Why I Stopped Endorsing the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF)

October 24, 2023 — Jt Spratley

For years I recommended US military veterans seeking free entrepreneurship training or certification testing to check out Onward to Opportunity (O2O) by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF). I'm Syracuse University (SU) alum. IVMF is on SU campus. It's a rarely discussed benefit that can help vets of all ages. Then I attended an entrepreneurship program.

Entrepreneurship Training Isn't the Problem

The virtual Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV) Spark program as great. Course work was well organized. It included informative webinars and applicable practical exercises. I still have my work from the course and reflect on it periodically. My issue is not with the training curriculum, instructor, or classmates from the program.

For context, EBV-Spark is an ideation course for military veterans. The ideal path for an EBV-Spark participant is to work through their business plan and solidify their idea. Then, move on to complete an EBV start-up course. Then, do the same thing with lessons learned from the start-up course implement that into the growth phase course. Again, the organization seems well organized.

Pro-Black and Blacklisted

My business idea revolved around helping Black-owned businesses. I mentioned Black-owned businesses and structural racism in probably every assignment and forum post.

My issue is with whomever decided I didn't deserve to continue the training track. I never received word back about attending the next course. I received no answer as to why in my multiple calls and emails. I never received an EBV-Spark certificate for graduating the course, even after two years, but that doesn't matter to me. It does further highlight how they feel about me. They blackballed me. It's not internal exclusion, where I'm able to do things within the platform but ignored, like when I post facts about reparations for Blacks or under-funding historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) on RallyPoint. I'm blacklisted.

If this is your first time reading my blog, you likely don't know how much I talk about the Black American experience, systemic racism, and anti-Black misandry in the US. This post may seem to over-exaggerate the situation. Yet, a lot of anti-Black racism in the US is subtle, clever (e.g., doublespeak), quick, petty, evasive, and/or silent - microaggressive. This microaggression spans across all aspects of life including healthcare, even in Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers.

There is oftentimes a high amount of denial, gaslighting, projection, and misinterpretation of stats from people uncomfortable with such discussions. Yet, there are Black veteran groups suing the VA for decades of well documented, disproportionate mistreatment towards Black veterans compared to non-Black vets. Yes, I've had such experiences in multiple VA hospitals. It reminds me of the history behind European countries' embargo against Haiti.

My conclusion: This situation is one of microaggression against my wanting to help my own people, Native Black Americans. I am a veteran, and I am gay, but not before I am Black. Maybe I pissed someone off within the SU "good old boys" network during my undergraduate journey, and this is someone's payback. Regardless, my stance is that IVMF is against supporting Black veterans looking to focus on helping Blacks.

If you're Black, but not pro-Black, you shouldn't have the same issue I had with IVMF. If you are Black and pro-Black, I recommend you contact your local Black chambers of commerce for resources and networking opportunities for your Black-owned business, especially Black men-owned businesses.

Tags: black-community, black-owned-businesses, military, professional-development

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