Black History Teaches Us Survival

Maceo Keeling - SCORE Member, Business Owner and Consultant. Photo: Urban News

Maceo Keeling – SCORE Member, Business Owner and Consultant. Photo: Urban News

By Maceo Keeling –

Create Your Own Drive to Thrive!

Two of the greatest qualities we share as African Americans are our creativity and willingness to thrive and survive. Our history is permeated with ways to thrive in spite of the profoundly hostile, caustic, and violent past we have faced.

When we look back at African American history, we see the impact on people who were enslaved and oppressed by many corrupt and imperialist governments, but we also see that that past has taught us to be survivors of adversity.

So how do we turn a deep, proven survival instinct into a real drive to thrive?

When African Americans had no access to education—when teaching literacy was a capital crime—we taught each other to read, write, and speak. When we had no food, we ate the remains that were thrown out for garbage. (Today, those “useless foods” are served as delicacies at high-end restaurants—at hardly affordable prices.)

Why, then, do we face such barriers to employment opportunities today? Is it because we have worked so vigilantly to educate ourselves and to “rise up” from menial jobs, with the result that we have “miseducated” ourselves into unemployment?

I suggest we take a look at how our ancestors were able to survive and thrive though adversity in spite of seemingly insurmountable odds. That will give us a roadmap for how to do so today.

Should you want to open a bakery but have no experience (or money to invest), I suggest you go out and get a job in a bakery or a supermarket’s bakery department and learn the necessary skills. If you want to open a restaurant, find a job as a restaurant manager in training—or even starting as a busboy, waitress, or line cook, and ask about management training opportunities. If you want to learn to lay brick or stone, get a job as a helper.

These are the ways to get on-the-job training while your employer pays you to learn. What better way to get ahead than to get an understanding of how things are done and managed, and be paid for doing it!

There are other ways to thrive and survive. Multi-level online marketing businesses are low-cost startups and will get you trained in sales. In fact, you can start an online store on Shopify, eBay, Craigslist, or LetGo for less than you think. These sites will prepare you to sell and market your own product someday, they don’t charge a lot to get started (some are even free), and most are commission-based.

If you are not interested in an online business, how about a flea market consignment shop to sell your gently used clothes, furniture, or appliances? Also, think about buying product in large volumes to sell in your consignment business as well.

The most impactful solution to economic sustainability is not just getting a job, or jumping in to start your own business, but a creative combination of both. When all is said and done, business is simply an exchange of goods and/or services for money: good business is when you get more money back than you spent.

If African Americans are to thrive in this new millennium we must remember our strengths from our past. We must develop skills that are in demand which will position us for the future.

You may have heard that good things come to those who wait. Well, if you wait, you’ll get only what is left over by those who have created their own ability to thrive and survive.


“You don’t have to be great to get started, but you do have to get started to become great!”


Dr. King had a dream, now we must have vision. The Conscious Call radio program airs every Monday at 11:30 a.m. on WRES-FM 100.7. In a collaboration with the radio program, the Urban News will help keep readers informed about events, programs, news, and the progress of The Conscious Call. For more information, contact the Conscious Call at (828) 989-6999 and visit

The opinions and statements made in this column are solely the opinions of the author and not necessarily those of The Urban News.

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