Cryptic pro-black messages are becoming a little played out for me, it’s time to really give insight into the thought process and work that goes into the messages we (The Tenth) propound. My name is Dr. Derick McElveen Jr. CEO of The Talented Tenth Enterprises. I am a pharmacist by profession, educated on the highest of the seven hills in Tallahassee, at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. I Graduated from the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences in the Spring of 2009. I heard the name Albert Chester for years in high school, we got our hair cut in the same barber shop “Classy and Sassy” on Atlantic BLVD. I knew his name in college. “You know the QB a pharmacy major right?”He was the person they asked you if you knew once they found out you’re from Jacksonville. His family goes five generations deep in Jacksonville, so everyone is his cousin. We finally met during the intake process of our fraternity. I pledged in 04, He in spring 05, and we started our professional PharmD program together at the same time in Fall 05. During those years we shared and experienced failures and triumphs. He’s been there for me in ways I can’t begin to describe. I had a child our last two years of school. I was working at UPS in the morning, attending class during the day and working as a tech/intern CVS at night. There’d be times when I would literally just show up days before a test and be like “What I need to know?” We were two friends pushing and supporting each other through obtaining our goal. He certainly did that for me. I wouldn’t have made it across the stage if it wasn’t for our friendship. To see someone strive to be the best that he can possibly be, has always been a source of inspiration. What I’m most proud of his growth as a man and his commitment and heart for his people.
What you see in the picture above is something I’ve always known and seen in Dr. Chester. He’s always been a bold and intrepid leader. Never afraid to go out on the limb alone, go against conventional thought and practice to tackle the task at hand. Albert has always had a plan no one knew about, an order of operations only he understood. Why go to FAMU, when you can go to Stanford? Why choose to be a pharmacy major while being the starting QB? How are you going to do all that and pledge? Why leave your cushy job as pharmacy manager to open a pharmacy in the hood? But that’s him as a person in general, anything he decides to do might as well be spoken of in the present tense, because it’s already being worked out. A true man of uncanny drive. I’ve watched him work and sacrifice for those very same things. This is a very different piece and experience for me , because I’m not just talking about my friend and his accomplishments. I’m talking about what this means for us. What the take away message from my good friend’s effort really means. What I’m really speaking about is walking in purpose and what that means for us.
The “Us,” I am referring to in this context is today’s young black professional. We live in a challenging time socially. We’ve matriculated through a world in which we think we’ve achieved access. We find ourselves faced with the fact that we’ve gained the right to be present (education, credentials, etc.), but we’re still not accepted in the workplace. I have to speak on it right now, because I’ve had countless interactions with young black professionals in various practice ares with similar experiences. We’ve been conditioned to “wear the mask,” to accept the challenge and the weight of the double standard. Young black professionals bare the brunt of actual racism daily. The ones that exist behind the line and often alone. When people like to frame racism the larger systemic issues only come to mind. Poverty, access to education, the criminal justice system etc. But this suffering is oftentimes bound to those homogenous spaces of generational poverty. In this post I’m talking about you, the one who made it! The ones who beat the odds and made the right decisions to avoid the many pitfalls of our peers. Went to school, borrowed against your future earnings in hopes to leverage a brighter future. Actually obtained the license and the job that goes with it. So many of us still find ourselves unhappy and unfulfilled . We spend our days consumed by thwarting micro-aggressions, mitigating unfair expectations while under intense scrutiny. We’ve all felt it. Over time you become accustomed and learn to navigate, but those feelings begin to take a toll on you after a while. You’re either changed by it or you make a change. Many of us suffer in silence in our work environments.
This toxic environment we find ourselves in can be explained by a few factors. We can all expect to be overworked with limited resources and undervalued, that’s capitalism. “The American Way,”can be defined as getting the most out of and paying the least for labor. Long gone are the days of pensions and retirements, professionals find themselves in full time positions merely as fee for service. This is the current American job market. We as Black Americans face a whole separate set of hurdles in the workplace. There has been a noticeable culture shift in my professional career. It appears to be that the term “professionalism,” has become synonymous with “whiteness.” The current political and social climate these last few years has certainly removed the veil in the workplace. The fragility of “whiteness” has shown itself and all the institutions that benefit from it are now protecting it offensively. You ever feel like no matter what you do your always wrong, that the institution you work for is plotting against you? It’s because they are Nigga! It’s not a plot, its a plan. It’s out in the open and accepted. “Whiteness,” is now attempting to control space. To make you uncomfortable no matter your placement in the corporate power structure. It appears to be the goal is to surround yourself with people that make you feel comfortable, that are deemed acceptable.
What does this have to do with New Town, the good Dr. Chester, and walking in your divine purpose? Everything. What Dr. Chester did was invest in his community, taking his talents/service and his passion for teaching to an underserved area. Two years ago he founded the Capstone Institute, a pharmacy tech/vocational training school in the heart of the Northside, off Moncrief Rd. A year later he opened a pharmacy attached to the very same school. He now has the capability to educate and employ members of the surrounding community. This is the answer for all of us! We have to begin to look at our predominately black neighborhoods differently. As a result of working at New Town and filling in for Dr. Chester from time to time, I started to see things differently. My perspective had changed, able to view from a new lens. It was no longer “the hood.” The people have names/families and stories similar to your own. You’d be surprised how appreciative and complimentary they are of Dr. Chester and New Town Pharmacy. The feeling of helping your people in need is beyond satisfactory. To give needed consult/advice and access to information. We see ourselves and our families in them, and give them the respect they deserve. No one is going to love us, but us. We owe it to each other. That’s what excites me so much about being involved in these efforts from the beginning. Derby year 3 proceeds were given to a student that lives in the community to attend The Capstone Institute tuition free. It excites me that my life has become what the mission of W.E.B Dubois’s “Talented Tenth” was. The idea that it is our responsibility, the ones with education and access to provide the very same for those of us not afforded the same opportunity. If we don’t care, then who does? We are the solution that are community is looking for. There is a place where your talents and gifts will be appreciated and rewarded with patronage. We have to find value in that. “The hood,” may be your saving grace, the answer to your financial problems and mental health. All I see now is opportunity. The opportunity for ownership and revitalization. We have to check our own biased towards our communities. We’ve bought in to the concept that it’s about class and not race. We believe that we’ve gained some type of pass, one based off merit and credentials. You might not “belong” as much as you think. We’re fed the same information about our communities daily via local news and subsequently avoid those areas just like white Americans. I truly believe that the answer to our problems lie in each other. We graduate with the weight of tons student of debt, with the same social equity as those without. Most of us are tasked with bearing the responsibility of not just achieving, but of also building generational wealth. We have to pool our money and resources in hopes of OWNERSHIP. Where this is possible and needed, is in our communities. Our spaces are cost affective and viable options. As the economy marches on and the wealth gap continues to widen, it’s only a matter of time before gentrification comes knocking at the door. The message is, is that there is hope. We are that hope. New Town is living proof. No matter your profession or degree, you can be of service. Your talents and gifts are needed, and if you have the courage to take that leap there is a community waiting to support you. As I said earlier about these toxic environments “You’re either changed by it, or you make a change.” Both are true for me. In ten years as a working professional I’ve certainly been changed, and as my man Sam Cooke so eloquently put it “A change gone come.” I’m making that change sooner than later because the time is NOW!