Today I want to share a story with you.
I grew up outside Detroit, Mi in the 70s 80s during the decline of the automobile industry, and the increase of crack cocaine and violence in the community. Just because we were outside of Detroit, didn’t mean we were in a plush suburb.
Inkster, Mi is the place my parents moved to in 1955 when they bought our home. It wasn’t the place they chose to live, but it was the place they were allowed to purchase because redlining was a real thing. This is the government-sponsored practice of not allowing Black people to purchase in certain areas and forced us into economically unstable, overpoliced and under commercialized areas.
Despite the rough conditions, I had a great childhood. My parents were and are amazing people. My siblings are great and I love my childhood friends. We had a lot of fun.
I did not know or meet any entrepreneurs growing up but I knew I wanted to own my own business from a young age. I Never really knew what or how it would happen, I just knew.
In the early 90s, I was shipped to a private high-school away from my friends but ended up with some new friends from let’s say the “other side of the tracks”. They had access, means and opportunity. These people really opened my eyes to a whole new world. I went to work for the dad of a new friend the summer after high-school, in his accounting department.
Impressed by the amount of money I was opening in their checks, I asked Mr. Pongracz, how did he earn so much? He said, “Freddie, if you want to make this type of money, don’t ever work for anyone when you grow up.”
Those words stuck with me and I just knew I had to be an entrepreneur.
I went to college with the dream of being a multi-million dollar entrepreneur. The journey through college taught me so much, but I also realized another problem. I knew real Black history wasn’t being taught in high-school but it was not being taught in colleges either. And that little morsels they did teach, was trash, it began with slavery and mostly comprised of falsehoods and half stories. In short, it did not show just how great our people are.
My father appreciated Black history and tried to make sure I did too whilst growing up. However I was young and of course, did not pay too much attention, but I knew a little of the truth.
Over the years and after having my first son in graduate school, I became increasingly concerned about how Black history wasn’t being taught, the lack of self-knowledge our people really had, and coming to grips with the fact that my children were going to grow up in the same system.
By the time I had my second child in 2003, the school districts were no better imparting the wonders of our history to our children. They continued with the same lies, half-truths and omitted history as they did in the 1980s when I was coming up.
Fed up, I began a little company called Urban Intellectuals where we made it our mission to shine a light on the world of our long and storied history of our people. I was introduced to some of the great minds in this space and would be floored that most of my contemporaries didn’t know these people, not to mention their children.
I just knew something had to be done.
After many years of writing articles about our history and keeping people plugged into the modern achievements of the Black community that started in 2009, I went full time in the business in 2014. But when we released the Black history flashcards and things really took off.
The year was 2017 and we couldn’t have imagined the ride that was ahead of us. The market resonated with our design, production, and the content of the flashcards. People let us know they appreciated the short, bite-size chunks of information for them to digest alone or with their children.
It was then that I knew we had a hit on our hands and an opportunity to educate generations of people. We didn’t stop with one volume of flashcards and become a one product company. We expanded our product line to build out a business.
Today, we have seven volumes of historical based flashcards, a coloring book, the Sankofa Club and much more coming to the platform built to educate, empower and engage the Black community. It is truly a dream come true because now I get to earn a living doing something I did for free for 5 years.
From 2009 (before this if you really want the long, long story) to 2014 there wasn’t much money to be made supporting a family with Urban Intellectuals. It was and still is a labor of love. If we didn’t make a dollar with the company, I’d still spend my day creating content, information and insight for the Black community to know and appreciate their greatness.
We believe every person on earth deserves to be proud of their ancestors. This includes the Black community and we have taken it upon ourselves to build a community of interested people, feed them the information in forms they appreciate, and the goal is to impact generations of Black people and more around the world.
We know the missing pages of world history is Black history. We know we must be the ones to write these pages and ensure they are kept in the human record of time.
It is my pleasure, honor and duty to steward this aim. It is something I take very seriously. And this is how my Black History Dream Came True.
PUBLIC NOTE: The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the view of the Urban Intellectuals, affiliates or partners.