As entrepreneurs, we've all had our moments in business when we were faced with late deliveries or having to endure bad business partners. There may have even been issues with making payroll. Stressful as all of it is, it's nothing compared with what entrepreneurs (and musicians) went through while trying to conduct business in the Jim Crow south during the 1960s.
I just saw the movie Green Book, which put in perspective that as bad as things can get in our businesses today, we should all be grateful that we don't have to fear for our very lives to achieve our goals (or make a couple of bucks).
What shocked me most was that The Negro Motorist Green-Book [actual title] did exist. It was a guidebook, published from 1936 to 1966, for African Americans with information about where they could safely sleep, eat, and use bathrooms while traveling in the Deep South.
I'm especially embarrassed that I had never heard of it given the fact that my parents were at the forefront of the civil rights movement that roiled America in the mid-1960s. My mother, Evaline Segall, was the campaign manager for Constance Baker Motley, the first African American women to ever be elected to a state senate seat in New York, in 1964. My mom never told me about the Green Book.
Furthermore, in 1967, my bunkmate at the Shaker Village summer camp was Ben Cheney, who was the brother of slain civil rights worker James Cheney. Ben never told me about the Green Book.
Why does this matter to entrepreneurs like us?
Because it underlines the danger that African Americans faced, many of whom were musicians just trying to find work, while traveling in the Deep South during the Jim Crow era of segregation.
Being pulled over by local law enforcement for "driving while black" was a daily risk for these folks who were just driving to work, which happened to be to perform--to all white audiences, who also happened to meet them with huge acclaim. The performers couldn't eat or even use the bathrooms in the very venues they played in, which were sometimes in "sundown towns" that African Americans were not allowed to drive through after dark.
I am not naive and of course I knew of the horrors that went on in the South in the 1960s, but I was definitely not aware that these sorts of environments were actually chronicled in a "guide book."
For those who had to reconcile the fear that surged through their veins just to make a living in that part of America since the Civil War, it's nothing short of astounding. Today, as entrepreneurs, we face our own challenges, but none as horrific as our fellow Americans who needed to rely on the Green Book, an indispensable guide that informed them where they could and could not go to work or travel. And while the book was published as a travel guide for families on vacations, the truth is that it was nothing less than a warning guide.
As I watched, and as a musician, all I could think of was, "What would I do if it were me? So I now pose the same question to you, my fellow entreprenuers: What would you do with those kinds of restrictions while you were trying to run your business?