Should Black Men Take Over the Trades? —Part 2: The Door Is Open

In Part 1, I went through the history of how Black men relied on the trades for freedom and how we let those skills go. 

Now, I want to talk about why I think it’s important for us—and our sons and nephews—to get back to carpentry, plumbing, HVAC, electrical and other trades. 

If you were born in the 80s like me, your father likely didn’t teach you anything, if he was even around. My father was a plumber, and I wish he’d shown me that skill instead of turning to drugs. 

Yes, some of us have had terrible experiences trying to be tradesmen full-time. We’ve encountered racism, sneaky contractors, injuries, and even jealousy from older Black men who refuse to pass the baton. We can’t let those experiences stop us. Besides that’s not the only way a trade can be useful.

Here are 6 Reasons Black men should pick up a trade, even if you already have a degree and a job: 

  1. You can upgrade your home without paying tons of money to contractors. Our friends Charles and Aneesa Sergeant have a beautiful home. Aneesa always applauds how Charles has been able to save them thousands of dollars because he can do a lot of the upgrades and fixes himself. Same goes for rental properties. If you own a rental property, you can save money doing some of the repairs yourself. 

2. You will enjoy it. I made monkey bars in the backyard for my kids. I’ve made planters and raised beds for my wife. My wife sees something on Pinterest and I build it. I think Home Depot might be one of our favorite stores. I genuinely like doing projects that get me outside using my hands. It doesn’t even feel like work.

3. Your son needs a skill—and it’s your job to train him. We can talk all day about the academic achievement gap and the unemployment rate, but how are we going to prepare our sons to be providers? That’s 100% on us.

I became a general contractor and an electrician at age 40 because our son is on the autism spectrum. If he chooses not to go to college, he can make a living wiring a house, painting, or landscaping. Even some of the newer trades like web development, videography, or fixing smartphones are skills that young men can hire themselves out for. Like John Berry Meachum said, we need to start them young. 

John and Mary Meachum, Christ-followers, abolitionists, and freedom riders

Read John Berry Meachum’s Advice for Blacks Coming Out Of Slavery

John Berry Meachum and his wife Mary were devout Christians and abolitionists. They were born into slavery, but John purchased his family’s freedom at 21 years old. John and Mary started a school for Blacks in their church. When Missouri outlawed education for Blacks, they moved their school to a boat outside of state lines. As an entrepreneur and pastor, John Meachum purchased and freed other enslaved people. Before he died in 1854, Meachum wrote a pamphlet with clear instructions for Blacks coming out of slavery. Maybe now we’ll listen…

4. It’s a good way to train teenagers. We shake our heads when we see young Black boys acting a fool, but what else are we training them to do. When we have called Mexicans to do some work, they always have a son or a nephew with them. That kid is not just getting coffee and bringing lunch. He’s working. And by 19 or 20, he’s able to do projects by himself.

5. We can start to keep our communities nicer. As seniors get too old to keep their homes up, they should be able to call us to help them with their property. My phone blew up with calls for help when a rainstorm flooded several basements in our area. This is an opportunity to make side money and help people at the same time. When local governments are auctioning off properties, we should be able to get them and fix them up. If we’re fortunate enough to inherit a paid-off property, we can stay out of debt and do the repairs ourselves.

6. You have a side hustle. Black men cannot rely solely on our paychecks to provide, because we are more likely to be unemployed or underemployed. Those of us who have overcome a criminal background know this well. We need multiple income streams that generate income quickly.  A trade can be one of them.

Reflection Questions

1. How are your equipping your sons to provide for your grandchildren, or will they have to figure it out on their own?
2. If you lost your job, what skill could help you immediately bring in income?

Here are two videos with valuable information about the current state of the trades. I think both show that there’s an open door for Black men to re-enter the trades, so we can take our place as providers, just like our ancestors told us to.

Honest Carpenter – The Trade Deficit
Trades with High Wages

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