Vision Statement and Preamble

Submitted by Alfred Babington-Johnson, Founding Member and President of The Stairstep Foundation
March 10, 2005

Twenty sons and daughters of Africa landed in Jamestown, Virginia one year before the Mayflower disembarked its passengers in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The journey of black people from that entry in 1619 till now is a history that must be acknowledged and affirmed, if good outcomes for our children are to be achieved.

Lerone Bennett Jr. describes the nature of the community in the years just following Reconstruction:  “…beneath the troubled surface of black life, unseen by social analysts, new seeds, scattered by the plowmen of three great institutions – the black church, the black lodge and the black college – were sending down shoots and breaking up the subsoil for new growths.” These institutions – social, educational and spiritual, by definition created the strategies and forms for economic progress. According to the “Negro Yearbook” there were 2,000 black-owned businesses at the end of the Civil War.  By 1903 this number had grown to 25,000 – including the first black banks and insurance companies.

Our best social thinkers have always understood the role that economic progress plays in a broader community development agenda. In 1898 at the 4th Annual Atlanta University Conference on “The Negro in Business,” John Hope, a future president of Morehouse College, affirmed that the salvation of Black America depends to some extent on the development of a business class.  He stated “We must take in some, if not all of the wages, turn it into capital, hold it, increase it.  I do not believe that the ultimate contribution of the Negro to the world will be his development of natural forces.  It is to be more than that. There is in him emotional, spiritual elements that presage gifts from the Negro more ennobling and enduring than factories and railroads and banks.  But without these factories railroads and banks, he cannot accomplish his highest aim.”

As the Minnesota Black Chamber of Commerce, we have formed ourselves with a determination to embrace the needs and aspirations of every segment of our people. We acknowledge the essential role that creation and profitable operations of businesses owned by the people of the village play in the broader struggle.