Day: January 21, 2008

People will notice

Ephren Taylor Today history was made in Chatham, Virginia. At 3 PM, African-Americans and white Americans gathered to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. together. Not many people will notice this historic event because only about 75 of us were present. But it happened, and as I welcomed the interracial gathering to our church sanctuary this afternoon, applause broke out spontaneously when I noted that for the first time ever we were celebrating Martin Luther King Day as a community, together.

Our speaker for the day was Mr. Ephren Taylor, the youngest African-American CEO of a publicly traded company. Mr. Taylor started his first company when he was 12, and became a millionaire by 17. Before the meeting today, I asked him how he made so much money so young. He said,

Making the first million isn’t hard. It’s what you do with it that counts.

Good insight from a 25-year old who has made more money than I can even imagine. But, here’s the kicker: Mr. Ephren Taylor made his millions by helping others. He said today,

In the daytime I’m a businessman, but at night I’m a community activist.

Taylor has used his business skills to start CDCs (community development corporations) in several communities. He bought and rehabbed the jazz district in Kansas City. He has taught churches how to develop income streams by starting daycares, building low-income housing, operating adult daycare facilities, and a host of other community transforming projects. He hires ex-cons to do construction work on his not-for-profit housing developments. He commented,

We hire ex-cons to rehabilitate the communities that they helped destroy.

In the audience today were adults, children, and teens. One young man asked, “What kind of books should I read to learn what you know?” Kids of all ages, races, and economic circumstances want to be all they can be. Ephren Taylor helps them live the dream they have.

As the meeting closed today, Mr. Cedric Hairston, one of the organizers of the event, thanked our church for hosting the meeting. He said to me publicly,

“Your church is doing good in our community, and people notice.”

Then, Reverend Willie Sherman asked us to join hands, right arm over left to draw us closer together, and we raised our voices as one voice, singing —

We shall overcome, we shall overcome,

We shall overcome someday.

Oh, deep in my heart I do believe,

We shall overcome some day.

Today we made history. People will notice. Some already do.