The Compass Wednesday, March 4, 1998 7
Franklin G. Scoll, Jr. photo
ECSU students, faculty and staff participated in the annual march down Southern Avenue to attend the program honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., in front of the Pasquatank
County Courthouse. Several speakers at the Jan. 18 event praised the slain civil rights leader for his efforts on behalf of humankind.
Harris urges students to 'reinvest'
talent, money, in black community
“It's up to each of us to control our
own destiny, but we have to believe
we can make a difference."
Ms. Andrea Harris used these words
to sum up her message of hope and
empowerment during the Martin
Luther King Jr. Assembly, held Jan. 15
in Moore Hall Auditorium.
Harris, President of the N.C. Insti
tute of Minority Economic Develop
ment, focused on "empowerment
through entrepreneurship" for African-
"There is a real challenge for us in
the South," said Harris, keynote
speaker for the event. "While we talk
about all the health of the economy
and growth, the South still has not
changed, particularly for black people.
We like to talk about progress but if
you pull the sheets back and look un
derneath you see a different story."
In Northeastern North Carolina, for
example, Harris said that four out of
five black children under the age of
five live in poverty. And the average
per capita income is less than $5,000.
To change these conditions, Harris
said African-Americans need to build
a skill base, and accumulate land and
capital. She also urged her listeners to
reinvest their resources into the com
"Once you reach a certain income
level, you're supposed to get up and
move to another side of town," said
Harris. "It's OK to leave, but remem
ber to reinvest."
Harris said that African-Americans
need to examine their consumer choices
and spending habits.
"How many of you spent some
money in the past two days with some
body black? How many of you own
something by Tommy Hillfiger? It was
Tommy who said, 'young black people
would rather own a Rolex than own a
Often drawing laughter with her
comments, Harris criticized the con
sumer culture today's young people
are caught up in. As an example she
described a relative "who had three
credit cards and a summer job. Every
thing she bought had a life span of
about twelve months. I had to take her
to consumer credit counseling. I don't
understand how banks give folks all
these credit cards."
Harris said a "change in values" is
necessary in order for African-Ameri
cans to become empowered economi
Money comes into the black com
munity in a "leakage and drought
cycle," declared Harris. "It comes right
in and goes right out. It's not being
reinvested in the community."
Harris said "Drugs and crime and
poverty are the negative consequences
of diminished economic opportimities
in African-American commimities."
Crime in Durham, N.C., said Harris
is "all about the American Tobacco
Company," she added that when the
tobacco company closed down, many
jobs for African-Americans disap
To illustrate the power of black en
trepreneurship, Harris cited several
businesses launched and made success
ful by black people, including North
Carolina Mutual Life, "the largest
black-owned insurance company in the
Harris urged her listeners to ta^^
advantage of economic opportimities
now. "Look at the opportunities you
have on this campus. While you're here,
make some money."
Opportunities are wide open for
people who understand the value of
"land, labor and capital," said Harris.
"We must build a skill base so we can
have a labor force. This requires edu
cation beyond high school."
"We need to know where our values
are," she added. "The issue is values.
That is the challenge."
According to Harris during the last
months of his life Dr. Martin Luther
King, Jr. was focusing more on the is
sue of "economic empowerment" for
"Today we have the same chal
lenge—to make sure 1998 does not look
like 1888. We have to figure out what
our role will be."
The program included performances
by the University Gospel Choir, Essence
of Praise Choir and remarks by Dr.
Mickey Bumim, Chancellor of ECSU.
Senior Latona Wilson presided.