by Earl G. Graves, Sr.
November 1, 2007–Today, we live in a society happy to watch black people denigrate themselves, a culture that sees such self-denigration as a form of entertainment—and a lucrative one at that. The worst, most profane and self-destructive of the black community are celebrated in comedy, music, television, and film in the name of “keeping it real.” Worse, not only do too few of us stand up against the public defamation of black people, too many of us defend such defamation and engage in it ourselves. It has been noted, and is worth repeating, that this is true of no other race or ethnic group in America.
I say: Enough is enough! So long as we permit the celebration of ignorance over intelligence and profit from the desecration of our time-honored values and traditions—allowing a culture of gold teeth, sagging pants, disdain for education, disrespect for women, glorification of criminality, low ambition, and irresponsible sexual behavior to be regarded as authentically black—we are destined to march back into the margins of society, into the shadows that so many heroes and heroines of our history fought so hard to escape.
That is why, as has been widely reported, I pulled the plug on comedian Eddie Griffin in response to his insistence on using profane and offensive language during his performance at the 14th annual Black Enterprise/Pepsi Golf & Tennis Challenge, held this past Labor Day weekend. For the record, it was clearly communicated to both Griffin and his representatives, during the weeks and months prior to the event, that such language was absolutely unacceptable. Griffin was reminded several times of the nature of our event and the expectations of our sponsors and attendees.
However, this is not a case of BLACK ENTERPRISE against Eddie Griffin. It’s about standing up for the values of achievement, decency, integrity, honest effort, and education despite the forces arrayed against us and regardless of class or economic status. The life of William “Bill” Randolph Hudgins, an original member and only chairperson of the BE Board of Advisors, is a prime example.
Bill Hudgins was born in 1907 in Petersburg, Virginia, into a world rife with racism and hostile to his very existence as a black man. He faced every possible social and economic disadvantage. At the age of 2, he was adopted by Agnes and William Hudgins, who wrapped him in love and discipline. From that humble beginning, Bill Hudgins became an astute businessman whose life was full of accomplishment and distinction—including helping to found not just one, but two of the nation’s largest black financial institutions.
For 100 years, he was the epitome of dignity and personal excellence—the model of black achievement and community service upon which many of us have patterned our lives. Ironically, Hudgins died on Aug. 31, the very same day that I was compelled to stop Griffin’s act. There are those who would have you believe that the example of Hudgins’ life is the exception, not the rule, of the black experience. Each month, it is the business of our company to prove otherwise. Anybody with even a passing familiarity with BE knows that the very reason for our existence is to celebrate the best and brightest in black America in an environment that remains intensely hostile to our ambitions. We believe in the excellence and unlimited potential of black people, and we are fully invested in that reality. We stand for the principles, values, beliefs, and dreams—championed by Frederick Douglass, Marcus Garvey, Rosa Parks, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Shirley Chisholm, Jackie Robinson, and countless others—that are the true legacy of black culture. We have come too far as a people to turn our backs on, to squander, this inheritance. We can no longer allow—and can scarcely afford—the continued defamation of our culture and community. We are better than that, and we deserve better than that. Enough is enough.