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The evolution of the National Black Chamber of Commerce – Part 4

Beyond the Rhetoric

Harry C. Alford & Kay DeBow oped contribuor | 7/18/2019, midnight

Harry C. Alford

When Kay and I were introduced to each other at the Detroit Metro Airport, it was spring, which in Detroit is always beautiful and exhilarating after another hard winter. As she left the restaurant to go catch her flight to New York (for a sales conference for Colgate Palmolive), I watched her legs walk away from me. It reminded me of an old blues song: “She has legs like Willie May’s baseball bat - honey in color and very thick”. 

Her beautiful face accented with a gorgeous smile and black satin hair flowing off her head and down her neck. They say beauty is only skin deep. If so, it was deep enough for me. I turned to my sales representative as we approached our gate to Dallas (J&J sales conference) and said: “If I ever see that woman again, I am going to sweep her off her feet and eventually marry her. If she has a man or husband, he is going to be in big trouble.”

I thought about her often and was mad for not getting her telephone number. Then, after about six weeks, there she was working on a major shelf realignment in a Farmer Jack supermarket with her co-workers. The work was manual, so she was wearing blue jeans – real tight blue jeans.

Instantly, as Etta James would say “The spell was cast”. I knew this might be my one and only shot and came with my “A” game. I told Kay, “I understand you are new to the business and to Detroit (which was very “hardball” and rough to a rookie.) It’s a good thing for you that we have met. I know this market and the managerial makeup of every grocery chain. I pride myself in customer relations and it pays off from time to time. I could teach that to you. It is hard for a Black to win in this business and that is especially true for a female – beautiful female. I could be your coach.”

I gave her my business card and voice mail. I told her she can give me her contact info when she calls me. I walked away and drove off to the next store on the itinerary. It was fifteen minutes later that I received a voice mail from her. She said she needed “coaching” as soon as possible and that she had time for breakfast tomorrow. We set the time and place and so it began – a love story made in heaven (even thought it was Detroit). A wonderful breakfast turned into a nice lunch at a jazz restaurant which turned into dinner at a jazzy supper club in the Indian Village section of east Detroit. We closed the evening with Kay inquiring, “What time will we meet tomorrow (which was Saturday)?” I replied, “10:00 AM, we are going to spend a day touring the Ontario, Canada countryside.” It was a great choice as love was beginning to show its beautiful face.