The Start-Up Journey is Similar to the the Struggle for Civil Rights…
On Monday, January 16th, 2017, we will celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He is the face, among many, of the Civil Rights Movement. As I read on Dr. King, I am often amazed on the many aspect of his sacrifice and life’s journey that have stark similarity to many aspects of our individual lives, and for the purpose of this article, the Startup Journey.
He was a Visionary, who Introduced Disruptive Ideals to the American Consciousness
One of the most famous speeches in history is Dr. King’s I Have A Dream speech. Invariably this speech is taught in many school across the country. This speech spoke Truth to Power. This speech was BOLD, in a time when being BOLD was not safe. The vision Dr. King outlined in his speech was BOLD for America at that time. Jim Crow was the culture. Separate and unequal was the way of life, and anyone who spoke against it was stupid at best and treasonous at worse. But Dr. King helped to articulate a vision, a BOLD vision, that once uttered had no choice but to manifest itself.
Think about the role your startup plays in the world today. How BOLD is your vision for your company? Can your company’s vision overcome entrenched norms of today? Will you fold, when someone calls your idea ‘stupid’? Can your vision sustain YOU when you are alone?
“But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.”
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
He Dealt with Rejection and Ridicule
Dr. King was a dangerous man according to the FBI. So dangerous that anyone that allied themselves with him were considered enemies of the State as well. Dr. King brought the movement for justice and equality to Chicago in 1966. His visit wasn’t well received. Richard J. Daley, mayor of Chicago at the time, brokered agreements with Chicago area pastors that provided contracts and favors for NOT hosting Dr. King. Since he was trying to help eliminate the racial discrimination afflicting African Americans in Chicago, you’d think that the pastors, black men, and black women of Chicago would welcome Dr. King’s presence. That was not the case. Dr. King’s experience in Chicago was so harrowing that he remarked, “I think the people from Mississippi ought to come to Chicago to learn how to hate”. In 1966, that was a pretty damning statement. This is just one example, of the many of the rejections King received from the people he was trying to help. I don’t think I need to get into specifics on the ridicule he received from the segregationists.
When we set out to create our companies, we have people in mind who should LOVE it! As soon as we walk into a meeting to pitch, we expect people to fawn over our solution to the problem that we believe our customer is experiencing. However, reality sets in when we are laughed out of the room, don’t hear back from the accelerator we applied for, or when that investor goes MIA. Raise your hand if you’ve experienced this.
In the face of tyranny, Dr. King persevered and did not QUIT
The Movement that He Helped Build, Outlasted Him
Dr. King was assassinated at Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN on April, 4, 1968. His death assassination sent shockwaves through the world. A Freedom Fighter, a Nobel Prize Laureate, a father, and a husband was slain because he envisioned an America that America wasn’t quite ready for. His commitment to his cause and the establishment’ resistance to an egalitarian society ultimately led to his demise. However, we are still talking about Dr. King nearly 49 years late He provided a template for current civil disobedience movements to follow. Ultimately, his legacy outlived the legend.
Are you building a company or a legacy? What impact will your company have on the world? Are you building a company that can operate without you at the helm?
A Luta Continua (The Struggle Continues)…….A vitória é certa (victory is certain)
We know that the struggle for equal opportunity didn’t start or end with Dr. King and the Civil RIghts Movement he led. The statistics are out there. Silicon Valley is making efforts to address the lack of diversity, and programs such as Code 2040, and Blue 1647 are attempting to bridge the gaps in diversity. But the gulf is pretty wide. You can look at the number of minority founded startups that get funded. The problem is apparent.
A luta Continua, is a common refrain in the struggle against oppression in Africa. The struggle for equality is taking place in all facets of life, in all industries. But I am encouraged, because I am a beneficiary of the sacrifice that Dr. King and many others have made. It is because of their sacrifice that myself and many other entrepreneurs can be where we are today. It is incumbent upon us to continue to push the envelope, and develop creative ways to ensure that we don’t rest on the laurels of bygone days. We need to utilize our visionary penchant to forecast future challenges, and create avenues to for future generations to advance and flourish. Economic development is a key driver for community development, especially in my home city of Chicago. I believe that stirring the entrepreneurial spirit in our communities will help us realize ‘A vitória é certa’.
When I find myself in a funk, I often remind myself of the purpose behind my startup, and I look to history’s great business leaders for inspiration. As I reflect on the contributions of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr (My Fraternity Brother A Φ A), I can’t help but be inspired about our future, and the future of many promising minority-led startups. I could draw more corollaries between the Civil Rights Movement and the Startup Journey, but we would be here until the next lunar eclipse. I derive inspiration from Dr. King’s resolve, bold genius, leadership, andhis sacrifice — and I hope you can too!
Happy Birthday Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
CEO/Co-Founder of OjaExpress
OjaExpress is an ondemand ethnic grocery delivery platform