“If the Negro would be as fair to his own as he has been to others, this [confidence] would be all that is necessary to give him a new lease on life and start the trend upward.”
So-called African American luminaries, with their rampant coonery and buffoonery, have all but completely destroyed the Black race’s reputation the world over. And the resulting apathy, pessimism, cynicism, and ignorance left in its wake has made it increasingly difficult for the grassroots advocates to effectively do the work of liberating – no, rescuing – our people from their slave-minded existence.
In light of this sobering reality, any and all warriors willing to step up to the plate – and change the rules of the game – so that the righteous and the oppressed can, for once, come out on top are people we’d gladly march into Hell with, if that’s what it takes to free our people.
One such group of warriors refer to themselves collectively as dangerousNegro|Black Empowerment Apparel (dn|Be).
“dn|Be” was inspired by Asa (A.) Phillip Randolph, who was one of the brightest beacons of the Civil Rights Movement. Randolph’s advocacy record was beyond impressive: he organized and led the International Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, served as head of the March on Washington Movement, and founded “The Messenger” magazine (more than likely the only African American magazine in the history of Black publications that legitimately and unapologetically dealt with the issues concerning African Americans through “strengthening the African American intellectual and political identity of African Americans in the age of Jim Crow”).
Randolph also forced President Franklin D. Roosevelt to sign the order establishing the Fair Employment Practices Commission, which helped set the stage for the eradication of discrimination against African Americans in the workplace.
But as far as President Woodrow Wilson was concerned, A. Phillip Randolph was “the most dangerous Negro in America”.
Today, leaders such as Randolph are viewed as barely more than relics of a bygone era, replaced by the extremely effective marketing campaign known as “the post-racial society”. The mere trinkets of money, influence, and status have created a complacency in African Americans that makes these descendants of slaves – descendants who are the direct beneficiaries of the Civil Rights Movement – not only reluctant to fight on behalf of equity and parity for their own people, but also makes them too cowardly to even speak on the realities of a racism that is still very much alive and well, irrespective of the token Negros who have been exalted to god-like status.
dn|Be aims to reverse the damaging trends of African American ignorance and lackadaisical attitude toward the very real plight of our people through their role as “purveyors of positive propaganda”.
Asis Chronicle recently chatted with dn|Be CEO Tre Baker to learn more about the philosophy behind the brand, the allure and influence of “empowerment apparel”, and the role consciousness and social entrepreneurship play in changing the African American socio-political paradigm.
Asis Chronicle: What did you see lacking in the African American landscape that created the niche dangerousNegro fills?
Tre Baker: I saw an obvious need for a t-shirt line to promote positive themes related to Black empowerment. T-shirts are like walking billboards. Every time someone wears a dN tee they’re spreading the positive propaganda we promote. We’ve got kids all over the country spreading messages like “Smart is the New Gangsta” and “Young. Gifted. Black.” The Black community in general needs to start using fashion, media, and entertainment to push ideas that help build our community, not destroy it. dN is doing its small part towards that goal of Black Empowerment.
AC: How does “empowerment apparel” specifically help you achieve your objective?
TB: I think this is answered in the paragraph above.
AC: We know A. Phillip Randolph was labeled “the most dangerous Negro in America” by President Woodrow Wilson, because of Randolph’s ability to lead people, and affect change. In addition to that, why is the company called “dangerous Negro”?
TB: Marketing…it catches people’s attention and it’s controversial. If I tell someone I have a clothing line called dangerousNEGRO, I’ll get a stronger reaction and peak their curiosity more than any other name of any other popular clothing line out right now.
AC: How do you conceive and select the empowerment slogans you put on your apparel?
TB: We draw inspiration from everywhere, but mainly books, documentaries and current events. Sometimes fans give us design ideas.
AC: When were you first exposed to the concepts of consciousness and social entrepreneurship?
TB: I didn’t really learn about social entrepreneurship until business school which was after I was already a social entrepreneur… I just didn’t know that’s what it was called. I first started getting conscious when I read “Malcolm X” in middle school, but I didn’t get really into it until I read “Blueprint for Black Power” by Amos Wilson, “PowerNomics” by Claud Anderson, and “The Destruction of Black Civilization” by Chancellor Williams. Those books changed my life. They lay out the problems facing the Black community so clearly that the solutions are evident.
It amazed me that the solutions to our problems are right there in these books and some of us are still trying to figure out the problem, having the same old debates we had 50 years ago. Doing the same things (marching, protesting, begging white folks to treat us right, etc.) and expecting different outcomes.
AC: That you donate 5 percent of your revenue to causes that contribute to Black Empowerment is totally on point, and serves as evidence of your social entrepreneurial philosophy. With that said, what do you think is the most important aspect of social entrepreneurship?
TB: All entrepreneurship is social entrepreneurship. It just so happens that the social mission of most companies is to control the rest of society and make a few individuals rich regardless of the broader social or environmental consequences. Entrepreneurs need to start looking at how their business affects everything because everything and everyone are connected. Businesses are supposed to improve society. And technology is supposed to free people from the muck and mire of just trying to survive. Our goal should be 100% unemployment, which means that our technology would be so advanced that people no longer had to work just to survive and they could “work” on anything they wanted to and focus more on developing their minds and spirits rather than working at a job that they hate just for a paycheck.
Yes, you need to make money for your company to survive, but then what? How you make money is just as important as what you do with it after you make it. Philanthropy is a good short-term solution, but it’s become a long-term enabler. If businesses where operated properly and government served it’s true purpose, there would be no need for philanthropy.
For example, we could solve world hunger with the food we waste every day in the United States. We have thousands of vacant houses AND homeless people. How can you have homes with no people and people with no homes? Businesses have the capability to solve these problems; we just need the right people with the right goals running them.
TB: My purpose is the economic development of the African (Black) community worldwide. I’m doing that through my new company, Ujamaa Deals, a daily deal site (like Groupon) featuring Black-owned businesses. There is no social, cultural, or political power without economic power and self-determination. Black people not owning and supporting their own businesses is something that we can no longer afford if we want to make any real progress.
AC: On your website, it says your mission is “to promote African culture, and the Black Empowerment Movement through positive propaganda.” So much of what is considered African American culture is really more of a misrepresentation – a misnomer, actually – and is really more sub-culture/sub-genre. What IS “culture”, and how do you define it?
TB: Culture is a set of rules, procedures, ideas, and values for meeting a people’s needs and allowing the security and perpetuation of their preferred way of life. According to Dr. Amos Wilson, “the ultimate thing a culture is supposed to do is solve problems.” Therefore, we don’t advocate African culture because of some romantic idea of Africa and as a reactionary rejection of the oppression we’ve faced under a European dominated society. We promote African culture as the best solution for African (Black) people’s problems.
When African people attempt to adopt a Eurocentric mindset it is not compatible with their spiritual alignment and it will cause problems. That’s why you have Black folk out here acting like they’ve lost their natural minds…. because they have.
They are off balance and off center. The solution is to return to a state of African centeredness. European culture did not evolve or develop for African people. African culture is for African people, which include so-called African Americans that haven’t completely lost their minds and sold out.
AC: Your website states that dangerousNegro was started by seven recent college graduates. Which schools did you all attend, and what were your majors? (Include gender breakdown as well)
TB: All Black men, 6 from Vandy (Vanderbilt University), and 1 from IUPUI (Indiana University- Purdue University Indianapolis). Mostly engineering and business majors.
AC: Was it difficult being a student at Harvard Business School with the level of consciousness you had at that time?
TB: Nope. When you know who you are, you don’t require anyone else to agree with you or approve of you to function. I can get along with most people whether they share the same level of consciousness or not. Everyone has their own journey, which is all there is.
AC: One of your founders said in an interview that he thought, “The biggest ‘N-word’ that young black males are afraid of” is “nerd”. Going forward, how does dangerousNegro plan to reverse the generalized acceptance of Black male inferiority and mediocrity?
TB: One t-shirt and celebrity endorsement at a time.
AC: Where will the company be in 10 years’ time?
TB: Hopefully it will be gone because the need will no longer be there. I’m reminded of the Susan G. Komen foundation and some of these other organizations that are built around solving problems and curing diseases. The very existence and continuance of these organizations is indicative of their failure. If we succeed there will be no need for us to exist because positive propaganda will be everywhere and there will be no need for us to specifically focus on it.
On the web:
*Editor’s Note: Though this piece previously ran, we thought it’d be a good idea to highlight dangerousNegro once again, to introduce the company to those who may not have heard of it.* – KMT