Business & Money

Cooperative economics at work in Peoria, Illinois

By William P. Muhammad | Last updated: Jul 23, 2019 - 9:39:43 AM

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PEORIA, Ill.— Creating opportunities in a community where little is recognized by some residents and casual observers, organizations like the Black-owned-and-operated Minority Business Development Center and the Black Business Alliance of Peoria offers economic solutions to underserved neighborhoods through a strategy of self-help to improve quality of life through entrepreneurship, networking, and unity.

(L) Dwayne 8X of the Peoria Study Circle, BBA President, Denise Moore, Radio and Programing Director, Garry Moore outside the MBDC building. (R) Mr. Garry Moore explains aim, purpose and benefits of operating the city’s only Black owned radio station in Peoria, Illinois.

Working with local Nation of Islam members and others to achieve the goal of developing a Black-owned business district, City Council member Denise Moore and her husband, a retired local NBC affiliate news anchor, Garry Moore,  created what they call a business incubator, along with a low-powered FM radio station that operates from a formerly abandoned 6,500 square foot warehouse, remodeled and repurposed as a services and broadcast media hub to advocate the “Do-for-Self” work ethic. The couple  also founded and operate the Minority Business Development Center and the Black Business Alliance.

“What we do here, (and) just the fact that we have a physical edifice on the landscape, is providing hope for people in the community,” Mrs. Moore said. Located in central Illinois, Peoria is about 155 miles from Chicago. “One of the things that drove me was seeing the State of Illinois census data that indicated that the number of African American businesses in Peoria was so small (that) it doesn’t even register as a number, it’s a footnote,” Mrs. Moore added. 

“Being a student of reading about Black Wall Street, and all that happened in Oklahoma [in the early 1920s], and all which was lost, like the phoenix, I knew that we could bring that back here.”

Mr. and Mrs. Moore told The Final Call their goals in Peoria include establishment of a Black business district.  The couple agreed that using both radio and internet live streaming multiplies their effectiveness in sharing the business alliance’s core values of advocating a mindset of self-help and by demonstrating a culture of productivity and community service.

“In this building, we have three entities, this is where the Black Business Alliance meets, this is where the Minority Business Development Center incubator is, and then we have the radio station,” Mr. Moore said. He serves as operations and programming director for WPNV 106.3 FM, the radio station owned and operated by the Black Business Alliance of Peoria.

Among their various success stories has been the growth and development of Intangible Mindz Agriculture Development, LLC, an urban gardening initiative created by members of the Nation of Islam’s Peoria Study Group run by Brother Dwayne 8X, to address the city’s Southside food desert.

Training apprentices to grow fresh vegetables on vacant lots to address a lack of quality foods available on the city’s Southside and to create jobs, Dwayne 8X told The Final Call that creating an economic engine through the Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s ‘Do-for-Self’ work ethic is the key to transforming a community from one of dependency and non-productivity to one of growth, development, self-sufficiency and sustainable local economy.

Dwayne 8X, president and CEO of Intangible Mindz, shows one of the 130 raised vegetable bed gardens his company oversees as they entered their second growing season.

“I’ve been involved in a lot of different groups and a lot of different circles talking about food buying clubs, and what I am trying to do with Intangible Mindz is I want to work the Muhammad Economic Blueprint to where we can buy some land, and through people who have gone through the apprenticeship program, to be able to work that land for the people,” Dwayne 8X said.

“If we just had 200 people to pool our little nickels and dimes together, we can buy some of this land and fix it up to give some people the opportunity to work that land versus just building up a whole bunch of community gardens like a pantry and just giving it out.”

Agreeing that ownership and doing-for-self fosters a strong self-interest in one’s community and creates incentives for making it into a safe and decent place to live, Student Minister Roy Muhammad of the Peoria Study Group said that the universal elements of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s teachings are of benefit to all, particularly when understanding that self-improvement and unity is the basis of community development.

“We can set up and help promote the vegetables and all of the products that Brother Dwayne is producing and advocate to our people in our community like we do with The Final Call newspaper and make our people aware and use our contacts to provide natural food to them,” Student Minister Roy Muhammad said.

“Stop and come by or talk to Brother Dwayne and we will deliver it to you. We also have the products from our farm in Georgia, the bean pie and other goods,” he said.