"DON'T BUY where you can't work" was the slogan of the late Rev. Leon H. Sullivan's Selective Patronage Program. He started it in 1960 after being repeatedly rebuffed when he approached local businesses asking them to hire black people.
Sullivan urged members of his large congregation at Zion Baptist not to shop in businesses that didn't employ minorities. Other churches around the city joined the effort. Rather than face boycotts, businesses began to hire African-Americans.
Many of the black applicants were poorly educated or unskilled, so in 1964 Sullivan started the Opportunities Industrialization Center to prepare them for the workforce. The first OIC headquarters was in an abandoned jailhouse in North Philly.
In 1970, Sullivan established OIC of America, an international network of affiliated organizations with the same mission.
In the early days, Philadelphia's OIC graduates were trained to work in manufacturing jobs and other entry-level positions. Hospitality jobs became a focus starting in the early '90s.
Today, good new jobs have emerged in energy and technology. Comcast, for example, is due to add 14,400 jobs in Pennsylvania - 1,500 in Center City alone.
Going forward, said 36-year-old OIC board chairman Atif Bostic, a business developer at Citizens Bank, the biggest question facing the OIC is how take advantage of these new opportunities.
"When you look at what the OIC was and why it was brought about," he said, "it's different today than it was then."
- Jenice Armstrong