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The evolution of the National Black Chamber of Commerce – Part Two

Beyond the Rhetoric

Harry C. Alford & Kay DeBow ow contribuor | 7/3/2019, midnight

That was great advice. I spent two years, eight months and 12 days in the US Army and came out as a Lieutenant. I graduated from the Ft. Benning Infantry Officer’s School, Class #3-72. After two years of stateside service I returned to Procter & Gamble as a managerial candidate in Detroit, Mich. Benefits were great, replete with a company car, good cash and a bundle of benefits. This son of a local truck driver and domestic; grandson of a sharecropper; great grandson of 4 slaves was now rolling in corporate America.

Kay Debow

My father was an educator and one of the first four Tuskegee Airmen. My mother was an excellent teacher, she often brought her students to our home in Butler Tarkington. We were the first Blacks to move into this neighborhood, and a couple of times we awoke to crosses burning in our grass; but today it is known for being successfully integrated.

The 1970s? Well, I was a kid. I was riding my bike through Butler Tarkington and Broad Ripple with my best friend Lisa. We drank cherry colas at Butler University canteen. We bought matching t-shirts. Our family summered at Lake Michigan. All of my cousins on the Stuart side of the family came too. We swam every day and at night we built fires and told horror tales. My parents enrolled me in Ladywood High School with real nuns as teachers. Um, no thank you. I enrolled myself in Shortridge High School. I breezed through high school and found that after just three years, I had enough credits to graduate, so I did. I enrolled at Indiana University, Bloomington, with Lisa, of course.

It’s odd that I was not politically astute at that time because my parents were very politically minded. We had Senator Richard Lugar and Mayor William Hudnut campaign signs in our yard. These two men were republicans and back then in Indiana it was okay for Black people to support them because they were good to the entire community. My parents had access to them. Oh my, how attitudes have changed.

My parents sheltered me from adversity. I didn’t know much about the Vietnam War except what Freda Payne told me: “Fathers are pleading, lovers are all alone, Mothers are prayin’, send our sons back home (tell ‘em ‘bout it), you marched them away, yes you did now, on ships and planes, to a senseless war facing death in vain. Bring the boys home bring ‘em back alive.”

How then did Harry and I connect?

Harry C. Alford is the co-founder, president/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce ®. Kay DeBow is the co-Founder, executive vice president of the NBCC, Website: www.nationalbcc.org Emails: halford@nationalbcc.org; kdebow@nationalbcc.org

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