Afrocentric, Business Ideas, Communications Business, Get-Rich-Quick Schemes, Half-Baked Ideas, Limo Business, Ponzi Scheme, Poverty, Pyramid Scheme, Sun-Lion Communications, Underemployment, unemployment, Whining
When people grow up impoverished, there’s a strong impulse to come up with all kinds of scenarios for becoming rich. Some of these ideas require hard work, some require the fulfillment of dreams through tapping into one’s individual potential. Many ideas, though, remain half-baked shortcuts, ones that never reach fruition. Ideas like winning the lottery or Powerball, becoming a professional athlete or a singer or a rap artist. Others involve get-rich-quick schemes, ones that often take advantage of desperate wish of those in poverty to no longer be poor.
I’ve had plenty of experience observing examples of this last point. Especially in growing up at 616. My late idiot ex-stepfather Maurice Washington was susceptible to all kinds of ideas for making money, particularly schemes that required others to invest. I guess I can understand. As the fledgling writer and author I am, I can certainly see the appeal of finding shortcuts to, say, selling 100,000 copies of Boy @ The Window in a month. If only I could somehow get Oprah to endorse my book on her website and on the air!
But I digress, as my scheme at least has a least a puncher’s chance at working (I have written a book, after all). My then stepfather, having held the jobs of Air Force MP, hospital orderly and taxicab driver, spent most of the ’80s trying to find ways to make easy money without putting forth any effort at all. In ’82, his grand scheme was Sun-Lion Corporation, which later turned into Sun-Lion Communications, the latter his attempt to do the equivalent of Bob Johnson’s Black Entertainment Television. My idiot ex-stepfather intended both the overall corporation and the communications arm to have what we would now call an Afrocentric slant. His vision was to be an emphasis on Hebrew-Israelite or similar foods, clothing, and other products and services meant for Black folks in the New York City area.
Maurice did everything he could to get my Mom involved in these schemes. My Mom went so far as to buy a corporation’s license for $2,500 in March ’82 for Sun-Lion. In the meantime, they argued and fought, and my ex-stepfather beat my mother up once in part over her lukewarm support for his grandiose schemes. At one point, they argued because Maurice wanted to raise $100 million in capital to put Sun-Lion Communications together! God, that man was an idiot!
After getting back on his feet after three years and three months of unemployment as a part-time security guard of an empty Vicks building in August ’82, Maurice came up with more schemes. He went to trucking school for four months between October ’86 and February ’87 outside of Scranton, Pennsylvania, but never spent a day as a truck driver. Then Maurice was a car salesman for a few months in ’87, actually making commissions while selling Cadillacs. But of course he couldn’t hold on to a job he was tailor-made for, a gift-of-gab con man!
Finally, in the spring and summer of ’88, Maurice tried to talk his way into the limo business by attempting to get a fellow 616 resident to give him access to a limo or capital. They laughed. My Mom laughed. I laughed. Maurice cried and whined about how no one ever supported his get-rich-quick efforts, not realizing that most of his so-called effort came in the form of getting others to give him something he either already.
When Maurice finally left 616 in June ’89, I thought all those days of ludicrous schemes and bullshit ideas for making lots of money were over. But when you’re poor, you’re vulnerable, and others looking to take advantage sense that vulnerability. In the two periods of my adult life in which I’ve been unemployed or significantly underemployed, people have approached me about selling Amway products. My younger siblings have proven themselves to be susceptible to alleged golden opportunities that were much closer to rust than gold.
This is not a screed in which I’m crapping on pursuing dreams or long shots. What I’m saying, though, is that dreams and long shots need to be tethered to serious plans, hard work, maximized gifts and talents, prayer and even some good luck. Yes, reaching out for help will help, but not in a spirit of draining others in order to help yourself first and only. That’s what my deceased ex-stepfather never learned.