Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Hispanic Heritage Month - Sometimes Forgotten from the American Mind

The U.S. has 52 million Hispanics and has the second largest Hispanic population behind Mexico.  The U.S. Census predicts that the Hispanic population will be 132 million by 2050.  Hispanic estimated purchasing power is $1.4 trillion since 2012.  Twenty five years ago, the U.S. chose to make a month long celebration of Hispanic contributions to the U.S.   The celebration would be in conjunction with the anniversary of the independence of seven Latin American countries. Mexico, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Chile, and El Salvador all celebrate their independence during this this period.  Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated September 15- October 15. So as American football season starts up, this month of celebration tends to slip away from the American mind. Hispanic contributions to America are sometimes forgotten and many times are not acknowledged. We should take a look at the one of the earliest contributions to America.

The Pinta and Nina ships that sailed with Columbus were owned by the brothers Martin Alonso Pinzo and Vicente Anes Pinzo of Spain.  They both were captains of their respective ships during the voyage to what was thought to be the New World in 1492. Juan de la Cosa, also of Spain was the owner and captain of the final ship the Santa Maria that made the voyage. That was the beginning of many future Hispanic contributions to America. Mexican-born Victor Ochoa patented the electric brake in 1907. Mexican engineer Guillermo Gonzalez Camarena received a patent for the color-wheel type of color television in 1942. Brazilian Roberto Landell de Moura received three patents between 1903 to 1904 for the hertzian wave transmitter, the wireless telephone and the wireless telegraph. Dr. Victor Blanco, Ph.D. an astronomer from Puerto Rico discovered the Galactic Cluster "Blanco 1" which was named after him.  Cuban doctor Carlos Finlay discovered that mosquitoes carried yellow fever in 1900.  Panamanian born Shoshana Johnson was the first Black/Hispanic female prisoner of war in the military history of the U.S. She was held captured in Iraq for 22 days.  She later received the Bronze Star and Purple Heart for her service in Iraq. There are nine Hispanics in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.  There are eight Fortune 500 Hispanic CEOs.

  • Joseph Molina, Molina Healthcare
  • Paul J. Diaz, Kindred Healthcare
  • Robert E. Sanchez, Ryder System
  • Joseph Alvarado, Commercial Metals
  • J. Paul Raines, GameStop
  • Carlos Rodriguez, ADP
  • Josue Robles, United Services Automobile Association (USAA)
  • George Paez, Express Scripts
Too often the thinking of Hispanic contribution is deeply rooted in food.  While the culture takes great pride in foods that represent their countries, the American psyche has to evolve from tacos, burritos, enchiladas, black beans and rice, plantains and Cuban sandwiches as the first layer of Hispanic contribution to this country. We mentioned some of the many contributions to America, there are many more.  Today, organizations like Circle de Luz are creating a network of mentoring Latinas all across the country. Circle de Luz is empowering young women's transformation through scholarship funds and extensive mentoring so they can become the next contributors in their communities.


Hopefully, 25 years later a Hispanic Heritage Month will not be needed because Hispanic contributions will just be another great layer of the melting pot of America.

Monday, September 9, 2013

African Americans and American Gun Culture

Stefan B. Tahmassebi of the George Mason Civil Rights Law Journal indicated that the first recorded law restricting African Americans from owning guns was in Virginia in 1640. A century later, the 27 words of the 2nd Amendment made it clear that the people have the right to keep and bear arms.  However, those 27 words are subject to interpretation.  After the Civil War, legislators of the South adopted Black Codes.  Black Codes represented a series of comprehensive regulations that made the bearing or owning firearms by African Americans illegal. The Black codes essentially made African Americans vulnerable to any attacks.  Justice Buford of the Florida Supreme Court justified two original Acts restricting African American laborers from owning guns in 1893 and also in an amended version in 1901.  Despite the pervasive gun restriction laws, African American inventor Clarence Greg received a patent for an early version of a machine gun in 1918.   

The United States Congress overrode the Black Codes with the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the 14th Amendment.  The National Rifle Association (NRA) set up charters throughout the South to help train African American communities to defend themselves.  There should have been momentum for African Americans to become more integrated in the American gun culture.  What slowed down the momentum?  Those of us that lived in the cities in the late 1960’s can remember our parents telling us not to be in the front or back of the house when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve.  There was always fear of people firing a gun to bring in the New Year.  Many people were killed by the New Year’s Eve stray bullets.  We also tended to associate guns with crime and were told that guns were a bad thing.

Today, it is speculated that there are approximately 300 million guns in the United States.  The NRA indicates that their membership is approximately 5 million. When you think of the American gun culture, you have imagery of pickup trucks, hunting and primarily White Americans.  The imagery is further confirmed by survivalists and the membership profile of the prominent NRA organization.   The most popular magazine catering to the gun culture, “Guns and Ammo”, usually has not featured any African Americans contributors nor has any been displayed in advertising.   Does the NRA see an opportunity to expand their membership and target the 30 million African Americans in this country?  The NRA has taken their first step to tap into this market by using 29 year old African American, Colion Noir as one of their newest pitch men.  Colion has endured criticism from vocal members of the African American community.  Colion responded in an interview in the LA Times, “Calling me an Uncle Tom simply because I am into firearms, it doesn’t make sense. My entire identity as a black guy is based on my ownership of guns? Really?” he said. “Some of the most influential black individuals have advocated the use of firearms, so how come when I do it, I’m vilified? Take a look at the Black Panthers, MLK and Malcolm X.”  Does Colion deserve the criticism?  

Gwainevere Catchings Hess, President of the Black Women’s Agenda, Inc. points out that, “In 2009, black males ages 15-19 where eight times more likely as white males the same age, and 2.5 times as likely as their Hispanic peers to be killed in a gun homicide.”   The initial reaction could be perceived that Colion could be adding more gasoline to an existing wide spread problem.  Do these statistics and generational stereotypes create a fear of African Americans with guns in the majority? Could that be the reason for not targeting the African American market?  Or is the gun industry using the statistics and generational stereotypes to exploit fears to generate revenue?  The NRA could be attempting to introduce a new dimension of African American thinking in regards to firearms.  

 Some have noted that the popular gun publications don’t market to African Americans because the demographic is heavily populated in States that have strict gun laws. Therefore, those advertising dollars would be merely symbolic because the target customer would not be able to answer the call to action of purchasing a firearm.  That theory can be scrutinized because 2013 Gallup Inc., Gun Owners of America statistics indicates that 27% of African Americans and 44% of White Americans own guns.  If you agree with the sample statistics then almost 3 in 10 African Americans own guns.  Others have indicated that the African American gun culture is reflected in today’s urban rap music and is associated with gang violence. With the demographics of the country changing, maybe the NRA and gun manufacturers realize that a shift in marketing may make sense.  Ten years from now, the American gun culture may look a lot more colorful.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Which America Are We Living In?

There has been intense chatter about Black-on-Black crime in response to the George Zimmerman verdict in Sanford, FL. The most used example is the uptick in “gang related” homicides in Chicago.  It is very easy to deflect from the larger points as to why it is happening.  Don Lemon of CNN weighed in on his five points for the African American community.   Those of us in the African American community have heard a variation of these before from our parents. He stressed pulling up your pants.  He also stressed to stop perpetrating the use of the “N” word.  Respect where you live and stop dropping your trash in your neighborhood.  Finish school and become a viable part of society.  Just because you can have a baby doesn't mean you should. He also mentioned a quote from one of his guests, “If Conservatives are so interested in helping to resolve the issues in the African American community, why do they only discuss it when they want to stick it to the African American community?” It is fairly obvious that Mr. Lemon is only focusing on the surface of the problem.

As an African American fortunate enough to live in an affluent, diverse Florida community, I believe there is a link between economic status and crime.  Two towns from my community is a large trailer park.  The trailer park racial mix is approximately 80% White.  I have spoken with Police Officers that patrol the trailer park that process the incredible amount of crime reports that take place in the park.  So, there must be evidence of linkage between income and crime.   Based on the 2011 U.S. Census survey, there are approximately 45 million African Americans and 198 million White Americans.  The Census indicates that 23.3% of African Americans (18-64) and 9.9% of White Americans (18-64) are living below the poverty level.

Fundamentalfinance.com sited their analysis of the link to poverty and crime.  Poverty can cause high levels of stress that in turn may lead individuals to commit robbery, theft or other violent acts.  Poverty may also lead to a perceived or actual inferior education which could cause young people to rely less on access to schools, jobs and role models.  These elements lower the opportunity costs of crime and increase the likelihood that young people will spend more time in the streets associated with gangs.  In 2010, White families earned $2 for every $1 African American families earned, a ratio that has been the same for 30 years.  While this analysis doesn't justify committing crime, it is import to understand the possible inputs that contribute to the acts.  

In contrast, the African American community spending power is estimated to reach $1 trillion by 2015.  Has the spending power changed the economic standing of the African American community? Jeneba Ghatt of the Ghatt Law Group shares some interesting statistics. Despite being 13% of the U.S. population, African Americans own 5% of U.S. small businesses and only 1.8% of companies that employ more than one person.  The profitability of African American businesses is bleak.  More than half the African American businesses had less than $10,000 in business receipts in 2002, compared to one-third of White-owned firms and 28.8% of Asian-owned firms.  The spending pattern of the African American community is 30% higher the rest of the population.  In terms of assets, cash savings, homes and retirement accounts subtracted from debt such as mortgage and credit cards, white families have six times wealth.    When you use that store credit card to purchase that designer label, did you ask yourself how will the dollars spent impact your community? Did the “bling” change your economic outlook or your families?  Especially since there was a 300% mark up on what you just bought.  You can’t fix a problem if you don’t recognize that a problem exists.  There are poverty and crime and there are spending and opportunity.  There is not an easy explanation for either of them.  The category that you fall into will determine- Which America Are You Living In?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

My fascination with UK based Tesco PLC occurred when Tesco- Homeplus South Korea introduced a Subway Virtual Grocery Store using smart phones in Seoul, Korea  at the Seolleung underground train station.     Virtual grocery shopping before you board your train? The concept was unheard of and unproven.

Recently, I had the opportunity to hear Sir Terry Leahy, former CEO of Tesco. He signed a copy of his book Management in 10 Words.   Courage and Act were two words from his book. By definition courageous acts or audacious goals take you into uncharted territory, beyond the safe borders you have set for yourself.  You have to turn your words into action. You have to be disciplined after a mistake is made to stop and identify lessons learned from the mistake and continue moving forward.  This can be applied to the African American community. 

 One example that could be applied to courage and action is the success of Paul Luyeye and his wife Martha Makuena of Congo.  The couple moved to Beijing, China for a job opportunity and later opened the first African hair salon in 2003.   There were an estimated 3,000 Africans in Beijing.  The couple had a vision, learned Mandarin and diligently set a course to capitalize on the opportunity.  

Another example is the story of Fredrick Bruce Thomas (Fyodor Fyodorovich Tomas) that migrated from Mississippi to Europe and eventually Russia.  Thanks to Quintard Taylor of Blackpast.org for sharing these incredible proof points of courage and action.  In 1894 Thomas fled to Paris to seek greater freedom.  During his time there he learned French and developed exception his skills as a waiter and valet. In 1899, Thomas traveled to Russia where there were few African Americans in a country of over one million.  By 1911, Thomas learned Russian and succeeded again as a waiter.  He succeed in two entertainment ventures.  His last one Maxim became the favorite for Russia night spot for five years.   He was the first African American to get Russian citizenship.  All of these examples have one thing in common.  They were not afraid to get out of their comfort zone to gain success.  International borders where not an obstacle. Something that we should think about.  Something that our community needs to think about.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

"No Excuses" - Making the Effort to Success June 2013

Every person would like to envision their life similar to someone who has achieved success. Kobe Bryant made $60 million and Bill Gates is worth $67 billion. I would like to add my personal favorites, Warren Buffett with a net worth of $55 billion and Bob Johnson with $550 million.  Which person and which field of endeavor does your mind gravitate towards? Some African Americans chose to take a less traveled road to success.  These individuals understood the obstacles they would face, and dedicated themselves to challenging those obstacles.  A set of trailblazing African American CEOs accepted the incredible challenge of becoming leaders of multibillion dollar enterprises. They accomplished an incredible feat and one that should be analyzed.  Consider that African Americans make up less than 1% of the CEOs of the Fortune 1000 companies today. 

They sought the education, the experience and most of all beating the "perception" of incapability. They probably hung on to an inner belief in "no excuses" during the many difficult times in their journey. Black Profiles illustrated the top 6 African American CEOs of the Fortune 500 largest companies in the United States.  They represent $171.2 billion in revenue, $21 billion in profits with 855,000 employees worldwide. Many may not know the individual names, but the  enterprises they manage have recognizable names. 
  1. Kenneth C. Frazier  -          Merck & Co., Inc.
  2. Roger W. Ferguson, Jr.  -  TIAA-CREF
  3. Kenneth I. Chenault  -         American Express
  4. Don Thompson  -                McDonald's Corporation
  5. Ursula M. Burns  -               Xerox Corporation
  6. Clarence Otis, Jr.  -            Darden Restaurants (Olive Garden,etc. )
President Obama gave an incredible  "No Excuses" speech. What's your excuse? 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Welcome to Positive Directions (MIA) Minorities in Action

Welcome to the new Blog – Positive Directions (MIA) Minorities in Action.  Positive Directions will highlight the incredible accomplishments by Minorities are contributing to this great country.  Too often, the negative imagines capture the spotlight.   During Black History month 2013, I posted on Facebook inventions by African Americans every day of the month.  These inventions were sourced from an incredible book by @Raymond B. Webster, African American Firsts in Science & Technology.  The feedback that I received from my American, British, French, Latin American, Singaporean and Indian friends were very encouraging. It highlighted how overlooked the incredible odds that individuals powered through to get patents soon after Slavery.  When you hear about these accomplishments under those circumstances, you quickly realize that there isn't any excuse to accomplishing your goals if you dedicate yourself to achieving them.  They can be achieved if you develop a  "no matter what" mind set. I hope to interview Mr. Webster and share his inspiration for publishing such an incredible book.

We will counter the negative imagery and give readers facts, success stories and encouragement to continue reshaping and positively contributing to society.  Whether it is in Science, Finance, Global Business, Engineering, Academia, etc., we want to provide a forum that individuals can congregate every month to explore contributions that they were not aware of.  You will witness contributions of the past and present that are rarely picked up by the Media.  Minorities are successful in more than just Entertainment and Professional Sports.
Consider that in 1753, an African American scientist, Benjamin Banneker constructed the first clock in the United States.  It was hand carved out of wood and was reported to have kept time for 40 years.  What are the odds of this invention occurring during turbulent time? Especially since the Emancipation Proclamation did not happen until 1863!