By Harry C. Alford & Kay DeBow
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 Match Making 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.
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 that big “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 Match Makers. It’s a can’t lose proposition. You go to explore and make business allies. The new relationships are a beginning and they develop like new crops sprouting up in the spring time. Nothing ventured; nothing gained. Explore, educate and grow. Those are the options!
We go to Cali, Colombia next month for a much-anticipated Match Making/Fact Finding event to last almost a week in time. The Cali region of Colombia is along the Pacific Coast. One of the towns we will visit is named San Buena Ventura. So co-incidental, in that the birthplace of Harry 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 the South and Central Americas. Our roots are Western Africa. Our passages to the 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! 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 trail blazers 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 of mutual benefit 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% 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, Colombia, Surinam, all over the Caribbean 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 Colombia Trade Mission go here: https://bit.ly/2V0JLnc.
Mr. Alford is the Co-Founder, President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce®. Ms. DeBow is the Co-Founder, Executive Vice President of the NBCC.
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