Africa Town and Carter G Woodson
I'm all for black businesss. I have one. I wish I had more clients..well paying clients, but there's a slight problem. along with the usual "start-ups are hard" problems with small businesses, black businesses face a problem unique to blacks: The desire to not do business with each other. Carter G. Woodson pointed out last century that blacks didn't care to take orders from other blacks and used a case where blacks actually conspired to get a black manager fired from his job. During segregation, such attitudes were stifled by the fact that blacks could not be served anywhere else, until or unless whites wished to extract extra profits by doing business with us. Once desegregation hit, blacks saw their business ownership plummet and with it vital economic engines called community businesses. These community businesses are how young people get their first job. The corner store clerk, the mechanics apprentice, the doctors whatever, the dental assistant, office boy/girl whatever. With the disappearance of community based businesses, in some places outsiders set up shop. outsiders brought in their own prejudices and , understandably, their own family/friends as employees. I hold that this is a large part of why New York City currently has 50% unemployment among blacks.
The Detroit News has an excellent article underscoring my position that the issue isn't really the government (local/state or federal) but a basic unwillingness of blacks to not only do business with each other, but to also behave in many instances in unprofessional manner towards both busiiness owner and customer. Many a black business owner can tell stories of those who wanted a "hoook up, my brother...." and equally their are customers who have had businesses think they would accept sub-par goods and services. Also in many instances you have an unwillingness of blacks to keep high business standards in terms of their shops or quality of product or service provided. For example I once worked at a garage and the owner had the attitude that not only should I come in in unstained clothing ( as possible) but also keep the garage in pristine condition. I didn't understand since I thought that people wouldn't care if I'm dirty cause I was working on cars and that's a dirty job. Similarly, who cares if oil is on the floor? The point he made was that customers size up a business on first impressions. if they see a neat as possible mechanic and garage then they would think that these are persons who take care in thier work and pay attention to detail and if they keep their garage and selves clean then they would treat their vehicle in the same manner.
now as a grown person I see his point. Look at the difference between a luxery automakers' service station and the "garage on the corner." which inspires more confidence in the abilities of the mechanics and the respect for your vehicle. Many blacks have been so used to "gettin' by" and accepting what they can or accepting that "hole in the wall" is somehow a cultural hallmark that we sabatoge our own selves by underserving not only our customers but also ourselves.
In the end. Detroit's Africa town will fail because it will cause non-blacks to avoid such businesses because they wont' feel welcome. In the game of economics the aim is to transfer wealth from one community to another. if you're not attracting customers from outside your community or doing busines in another community you're limited in your economic potential. Africa Town is also likely to fail because the underlying issues of black businesses are not being addresssed. Looking back at the Black Star Line and the Black Star Factories that Garvey was setting up, he clearly knew that blacks had to be in business not only to secure employment for blacks but to effectively compete on a global level with everyone else. I haven't seen the plans for "Africa Town" but it will fail if it is not comprehensive in it's design and implementation and first and foremost it needs to get out of the press.