Last week, I wrote my first article for Engaged Environments and discussed the overarching themes and issues that are impacting and kneecapping our community. The external issues facing us are evident on their face; even though we should be organized in order to bring much needed attention to factors such as lack of opportunities, exclusion from the American Dream, and a yawning wealth gap that is destroying hope for the masses, we need to be even more focused on ways we can build from within.
My aim for the next couple of weeks is to have a rolling conversation about various ways we can lift ourselves up from the morass we have been sunk inato for far too long. Because the issues are so many and so dynamic, I think it would be best to focus on singular issues one at a time so that a proper context and depth can be paid instead of lumping every factor into one article. I’m hoping that a discussion and a dialogue can be started not only here on Engaged Environment, it is my hope that this dialogue can be taken off line conversations can be had at dinner tables and places of congregation where you live.
I’m leading off with the notion of community empowerment vis-à-vis reinvestment because it is my belief that the number one factor that resides at the root of inequality and lack of political and social clout in our community is the dearth of communal wealth. We have two options when it comes to addressing this crisis and ways we can ameliorate the iniquity that is a fact of life for too many stuck behind the walls of poverty and generational hopelessness that prevents too many from having a modicum of opportunity in their lives.
The first option is to keep demanding restitution and a cash infusion from the government. While there is merit to this line of thinking—for few in this world have felt the tinge of persecution and oppression like ancestors of people stolen from the continent of mankind’s inception—I nevertheless see nothing but futility in this approach. Let us deal with facts instead of hoping for the world the way it should be. We do not have enough political nor are there enough of us to bend the arc of history towards restitution. Even if we did get a cash infusion from Uncle Sam, that money will do little to solve the core issue facing us when it comes to the income gap.
We as a community have so little to show for our work and the sacrifice of our ancestors not only because of external factors but because of our inability to reinvest our money and keep the wealth within our community. The Jewish community is so strong politically and socially because they understand the value of reinvestment. A dollar in the Jewish community is thus cycled eight times over before it leaves the community. In our community, a dollar is cycled through less than one time before it leaves. We do not retain money in our own people by spending our money supporting locally owned businesses and backing entrepreneurs who are of us. Instead, the mass majority of our money is spent patronizing corporations and businesses who do nothing for us and in many instances are actively contributing to our demise.
The watch word for us should be reinvestment. If you combine the money and earning power of the “black community”, our wealth would exceed that of 50% of the nations in this world. We have the means to enrich ourselves which could lead to a new Harlem Renaissance, a renaissance and an awakening of the masses as we do for each other what others will never do for us. This is a latent power we have as a people that is waiting to be unearthed. It is time for us to get to work.