The work I lead at Operation HOPE is not just part of my life’s mission. It’s also an extension of my life and touches my family’s history, and likely yours too. So, it’s deeply personal.
Every morning, I think about the countless unnamed Americans, many of whom are the descendants of enslaved Africans forcibly brought to America, who struggle to fully realize the American Dream despite their best intentions and attempts. Then I think about my own family, beginning with my great-grandfather, John Will Smith, who was born into slavery in Monroe, Mississippi, in 1825, and my grandparents, RB Smith and Rosie L. Smith. They were born shortly after slavery ended.
RB and Rosie weren’t just another Black couple in rural Mississippi who lived in the segregated Jim Crow South. They were farmers and entrepreneurs. They leveraged their skills to create a future they could only imagine. Today, I benefit from their example of courage, strength, and resolve and am actively promoting the same with millions of others through One Million Black Businesses (1MBB).
Like I said, our work hits close to home. But our most recent announcement is especially meaningful. Last week, Operation HOPE announced a groundbreaking partnership with the city of Jackson, Mississippi, to expand its One Million Black Business Initiative (1MBB), which aims to create one million Black entrepreneurs and business owners by 2030. As part of the city’s ongoing efforts to spur economic development, Jackson’s Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba and I signed a formal agreement, signifying the city’s commitment to transforming economic opportunities for minority-owned businesses.
Through 1MBB, the city of Jackson will offer 500 aspiring Black entrepreneurs free access to resources needed to build, sustain and scale their business endeavors successfully. Launched in October 2020 with the support of founding partner Shopify, 1MBB aims to remove traditional hurdles to Black entrepreneurship by providing the critical tools for success such as technology, education, and increased access to capital. The movement is part of Operation HOPE’s broader mission to promote financial inclusion and dignity, aimed at empowering the underserved of America.
Congratulations Mayor Lumumba and the City of Jackson! Welcome to the 1MBB family!