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Rev. Dr. Frederick Haynes Fires Up Business Leaders

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As keynote speaker at the U.S. Black Chamber of Commerce (USBC) convention in Washington, D.C., on July 20, the Rev. Dr. Frederick Haynes, the new president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, reminded guests that the Montgomery Bus Boycott was effective because civil rights and business leaders worked together.

In his first major speech since being named to succeed the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Haynes said that the 381-day boycott, launched in 1955 after Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus, had both “tree shakers and jelly makers.”

“The tree shaking changes the system, but have you forgotten about the jelly-making,” Haynes asked during his keynote speech. “While they did tree shaking in boycotting the buses they did some jelly making. They refused to ride the buses so they organized a carpooling system. The carpool system was over before it was Uber.”

“God orders steps and stops. In light of the historic mission of this organization and the historic run of Rainbow PUSH, when it comes to the fight for economic justice, it is not an accident or coincidence, but perhaps divine providence that I would be honored to share with you this week.”

In the same way, he took the Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas from 100 to 10,000 members in the past four decades, Haynes emphasized it is time to bring the faith, business and civil rights community together for the social justice battles today.

“If we [could] build a Black Wall Street back then (in Tulsa, Oklahoma), we can build a Black Wall Street from San Francisco to D.C., and from Harlem to Houston as a sign of the future of Black Business,” Haynes told a room filled with business and political leaders gathered at the Waldorf Astoria in Washington, D.C., on July 20.

In an interview with The Washington Informer after his speech, Haynes said two of his major efforts will be to organize a protest in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where a Donald Trump-appointed judge blocked payments to descendants of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre, and to respond to the recent rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“We must take some time. I met with the board. We will be meeting with the staff and we are going to chart our course,” Haynes said. “We already talked about going to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to protest what took place there [recently]. We also have to respond to the Supreme Court decisions. We are going to have a massive voter registration drive because we have to change the courts.”

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Haynes told The Informer he is working on a 100-day plan and an inauguration program perhaps in October around Jackson’s birthday.

“This is an exciting time for the U.S. Black Chamber, for our members, this is an exciting time for Rainbow PUSH and opportunities we are making here is a marriage made in Heaven,” said Ron Busby Sr., president and CEO of the U.S. Black Chamber of Commerce.

Dr. Ben Chavis, veteran civil rights activist and executive director of the National Newspaper Association (NNPA) was also at the USBC convention, and said it is important to learn from history in order to have progress.

“We should learn from our history and not necessarily repeat our history,” Chavis said, before also emphasizing the importance of collaboration. “When we find points that we can work together, we can be much more effective.”

Haynes further added the importance of uniting Black businesses and the Black church.

“We need to reunite in holy matrimony the Black church and Black business,” Haynes said. “On Sunday morning we go to church and on Monday morning the money goes into white banks.”

Haynes said that even though many churches have multimillion-dollar sanctuaries, many are open only two days a week. He said his church foyer is filled with small business owners. 

“All that I am trying to say is that in our Biblical faith tradition, there has always been a wedding between business and beliefs,” Haynes said. “It’s a Sankofa moment.”

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