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Lessons in doing for self

By La Risa Lynch | Last updated: Jul 1, 2011 - 9:14:27 AM

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Sisters start program to promote entrepreneurism among youth

Nearly 100 people gathered at Chicago YMCA facility for an open house on a newly formed group called Million Parents United in Building a Future for our Children which aimed to encourage entrepreneurism in youth.
'(We need to) teach them from a child… to go to school to get a good education not to come back looking for a job, but to create jobs.'
—Sondra Muhammad

CHICAGO ( - Sondra Muhammad used the Honorable Elijah Muhammad's "do for self" philosophy to open several businesses, including a Chicago-based construction company she operates with her sister.

Now, Ms. Muhammad wants to impart those words of wisdom of being an entrepreneur to a younger generation through her newly formed organization, Million Parents United in Building a Future for Our Youth.

The organization recently held a Saturday open house at a YMCA facility on the city's South Side where it rolled out several programs, including an academic program that stresses mentoring and careers in science and technology, disaster preparedness classes and workshops on youth entrepreneurialism. Nearly 100 people attended the open house. With national unemployment rates officially hovering at nine percent and 16 percent for Blacks, the cure, Ms. Muhammad said, lies in starting a business. But that entrepreneurial spirit, she said, must be planted at a young age just as her mother did using the teachings of the Nation of Islam patriarch.

Abdul Muhammad, a NOI minister, keynoted Million Parents United in Building a Future for our Children's open house where he called for Blacks to set aside difference in order to create an economic agenda for for the Black community. Photos: La Risa Lynch
“(We need to) teach them from a child… to go to school to get a good education not to come back looking for a job, but to create jobs,” said Ms. Muhammad, president of Star and Crescent Construction and Design. “That's why you want to start young … to plant that seed in their heads.”

The organization grew out of efforts to mentor youths and provide scholarships for students. Ms. Muhammad and sister, Jackie 3X, wanted to expand their mission and decided to create the organization to get more parents and youths involved in sustaining self.


“We thought if we involved the parents and the children, we would be more successful in assuring the future of our children,” said Jackie 3X, who also owns a catering company.

The event's keynote speakers echoed the organization's core theme. Abdul Muhammad, an N.O.I. student minister and Chicago Public School teacher, said securing a future for Black youth begins with economic development, which is lacking in Black communities. Businesses ownership in Chicago's Black urban meccas on the West and South Sides don't reflect the populations in which they operate, Abdul Muhammad said.

“In 2011, we are going to spend a trillion dollars,” he said. “You drive through the South Side; you drive through the West Side, and you can't tell … that we are going to spend a trillion dollars in 2011.”

Abdul Muhammad questioned why there is a Chinatown and Greektown, but no central Black business district where Blacks dollars can circulate in the community instead of leaving to send other ethnic groups' children to college.

“You can't go over by Little Italy and sell Italian ice to Italian people. They are not going to let you set up shop in their neighborhood,” he said.

The blame for the lack of Black business development lies on the Black community's shoulders, Abdul Muhammad added. Divisions within the Black community, he contended, contribute to no Black economic agenda.

However, several youth attending the open house seem headed to correct that disparity. Davilyn Freeman was inspired to start her own web design company while working for Sondra Muhammad's construction firm.

Ms. Freeman, 25, skills were put to the test when Ms. Muhammad needed a website for her business. Ms. Freeman volunteered her service, and an entrepreneur was born.

“It was funny because I made them a website. They loved it and I was like, ‘Ah, I could do this,' ” said Ms. Freeman, who now works as a youth coordinator for the organization. “This is something I enjoy, and I have been doing it for four years.”

Antwan Morgan, 15, started an educational awareness program. Hallway Hustle brings in young adults speakers, host talent shows, and produce conscience rap CDs that inspire youth to reach their full potential.

The high school student created the program after realizing his classmates “were good kids, but just didn't know where to put their talents in to.” The goal, he explained, is to highlight good youth leaders.

“They are capable in a lot more ways than what they are doing,” Antwan Morgan said.

College student Joshua Harris already got the first rule of business under his belt. He took advantage of the open house to network and promote his lawn care business, College Boyz Lawn Service.

As he worked the crowd, Mr. Harris, a Western Illinois University student, said he started his business last June with fellow student, Jeremy Gordon, 20, to help pay for tuition. As a youth Harris made a lot of money cutting his neighbors' lawns, an idea he picked back up to help with tuition.

Mr. Harris stressed he is an example of the positives youth can do to get money rather than committing crimes and selling drugs. He said the tradeoff for fast money is not worth it.

“You can get the fast money, but you'll end up dead and without the money,” said Mr. Harris, a law enforcement major.