January for me is always a time of reflection. I generally look at what went right and more importantly I look at what I could have done better. 

This year, I have not had to reflect for long. One of the most profound and analytical statements that shapes what I could have done better came from Mr. R.J. Dale. 

Let me give you a little background as to how our conversation came about. Around mid-December I was at a forum held on the south side of Chicago at Hyde Park High School. The forum was put together by the National Action Network, an organization headed by the Reverend Al Sharpton. 

It was billed as a solution-based meeting, to first put a national spotlight on the gun violence which has been plaguing Chicago’s black communities. Secondly, the community residents themselves would come up with solutions to implement on Chicago’s west and south sides. From the beginning I was a little concerned because I had not ever seen a panel of experts that consisted of about twelve or more people on one panel. 

I noticed there was no one on the panel who was talking about the economic disparities in our community or the lack of businesses which are run by African Americans in our communities.

At some point during the discussion Dr. Janet Wilson, from Operation PUSH, explained that the six most violent communities in Chicago were the six poorest communities in the city, making the case that the violence could be a product of a lack of economic opportunities to say the least. 

Well, I had heard enough and the ‘same old feelings of same old stuff just of a different day,’ began to come over me. I began to become cynical and frustrated at the fact that no one cared about the poor black businessmen and women who continue to work in our communities. I began to sing the woe-is-me song in my head, and I decided to just get up and get out of there. 

As I was about to leave, I spotted Mr. R.J. Dale someone who I admire. Mr. Dale is the founder of R.J. Dale Advertising and Public Relations. His firm has been credited with helping to turn around the Illinois State Lottery by bringing in such notable spokesmen as comedian and actor Bernie Mac. R.J. Dale Communications also has a wealth of other notable clients.

Mr. Dale grabbed my hand and asked if I was leaving already. I said that it was not what I had been expecting. Mr. Dale then whispered to me that the black community is the only one which doesn’t look at its businessmen and women as leaders with a viable voice. 

He then said something that stuck with me. 

“I do not blame anyone else for us not being heard. I blame us; those who represent business,” he said.

“Every other segment fights to be heard,” he added. 

What!! We are to blame? I had never heard such a thing. Why should we have to fight to be heard? And then it hit me–because we have something to say. Wow! My pity party was now over. He had just given the last call. I could no longer blame others for not speaking up for the businessmen and women in our community. It is easier to rip others and say, “They just don’t know what they are talking about.” Well, of course “they” don’t. 

What could I have done better last year? I could have spoken up on behalf of the voiceless men and women who continue to do good business in a timely manner. I could have continued to use the news media which I have been given to get the word out about men like Mr. R.J. Dale who have a wealth of experience and have for many years been a shining example of what we ask of an African American business professional.