Beyond the Rhetoric: 25 Years and Going Strong, Part I

Harry C. Alford | 2/13/2018, 10:19 a.m.
Starting and running a Black business association during the early 1990’s was more than a dream or a challenge. It ...
Harry C. Alford

Starting and running a Black business association during the early 1990’s was more than a dream or a challenge. It was almost impossible. The concept was hardly credible back then. Most people could not conceive of a Black group of people to start a new organization that was centered around Black business development. Sure, there were plenty of Black organizations, most of which would use code names like “National” to imply the activity of Black people. Colored and Negro were all right but to say “Black” apparently was taboo or dangerous. So, Kay and I clung to the title of “Black”. We had our attorney do a search on the viability or availability of the term “National Black Chamber of Commerce”. To our surprise there was no official group that used or officially laid claim to the term. So off we went with the term National Black Chamber of Commerce and began the incorporation procedure and the application process with the Internal Revenue Service.

We did this in Indianapolis, Indiana – Kay’s hometown. Little did we know that all “Hell” would break loose. How dare a married couple living in Indianapolis, Indiana start an organization like that in conservative and passive Indianapolis. It didn’t take long for various groups and individuals to challenge our use of the name, let alone expound on the concept. We eventually had to debate and challenge others who laid claim to the name before we officially registered it. There was a guy out in Oakland, CA who challenged us verbally, but he never had any official documentation of the rights to the name. Within six months all of those who laid challenged to the name backed off.

As of May 23, 1993, the National Black Chamber of Commerce was incorporated in Washington, DC. Kay and I had plans to officially move to Washington, DC by 1996. However, our founding attorney, Derrick Humphries, had other plans. He knew we had a big concern about placing our sons into a decent school in Washington, DC. We proudly had our boys in public school in Indianapolis but in Washington, DC that wasn’t a good option. Luckily, and through the efforts of Derrick, we got our sons accepted into St. Albans School for Boys. Unbeknownst to us, it was the Number 1 rated school for boys in the nation. It was a blessing and our twin sons have benefitted from that ever since. So, here we were new citizens of Washington, DC starting in September of 1994.

This was not greeted too well by more than a few groups throughout the nation. The District of Washington, DC greeted us with open arms, but the rest of the nation was “green” with envy or intimidation. There was one very important fact about our relocation to the Capital. The newly elected Clinton Administration sent us an invitation to the White House to introduce ourselves. Alexis Herman, White House Liaison, invited us and our Board of Directors to come and introduce ourselves. It was the beginning of a great relationship. It was so natural at the time. Little did we realize that eventually a conservative pro-business organization and the liberal arm of the Democratic Party were not destined for each other. Times were good and cordial all the way until the Obama Administration came into power in 2008. In the interim, there were good relations between us and both political parties.