Whither Black entrepreneurship in SVG?
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January 6, 2023
Whither Black entrepreneurship in SVG?

EDITOR: The Black Wall Street of St Vincent and the Grenadines has been destroyed. Demolished. Decimated.

Desecrated. Eventually. I’d seen it coming. I’ve been sounding a warning. Unfortunately, too many are not taking heed. The warning!

Black entrepreneurship in St Vincent and the Grenadine is under siege. The “bewitched Portuguese knee” remains firmly planted on its neck. “I can’t breathe” is the perennial cry of the Vincentian black entrepreneur.

The Black Wall Street, to which I refer, covers/takes in the areas in capital Kingstown where inventive, innovative, creative and brilliant Vincentian entrepreneurs, most of whom are descendants of African slaves, conducted their trade-black wealth creation. That was before they were disrespectfully,ruthlessly and unceremoniously evicted on the orders of a self-described World Boss. A World Boss, who appears to revel in “mamaguying” us (black people) with the uttering of: “I love you. I love you…”, often along with the distribution a 500-dollar largesse (crumbs) and a plastic smile (grin), to be followed by draconian measures, aimed at subjugating, humiliating and dividing black people.

The vaccination mandate and the ban on lawyers from parking on the High Court’s compound, readily come to mind.

I strongly recommend that black Vincentians read and study (not skim) the “Willie Lynch letter” and the Stockholm Syndrome.

I shall eternally refuse to accept the “clean up Kingstown” explanation which is being proffered for the eviction of these vendors, most of whom are black female entrepreneurs-single mothers etc. This explanation appears to resonate in some unexpected quarters. “Unexpected quarters” which comprise persons who are usually cautious and rationale.

No surprise there. The World Boss is known to be brilliant at selecting the “appropriate” ruse to disguise his sinister pursuits. Do you think that Rene Baptiste and ‘Old Labour’ (Theo Browne .etc.) accept, if they ever did, the explanation repeatedly given by the World Boss for his non-appointment of a “political” Attorney General to his cabinet? Do you think that black lawyers (Rene Baptiste, Kay Bacchus-Baptiste, etc.) accept, if they ever did, the reasons given by the World Boss for his opposition to the Economic Citizenship programme, which he refers to unfairly and derisively as the selling of passports?

A research into the potential revenue-earning benefits to the black economy is in order.

The World Boss’ latest ruse is the so-called “generous 120-percent pension”, which, according to the Word Boss, threatens the sustainability of the National Insurance Services (NIS). This ruse should be stoutly resisted. Leave the black people (people of African descent) money alone! Elites are not. There are other and better alternatives to the ‘double pension’ challenge than those that are being proposed by the World Boss and his minions. I do not trust the Gonsalves NIS! Thanks Jomo Thomas for inspiring the “Gonsalves description”. Jomo’s reference to the “Gonsalves Financial Services Authority” is accurate. There are many institutions in both the private and public sectors, in St Vincent and the Grenadines and other parts of the region, to which the Gonsalves prefix should be attached.

If, as purported, the two main reasons for the “removal of the vendors from the streets “are their interference of the traffic flow and uncleanliness, then there should have been an amicable resolution.

Through negotiations. Business is about negotiations. The Spanish word for business is “negocio”. The vendors are business people. The vendors are the owners of what is arguably the biggest retail enterprise in St Vincent and the Grenadines. I suspect the World Boss is in possession of a “For Your Eyes Only” data. He has grudgingly acknowledged the contribution of the vendors to the country’s economy. Show us (‘Big Brother’) the data on the value (economic, social and otherwise) of the ”ninformal economy”, which the vendors embody and epitomize.

The vendors have more to offer this country than some of the foreign investors who have been introduced to us with much fanfare, such as the now disgraced David Ames and more recently Green Lava (of medical marijuana fame), which is now embroiled in controversy with its own investors.

A potential “offshoot” of vending in Kingstown is the establishment of the “Kingstown Vendors Inc”, whose assets and leverage will make it the most valuable enterprise in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

The assets of this proposed start-up will include cash owned by the vendors which is spread throughout the country’s financial institutions-friendly societies, credit unions, banks, etc. Who do you think own most of the tens of millions of deposits and savings in these financial institutions? The vendors, their children, grandchildren, etc., seamen and women, seasonal farmers who travel abroad annually – Vincentians home and abroad. In short most of the cash in these institutions ( a large portion of which I sometimes describe as ‘idle’ money), is ‘black people money’.

Agriculturist/farmer/entrepreneur, Hugh Stewart, laments regularly in his writings that this money is not being put to productive use.

The proposed “Kingstown Vendors Inc”. start-up will possess the requisite assets and leverage to raise billions (provided by the World Bank, etc.) to invest in sectors (Agriculture, Tourism, the Creative and Cultural Industries, ICT, Space, Manufacturing, etc.) and other enterprises (Banking, Insurance, Shipping, Aviation, etc.).

This proposed “Kingstown Vendors Inc” will be the rebound of the Black Wall Street of St Vincent and the Grenadines. Bigger and better.

I’m aware that many are not familiar with the original Black Wall Street – the term I’ve used from time to time in this article.

The 100th anniversary of its destruction was observed last year, with little coverage in the local weekly press, except for a letter by Cyril Prescott, who noted absence of coverage.

In the letter dated June 11, 2021, which appeared in The News (the paper which I co-founded and remain a co-owner) Mr Prescott said the following: ”Last Monday the 31st of May marked 100 years since the massacre of 300 souls in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Greenwood business district known as Black Wall Street-a closed market system that defied the myth of Blacks’ mediocrity. It was proof that blacks can come together and prosper unlike the more popular opinion that other ethnicities such as Chinese and Indians come together much more seamlessly. In Tulsa blacks owned their own businesses, restaurants, schools, banks, bus line, and a charter plane service, where four of the businessmen of Greenwood had their own planes. Their money traded hands among themselves over ten times before it went into foreign banks. What they did was spreading fast, so much so that US capitalism was threatened by this little town, black folk was coming together and eventually would have taken over the US Economy, Also perhaps the world because it was an inspiration in Kingstown, St Vincent and perhaps elsewhere, because that area in Middle Street from the Vegetable market towards Rose Place was nicknamed Black Wall Street because the owners of businesses were predominantly black compared to the other side of the market…

I trust Black Wall Street would be an inspiration to remind us of what we are capable of once we are in union.” Kingstown Vendors Inc.

Bernard Joseph