It was a historic moment Thursday morning when The Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce (MBCC) and the National Association of Black Suppliers (NABS) announced the merger of the two organizations to become the biggest concentration of black entrepreneurial wealth in the nation.
The merger makes the MBCC one of the most powerful supporters of black businesses in the world, with a collective annual revenue of more than 3.6 billion dollars and employing 7,500 people nationwide.
Ken Harris, President and CEO of the MBCC, said the merger is an example of African Americans coming together to find solutions to tough economic circumstances.
“This is a proud day,” Harris said. “In less than two years we formed the first statewide chamber of commerce. Some people thought that couldn’t be done—that black people can’t come together—but we did and we’re here.”
The MBCC now holds 21 of the 26 Michigan black companies listed in Black Enterprise magazine’s top 100 and 23 of 25 top black businesses listed in Crain’s Detroit magazine. The merger comes as a reward to the 16 businesses that “hung in there” with the NABS after the economic fallout of 2008, according to NABS President Leon Richardson. “We were becoming less relevant,” Richardson said. “This is an example of what black businesses can do when we work together.”
Rev. Jessie Jackson, political activist and founder of the Rainbow PUSH organization, said the merger marks a new level in the fight for racial equality in America. “This is the early morning of a new phase of our struggle,” Jackson said. “Freedom without equality is freedom to starve. In the business world, we are not playing on an even playing field.” Jackson said the merger marked the dawn of the fourth phase of the struggle for African Americans equality, the first being emancipation from slavery, the second being the end of Jim Crow laws, and the third being the right to vote.
“This is a very different dimension of our struggle,” Jackson said. “I wish Dr. Martin Luther King were here today to see what the 1963 Detroit March has born.” Michael Finney, President of the Michigan Economic Growth Corporation (MDEC) pledged to be a supportive arm for business providing needed resources to startups and growing companies through access to credit and talent. “I want to welcome black entrepreneurs to work with the MDEC,” Finney said. “The state is a resource for businesses.”
Barbara Whittaker, President of BW Limited, LLC, facilitated speakers at Thursday’s press conference including Michael and Carlton Guthrie, owners of auto manufacturer Detroit Chassis, LLC, and Charles Beckham, Chairman of the Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce. The merger will not only boost black business owners, but Michigan’s economic recovery and beyond, according to Harris.
“This isn’t a local thing. This isn’t a statewide thing,” Harris told Michronicle.com. “This is a national movement. Black people are coming together.”