“Look No Further Than Whitesboro”
John E. Harmon Sr. | 10/1/2014, 6 a.m.
I was recently invited to speak at the 26th Annual Whitesboro Community Festival, by their native son, Stedman Graham.
The topic was “Strengthening our Community through Partnership” which allowed me the opportunity to contribute to the great legacy, which was established by the late George Henry White, and others in the community. Mr. White, born in North Carolina, a descendent of slavery, who later became a lawyer and Republican Congressman, migrated to New Jersey after a long and frustrating battle to gain respect and equality in the south.
Once in New Jersey, Mr. White and his colleagues experienced similar hostilities in the Cape May and Wildwood areas, thus leading them to settle on a town that would be later named Whitesboro. They purchased the town of Whitesboro for $14,000, consisting of 2,000 acres covering some 10 miles. The founders’ mission was to develop a community that would serve as a refuge, where children would be educated, and witness their parents constructing an infrastructure to support housing, commerce and industry. Moreover, Mr. White and his colleagues established a base fee structure for the parcels of land with the understanding that those who could pay more would be required to do so, very similar to what exists today in some community development models, however, the distinct difference here, is that the co-founders and new stakeholders owned and operated the town of Whitesboro.
When I read about the founding of Whitesboro, I was immediately captivated, by the unselfish mission of the newly established community. I learned that the vision of the founders of this historic place, aligned perfectly with what is expected of any citizen of New Jersey, which seeks respect, dignity, self-reliance and its role as a contributing part of New Jersey’s economy. If you are among the group of citizens who do not believe in this concept of shared purpose and collective unselfishness, then I suggest that self-examination is called for; i.e. a closer look at your abilities, capacity, willingness to contribute to the overall good, and what is it that you desire to achieve in life. Throughout this self-examination you must acknowledge where you fall short. Mr. White established the blueprint to align the African American community so that we would be respected, have dignity, and self-sufficiency.
Fast forward to 2014 in New Jersey, home to approximately 9 million residents of which, 1.2 million are African American with business growth from 36,000 to 66,000, according to the last US Census, and business revenue growth from $3.2 - $4.6 billion.
Moreover, New Jersey, is the most diverse state in America, therefore, I would conclude our greatest asset. However, if the 1.2 million African American residents are not properly positioned wherein, our value proposition can be realized and leveraged to make New Jersey more competitive, then where does that leave the African American community? It leaves the community in a bad position, with others to define who we are and determine our worth and how and when we should be acknowledged and allowed to participate. The late James Brown said it best, “I don’t want nobody to give me nothing, open up the door and I will get it myself”; this sounds good in theory, agreed?