During the mid-1990s, we began sponsoring exploratory or fact-finding trips to nations in the Caribbean and West Africa. Then we expanded to East Africa and South America, i.e. Brazil.
After getting comfortable and understanding the export/import challenges, we dared to start doing formal trade missions. During Thanksgiving week in the year 2000, we took 84 Black-owned businesses to Rio de Janeiro for an aggressive matchmaking event. In the end, we documented over $30 million in sales from the activities that began during that week. The equivalent to the Rio de Janeiro Chamber of Commerce gave us a certificate for promoting the most successful trade mission to ever visit the city.
Took the risk
The above experience was typical of our ambition. We didn’t really know if we were doing things correctly. However, we had the courage to explore and succeed whatever it took, we did it.
We miss those days and have decided to return to our previous bravado. Win or lose, we will proceed with a vengeance. As they say, “Shoot for the moon; you may miss and fall among the stars.”
We have completed many successful matchmakers. It’s a “can’t lose” proposition. You go to explore and make business allies. The new relationships are a beginning. They develop like new crops sprouting up in the springtime. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Explore, educate and grow. Those are the options!
Going to Cali
We go to Cali, Columbia next month for a much-anticipated matchmaking and fact-finding event to last almost a week in time. The Cali region of Columbia is along the Pacific coast. One of the towns we will visit is named San Buena Ventura. Coincidentally, Harry’s birthplace is Ventura, California (formerly named San Buena Ventura when settled by Spanish explorers).
One of the biggest thrills is the fact that we Afro-Americans in the United States have so much in common with the Afro-Americans of South and Central Americas. Our roots are Western Africa. Our passages to the so-called New World are similar via the utmost horrific human bondage, rape, and atrocities history has recorded.
Some of our DNA may be directly related, for all that we know. But the separation by centuries cannot keep us apart here in the 21st Century. That’s what Afro-Americans have in common regardless of current geographies.
What does not kill us, makes us stronger. This is testament to our upcoming trade successes. We must be the envy of the rest of the world. We do not die; we multiply. Native Americans and Europeans must look at us and marvel. No one runs faster; no one jumps higher; no one is stronger – all that and beautiful, too. We have SOUL! And STYLE!
Meeting our ‘cousins’
You could say that we are strangers from other parts of the world, meeting for the first time. However, it can also be considered a family reunion of long-lost cousins separated at youth and now joined together through common struggles and compulsory toils. We are trailblazers and we must never forget that as we interact during our journeys. Our nations are depending on us to represent and make economic progress that will be mutual to both sides of the business table.
Afro-Americans in the United States account for over 47 million people. How many in Central and South America? That gets tricky. The governments of most nations in Latin America will only count those with 100-percent African blood as “Black.” The rest are “mixed.” That is deceitful, as “one drop will do you” by the general standard and social status.
The reality is that over 150 million people from Mexico to Argentina have significant Black African blood flowing through their veins. They are our relatives’ people! The more we visit and interact with our “cousins,” the better it will be for our daily lives and prospects for our future. To date, we have had historical trips to Costa Rica, Brazil, Columbia, Surinam, all over the Caribbean and with future trips lining up for the rest of the Western Hemisphere.
Get on board!
The opportunities to connect with your blood relatives are numerous in numbers. Don’t sit idly by. For information on the upcoming
Harry C. Alford is the co-founder and president/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC). Kay DeBow is the NBCC co-founder. Contact them via www.nationalbcc.org. Click on this commentary at www.flcourier.com to write your own response.