How to succeed

Monday Book Review

March 13, 1995|By Samuel L. Banks

BLACK WEALTH THROUGH BLACK ENTREPRENEURSHIP. By Robert L. Wallace. Duncan and Duncan. 288 pages. $17.95.

ROBERT L. WALLACE has written an immensely useful guide for the young black man or woman who is considering starting a business.

He writes with power and passion about what he thinks it takes for black Americans to gain entry to the business world and succeed.

The book includes several case studies of successful black businessmen and an expansive appendix that includes such items as an Urban League report on the "Status of Black Americans."

Mr. Wallace, a native of the Cherry Hill section of Baltimore, now lives in the Baltimore area and works as a business consultant. His own Horatio Alger-type story should be instructive and inspirational to all youths. He is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, the Amos Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College and was a participant in the Minority Business Executive Program at Dartmouth.

One hears so often in our contemporary life: "Can any good come from urban schools?" Mr. Wallace provides tangible and powerful evidence in his book that -- with equal opportunity -- it can happen. Mr. Wallace is the product of strong and imaginative teachers at the-then Cherry Hill Junior High School and the Polytechnic Institute, and he has a solid spiritual foundation.

Considering his meteoric rise, it is unfortunate that more attention was not devoted to how excelling in school prepared him for the rigors of an Ivy League college.

A major theme of the book is the urgent need for more black people to become entrepreneurs and for those already in business to expand their businesses. He writes that the growth of black businesses would trigger a revolution in the black community that would lead to higher levels of employment and greater community-wide prosperity.

Mr. Wallace laments the lack of black entrepreneurs, noting that black-owned businesses comprise just 3 percent of all U.S. companies. This situation, to be sure, is scandalous. The development of more black businesses certainly would help all black people.

It is heartening that Mr. Wallace has focused on high school and college students. He offers them a realistic plan for organizing and succeeding as entrepreneurs. Mr. Wallace provides examples of such successful African-Americans as Jim Miller of AB and W Co. in Boston; the late Reginald Lewis, a Baltimore native, of Beatrice Foods; Joshua Smith of Maxima Corp., located in Rockville; among others, who succeeded against the odds. The book includes case studies are of each black entrepreneur.

The author calls his "triad of power" an important tool for achieving self-confidence, stability and success. The "triad" is: "ethnic rooting, political power and economic strength." In other words, we must know our history to have racial pride; and we must vote and acquire capital to achieve economic and political goals and objectives.

While it is difficult to argue with Mr. Wallace's "triad of power," it still remains necessary to address the reality of racism whether one works for oneself or others. The "glass ceiling" -- a euphemism for corporate limits on the ascent of racial minorities and women -- is not a figment of black managers' imaginations. Economic justice still remains a distant reality for most black people.

I hope that this is just the first of many such books by Mr. Wallace. Such guidebooks will help lift youngsters to success.

Samuel L. Banks is director of the city schools' Department of Compensatory Education and Funded Programs. He writes from Prince George's County.

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