HOPE’s Culture Division head, Rod McGrew, often says, “team is the theme.” It’s a short, catchy phrase that’s loaded with meaning and should weigh heavy on our hearts and minds in light of the past year’s events. This month, as we celebrate one of the world’s greatest heroes and begin to heal a divided nation, we must remember that the power to create change doesn’t rest with those with titles or figureheads. The power comes from the people who help plan, promote, and push the agenda into motion.
Dr. King had a clear understanding of just how crucial teamwork was to the mission of progress and freedom for marginalized people. He created a coalition of ministers and advocates within the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and allied himself with freedom fighters and their causes to pursue universal justice of equity. Arguably, most notably for him as a leader and to the Movement as a whole, King built a strong team around himself. He surrounded himself with friends and confidants, generals and lieutenants, capable of carrying on the mission in his absence. He also built a cadre of behind-the-scenes soldiers who were motivated to be the community’s eyes and ears and, ultimately, the hands and feet of the struggle toward equality.
Operation HOPE’s global spokesperson, Ambassador Andrew Young, was one of those generals and is the last surviving member of Dr. King’s inner circle. As he describes his friend Martin, he paints the picture of a visionary, burdened with an undying passion for his people and his desire to see them enjoy life as free and equal citizens of the country he so loved. But he also describes a man who often wondered if the Dream was too big and questioned if he was strong enough to handle the load on his own.
The truth is that the Dream was, in fact, too big for the Dreamer. The greater truth is that that is precisely how God designed it. It was not Dr. King’s earthly assignment to right all of the wrongs of injustice. His purpose, instead, was to give birth to a movement that would inspire generations to take hold of the vision and reinterpret for their own time, in their context, and in their way. But it is imperative that look to the Dreamer and remember that the Dream has always required a team. It always will.
The Dream lives on through the work of Operation HOPE, and our thousands of supporters who believe in fighting for equity and opportunity for all. It is out of Dr. King’s work and legacy that we have impacted thousands of lives through homeownership, credit and money management, and small business development. And it is in that same spirit that we launched the One Million Black Businesses and Entrepreneurs (1MBB) initiative, powered by HOPE and Shopify. We have a vision of building an ecosystem of one million Black-owned businesses within ten years. The long-term effects and implications for communities across America will be overwhelmingly positive, creating jobs and paths to wealth creation, benefiting the many rather than the few.
Operation HOPE birthed this initiative, but it is by no means “ours.” It belongs to the people. It’s bigger than any one person, organization, or partner. This initiative will change the trajectory of at least a million lives or more in meaningful and sustainable ways. It is a tremendous undertaking. In the same way that Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement needed a coalition of allies and friends to move the mission forward, Operation HOPE needs an alliance of Dreamers and Doers who will commit to joining the 1MBB Team in one way or another. There are ample opportunities to get involved, and today is the best day to begin.
Some of you may be subject matter experts who can lend your years of experience and training to our budding businessmen and women. Others may have the financial means or organizational connections to become a sustaining partner in the cause. Or maybe you are the next Black-business success story whose work will fundamentally change the way we do things. We’ll never know how you fit in on the Team until you choose to sign up, show up, and make a difference.
Remember, “team is the theme.” Let’s go dream big, do the unthinkable, and win together.
If you’d like to learn more about One Million Black Businesses, powered by HOPE and Shopify, or you’re interested in becoming a partner, volunteer, or participant, visit www.hope1mbb.org and sign up today.