James Clingman

This is a follow up to an article I wrote several years ago. It reemphasizes the importance of action over rhetoric, and as we consider this particular time in history and all the financial and intellectual resources among Black people in America, I figure it’s time to revisit the concept of “potential.” 

Have you ever heard someone say, “Black people have the potential to be a force to be reckoned with,” or “the potential among Black people is off the charts?”  How about this one: “Black folks have all of the potential in the world, to become, to achieve, to affect, and to change.” Sounds great, doesn’t it? 

Some of us walk around with our chests stuck out bragging about how much “potential” we have. But the real question is, “What about power?” Potential is not power; having potential is not even close to having power. If all we have is the potential to be powerful, we have nothing but a good feeling.  

Some definitions of potential are: “Having or showing the capacity to become or develop into something in the future; latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success or usefulness.”  Other terms, such as possibility, capable of, latent, prospective, and would-be are also used to define potential.  To put it bluntly, a lot of potential has ended up in cemetery. 

Like power, potential can only be brought to fruition, if it is utilized; otherwise, how do we know we have potential?  How do we know we have power, especially political and economic power, if we never use it to make our lives better?  Like a battery on a shelf, the potential within Black people could sit forever and never come to fruition. Will our potential to be powerful ever be realized? 

The words used to describe potential are not those upon which to hang our collective hat. We must not continue to be content with having potential. We must actualize our potential, not sit on it as though it’s some kind of honorable throne. Potential leaves butt-prints; action leaves footprints. 

We can convert our potential into action by supporting Black-owned companies and by leveraging our votes in quid pro quo agreements that benefit Black people. Three examples of Black-owned companies that could use some of our “potential,” if it is converted into action, are Ice Supreme in Atlanta; Blue Delta Water and Freedom Paper Company, both located in Maryland. 

Ice Supreme, in business for 10 years, developed and sells the “world’s healthiest frozen treat,” a product that does not contain the kinds of ingredients that cause diabetes or exacerbates its effects. Who has more diabetes than Black folks? 

Blue Delta Water has a PH value of 7.6 – 8, which makes it alkaline rather than acidic. I am not a doctor but I am told by some who are that an alkaline environment is healthier for our bodies, making us less likely to succumb to various diseases. To put it in an even simpler way, who does not drink water? 

All that really needs to be said about Freedom Paper, a company that sells bathroom tissue and other paper products, is “Duh!”  Imagine if our churches, hotels, and restaurants bought their paper products from Freedom Paper. Nuff said, right? 

Turning our potential into real power simply requires practical action, not dialogues, speeches, or marches. It requires a conscious commitment and maybe even some sacrifice, as W.E.B. DuBois said in reference to Black people supporting Black businesses. It takes a willingness to run away from the Democrat plantation, not to the Republican plantation, but to our own plantation where only independent, informed, and critical thinking voters reside. 

Finally, let me share with you an action-oriented group of individuals who are committed to doing away with our potential by working collectively and cooperatively toward a common goal of Black economic and political empowerment. It is called The One Million Conscious Black Voters and Contributors (OMCBV&C). 

The OMCBV&C, comprising thousands of members from 33 states, has and is currently working collectively to empower Black people by implementing practical solutions to the problems cited and recited by our people. We are not “about to” start; we are not “fixin’ to start;” and we are not “gettin’ ready to start.”  The OMCBV&C is doing what many are just talking about. In addition to recruiting what is just 2 percent of Black people in this country, this movement has pooled our dollars to pay our own way, written a political platform containing 15 relevant planks, and supports and works with other groups, organizations, and initiatives to create and sustain an even stronger political and economic base. 

The OMCBV&C does not rely on potential; it is using real power to affect positive change for Black people. Interested?  Go to www.iamoneofthemillion.com 

Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. He can be reached through his website, blackonomics.com. He is the author of    Black Dollars Matter: Teach Your Dollars How to Make More Sense, which is available through his website; professionalpublishinghouse.com and Amazon Kindle eBooks.