…a point in time.

As a photographer, I often travel to different cities throughout the United States – from being chased by coyotes in Death Valley and Yosemite out West to photographing waterfalls at Bushkill and hanging out with bears in the Blue Ridge mountains back East. When my plane hits the tarmac I power up my smartphone (iPhone, of course) to send a few texts, request an Uber, then I usually look for the ‘best’ restaurants in town. I love to go where the locals go. Somewhat of a ‘foodie’ I guess you can say. What is always missing is the ability to easily locate Black-owned restaurants outside the typical ‘soul food’ searches. What if I wanted to enjoy some fresh seafood or sushi, a slice of cheese pizza, an organic salad or vegan cuisine, a burger, a green smoothie or a fresh hot cup of chai – from a Black owned business?

“We have a responsibility to support Black businesses and Black businesses have a responsibility to support us”-Danee Lou

This quote resonates with me daily. Danee Lou’s quote was the ‘active ingredient’ that brought my idea to this point in time.

On Friday, June 3rd, I received a text from Zakiyyah (Zee) Myers: “Hey, my flight will be in Baltimore in about an hour. Can you pick me up?” Never mind the short notice (or lack of notice), “Of course,” I replied. “Yah,” she responded. She was in town for the 2016 Reason Rally, a secular event where people come together to celebrate reason, critical thinking and humanity. I couldn’t wait to tell her about this idea I’d been thinking about – an app that would allow GPS-based Black business searches and reviews. Over the years I’d share various ideas with her but would often not follow through. “Make it happen!” she interrupted. “You always have these great ideas then you regret not following through,” she said.

Zee told me about a friend of hers, a fellow traveler, who suspected he was denied service at an Airbnb-sponsored cabin. His name is Rohan Gilkes. She said they were working on launching their own venture that ensures a safe and inviting atmosphere for all travelers, regardless of ethnicity. That idea became Innclusive(formerly Noirebnb).

A couple of weeks later I was vacationing in Puerto Rico and had not done much in terms of furthering my idea. Again, finding myself in a situation where I could not easily locate a Black-owned business to patronize. By then I had mentioned my idea to a good friend, my namesake, David (DC) Cox. DC would ask daily, “How’s your idea coming along?” He, too, realized that I needed that ‘push.’ Over the next couple of weeks I’d seek counsel from several other friends. By the way, DC is the owner of Positive Vibes Fitness.

On July 9th I was in Chicago attending the wedding ceremony of my niece, Prahkeet Miykhael. Prahkeet is the owner of Sun’s Flower Creations – she designs and creates culturally beautiful clothing for men and women. While in Chicago I drilled my brother, Amatsiah Rahm, with questions about his restaurant. Amatsiah is the owner of Soul Vegetarian in Tallahassee, Florida. “What is the most common compliment and complaint you hear from your customers?”, I asked. He immediately responds “Consistency! Our customers expect us to be consistent,” he continued. “They expect the same friendly service and great taste each time they visit.” I had been thinking of ways we could encourage Black-owned businesses to be accountable to their patrons. Honest reviews are an important part of that accountability.

I also mentioned my idea to another friend (and fellow photographer), Roger Moore. Roger is the owner of Moore Imagesand specializes in travel photography. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to mention this or not, but Roger is also launching a new business in real estate. Roger and DC were instrumental in helping me choose a name and logo for my new service. They remain just as instrumental today in giving me daily advice.

By now I’m sure you see a pattern. I have an awesome circle of family and friends who all have a business mindset, but most importantly, have businesses that help our community in key areas. But there’s more!

My next call was to my cousin, James Williams. James is the owner of Carnival Full of Fitnessin Miami, Florida – a unique program that encourages children to stay active by mixing fun, education and fitness. James has been a great resource and inspiration. “Cuz, you’re a great photographer and that’s fine, but I’m glad you’re finally doing something that you’ve been interested in since we were children,” he said. Growing up, we called James by his nickname, ‘lete,’ which is short for athlete. It’s no wonder he ended up starting a fitness company. I was always the tech geek. My parents couldn’t afford to buy me a computer so I’d spend every day after school at James’ house tinkering with his.

Then there’s Amanda Jordan. Amanda is a mathematician. She’s also the owner of AJ’s Tutoring– a company that prepares today’s young minds for tomorrow’s challenges – in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math). Amanda now serves as Director of Media for what has become RankTribe™. Roger has taken on the role of Chief Consultant and DC serves as Director of Strategy.

I could go on and on naming the many people I’ve relied on over the past several weeks but that would take too long. Ok, just one more.  I also reached out to T. Denin Williams – who I met some 7500 miles away, across the world in India, where I listened to her wisdom over Butter Chicken and Naan bread on the rooftop of a hotel in Jaipur.  She’s a ‘social architect’ at Just Denin.  Many of the others know who they are, yet, some don’t. Instead of mentioning everyone, I have tagged them in this note. If I have forgotten anyone it was not intentional. You have inspired this project in many ways – I read your social media comments and value your wisdom. I learn from each of you daily. Thank you!

*During the research and actual creation of RankTribe I discovered a couple of similar services that I and many others were not aware of.  A special shout out to each of you!

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