Proverb: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. We must tell our children that economic power does not occur by working for money, but by making money work for us. We must support Black own businesses and stop asking for the “hook-up”. We must teach our brothers and sisters to say with confidence and conviction, “I Can”.
“I Can”. That’s the attitude we must develop and sustain…I Can increase the spiritual, political and economic strength of individuals in my community. “I Can” empower other Blacks to develop confidence in their own capacities and capabilities.
“I Can” be a role model to a young boy who believes that he can only succeed in life by being an athlete or rapper. “I Can” provide guidance to a young girl who believes that she can only succeed in life by placing more emphasis on outer beauty than she does on her inner beauty. Today is the day that you and I must embrace our obligation. The Bible teaches that if the blind lead the blind both shall fall into the ditch. With this in mind, you and I have no choice, but to stand up and say with confidence and conviction “I Can”.
As Black History Month approaches its end we must not rest on the laurels of our forefathers and mothers. We must continue to honor and celebrate their “I Can” legacy. I challenge you to keep the legacy alive. I also challenge you to ask yourself, what are you doing or have done to empower yourself or someone else? You and I represent what W.E.B. Dubois referred to as the Talented Tenth: The “Haves”. We are in positions to uplift the not so Talented Ninety Percent: The “Have Nots”. We possess what they wish for. And if we aspire to empower them, we cannot possess an “I got mine, so they can get theirs” attitude. If our ancestors lived by that mindset, I would not be standing before you today with my head held high and saying with confidence and conviction “I Can.”
Do you desire to be among the ranks of individuals who say with confidence and conviction, “I Can”? Individuals such as Patricia Bath, a doctor and humanitarian, who is the first African American female doctor to hold a patent in medicine; Lonnie Johnson, an inventor, engineer and officer, who holds 80 patents in the aerospace industry and invented Super Soaker, Oprah Winfrey, a humanitarian and entertainment executive, who is the first African American woman to reach billionaire status; and Barack Obama, an author and politician, who is the first African American to hold the Office of the President of the United States. They said “I Can” so you and I would be inspired to say with confidence and conviction,“I Can”.
Ladies and gentlemen this is what Black Economic Empowerment is all about. As a race of people we have suffered enough. It is time for you and I to take the lead in sustaining the “I Can” attitude that made the Black community a force to be reckoned with. I pledge to empower those who are less fortunate than myself and challenge you to do the same. Your efforts will not be in vain. Future generations are depending on us and for this reason I do not hesitate to say with confidence and conviction “I Can”.
“I Can”. That’s the attitude we must maintain in order to achieve Economic Power. Yes, it is true that we have progressed over the past few decades, but we cannot afford to stop saying “I Can”. Our youth depend on it and our country deserves no less than our best!
Thank you and be blessed,