5 Ways to Contribute to Black Economic Empowerment

You’ve seen all you needed to see.  You’ve heard all the speeches.  You’ve read, liked, and shared all the statuses on Facebook.  You’ve double-tapped every meme on your Instagram feed.  You’ve liked and retweeted every tweet known to man (and woman).  And now you ask yourself THE QUESTION…

“What can I do to contribute to the cause of Black economic empowerment?”

I thought you’d NEVER ask.  Please, excuse me.  I wasn’t exactly prepared for this moment to come so soon…

*projector screen drops with the introductory PowerPoint slide already displayed, podium slides in from nowhere*

Black economic empowerment is a process; nothing will happen overnight.  It will take a sustained effort involving Black people everywhere working independently and collectively to achieve a common goal of ever-improving self-sustainability.  Your cog in this machine is just as important as the next cog.  When one bogs down, the entire machine suffers.  Let’s look into ways to help keep our machine of empowerment well-oiled and running efficiently.

I can think of five ways to bring your thoughts and dreams of contribution to reality.  I’ll list them out for you here:

1: Be willing to relearn EVERYTHING you were ever taught about Black history.

It’s a well-known fact that winners and conquerors write history.  It’s nearly impossible to find a World War II history class in the United States, or anywhere else in the world, taught from the perspective of German Nazis, Italian Fascists, or Japanese Imperialists.  the same can be said for Black history.

For 99.9% of us, we’re taught that we didn’t come onto the scene of world history until our transportation to the Americas via the Transatlantic Slave Trade.  Any history of Africa before that centers around Egyptian history, and even that history is subject to the efforts of Eurocentric science and religion to separate it from the rest of Africa.  History of Blacks, during and after slavery, is usually glossed over, with the goal of showing that America did everything it could to help Black people progress.  We’re given a few examples of “important Black people” in American history.  So much is purposefully left out of our textbooks that we find out, after our own research, that the truth is FAR MUCH WORSE than we could ever imagine.

It is paramount that you begin to ask questions and research what you see, hear, and read.  Much of it will be hard to accept.  The best thing you can do is keep your mind open and remain inquisitive.  I GUARANTEE YOU that you’ll learn something new EVERY DAY.

2: Support Black-owned businesses and other endeavors, or start your own business and fill a void in the Black community.

The overall goal of Black economic empowerment is to create, sustain, and grow businesses in our community that pool wealth and resources in ways we can use to our advantage.  It only makes sense that we support Black-owned businesses and aid in that growth.  Business creates business; if a business is making money, it can expand, create new jobs, and continue its cycle of growth.  But, as with any business, it takes customers and money to facilitate this.

That’s where you and I come in.

Every dollar we spend in our community deals a blow to our economic subjugation.  The influx of money, when spent correctly, can lead to more ownership of property and businesses.  This helps to slow down crime and gentrification, among other scourges in our communities.  We have to understand that racism and economics in America are connected, and that our communities are, by and large, living proof of that connection.

Find a Black-owned business in your community to frequent.  It doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing transition.  You can start with where you buy your hair care products, or where you get your car fixed.  It doesn’t matter where you start; it only matters that you START.  You can also start your own business, using your talent to help create wealth and ownership for yourself and your family while also helping your community become a little more self-sufficient.  It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.

If every other race of people can come into our communities and create wealth for themselves, why can’t we create it for ourselves?

3: Learn, practice, and teach (if you’re qualified) financial literacy.

Financial literacy is the [insert Holy Text here] to survival in a society built on the execution of capitalism.  Unfortunately, this language isn’t taught in our schools, and we don’t tend to learn or understand it until we’re nostril-deep in debt and sinking.

It takes discipline to get out of debt.  Budgeting and prioritizing your money is the simplest, most effective way to achieve financial freedom, but it takes time.  One of the best ways to stave off debt in the long term is to invest in the stock market.  In many cases, for less than the price you pay for that cup of coffee, that new pair of shoes, or that brand new smartphone, you can buy stock (ownership) in the company or companies you shop with.  Stocks tend to rise over time, and that $5, $10, $20, or more you spent in buying that stock will appreciate (gain value).  Sustained investing over decades can turn “hundredaires” into millionaires!  When it comes to investing in the stock market, I use Robinhood and Acorns.  They’re both smartphone apps that make investing easy, and don’t require hundreds of dollars to begin investing.

And just so we’re clear, that’s free advertising right there, ha ha…

4: Encourage and empower adults in your community to help make an impact with you, by themselves, or with others, in positive ways.

It’s NEVER TOO LATE to become a leader.  It doesn’t take a person with some inborn quality or genetic blessing.  All it takes is a person willing to pave the way, to sacrifice time and energy, to be passionate in his/her belief, and to be patient.

When dealing with adults, you’re dealing with creatures of habit.  By the time we graduate high school, our minds are all but set.  Our beliefs are about as concrete as concrete can get.  You’ll have to show patience when chiseling away at the walls of defense, and you’ll have to continue to shore up your own defenses to guard against the attacks of those who oppose your ideas.  It’s to be expected; we’ve come this far believing what we believe, and understanding what we understand, so why change?

Everyone is different, and you must approach them accordingly.  Some people need to see the importance of Black Economic Empowerment through the lens of logic, and others through faith.  Some may need to experience the importance by having to suffer through the lack of it.  Some have already experienced the feeling of helplessness and are more than ready to make change.  Whatever their position, be understanding.  Don’t argue, and don’t take rejection personal.  You aren’t the only one who sees the need to change.

5: Encourage and empower our youth through positive community-building and motivational activities.

The most effective way of achieving Black economic empowerment AND sustaining it over generations is to impress upon and educate our youth on its importance.  We must surround our children both inside and outside of the home with images and messages of positivity and encouragement.  We must create and involve them in activities that champion our culture, illuminate our history, and engender teamwork and leadership.  It’s important that they understand critical thinking and it’s necessity to our progress.

We’re capable of producing successful children just as well as any other group of people, and dare I say more so, based on our history of continuous oppression in its various forms.

We must return to the village mentality of raising and looking after children, where any child in your neighborhood is your child, meaning that anyone can help in their disciplining.  It’s up to us to emphasize the importance of having both mothers and fathers in the home.  Each perspective is key to raising well-rounded children.  Our children are a reflection of us, and we owe it to them AND to ourselves to properly equip them for a future where we can safely assume no one will help us.

There are a million other ways to address Black economic development.  I encourage you to find ways and come up with ideas that work for you.  Ask questions, seek answers, learn truth, and ask more questions.

Be as hungry for knowledge as a fire is for oxygen, and you’ll never be extinguished…

#BlessedBeTheGrind

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New School Racism: Add Water and Stir…


“You can’t say that! That’s racist…”
“Hey, black people can be racist too, ya know…”
“I don’t wanna hear him speak. He has such a racist attitude…”

The words “race,” “racist,” and “racism” get tossed around in our society with the force and urgency of children playing a classic game of “hot potato.” It’s one of those words that, when we use it, we assume that listeners know what it entails. We tend to use it when people speak inappropriately or disrespectfully about other races of people. It’s a call to understanding that racism is a bad thing, something that we’ve been trying to eradicate. We’ve come a long way in that endeavor, but the journey is still in its infancy.

We achieved a modest level of success in the Civil Rights movement. Our right to vote and our right to participate on more equal social footing in American society are things our predecessors fought hard for, and we should honor those men, women, and children who sacrificed for those freedoms. One of the most fundamental, effective ways to honor them is to continue seeking and subduing racism wherever we find it. The problem today is that we’ve forgotten what true, historical racism looks like.

Racism can’t be properly identified by a dictionary alone. Why? Because most definitions change over time to fit the age in which the words are used. It’s one of those words that are best understood within the context of history.

A “race,” loosely defined, is a group of people of a common lineage or descent. The suffix “-ism,” when attached to a word, expresses that the root word is being practiced. If you define “racism” by its two parts, it would mean that you’re grouping of people by lineage and descent. It’s simply a matter of categorization, but it doesn’t quite cover the true definition. That’s where historical context comes in. History shows us that power and the notion of superiority played major roles in the execution of racism. Races of human beings were grouped together, marginalized, and abused by people who believed they were given the right by God to do so, and whose notion of superiority and prejudice drove them to subdue, colonize, and enslave hundreds of millions of people over centuries. Even after freedom was “given,” laws were created and enforced to maintain the superiority complex of one group of people while allowing the other group to believe that what little they were given was more than they had hoped for. To continue this “free subjugation,” overseers continually doled out just enough perks to keep subdued people happy and in a perpetual state of dependency.

This is racism, true and historical racism. It goes beyond hurtful words and prejudice. I can hate your guts, but won’t affect where you live, work, and play. Your feelings don’t define racism. What makes racism “racism” is the ability to act upon those hurtful words and prejudices by punishing others and stonewalling everything society needs to maintain equality for all.

For the sake of clarity, I’ll quickly treat the suffix “-ist,” as in “racist.”  The suffix denotes someone who adheres to a custom or doctrine.  A rac-IST adheres to the doctrine and practice of rac-ISM.  If you adhere to and defend it, you’re a practitioner of it.  You’re a racist.  Boom.

This watered-down version of racism is still as potent as ever. It uses notions of love and political correctness to minimize dissent. Today’s racism tells people of color to look past the hate and embrace love. Today’s racism ignores the uniqueness of all races of people by telling you that there’s only one race, the human race, and that it “doesn’t see color.” Today’s racism convinces you that “reverse racism” is alive and well, even though it’s impossible for white people to do everything it did to us to themselves AND STILL MAINTAIN CONTROL OVER US. Today’s racism seeks to keep control by continually making you feel guilty for offending someone. It deftly turns everything we’ve known about it over on its head.  No one wants you to address it because no one wants to see it, as though it’ll just get tired of being cold-shouldered to the point where it takes it’s ball and goes home.  That ain’t how it works.

We have to define this thing before we can deal the blows needed to knock it out. Today’s racism hides behind deceptively good intentions; it’s the modern day Trojan horse. Allowing it to slip into our language, with no historical attachment or context, will have horrible consequences for us all.

I love you.  #BlessedBeTheGrind

“Up, You Mighty Race!”: Happy Birthday, Marcus Garvey!

 

“Up, you mighty race. Accomplish what you will!” 
- Marcus Mosiah Garvey

 

Marcus Mosiah Garvey (8/17/1887 – 7/10/1940) was a man whose contribution to the empowerment and progression of the African Diaspora was expansive, but nevertheless misunderstood and misinformed. To many people, he’s just the black man with the funny hat in that old black and white photo we see from time to time. But what did he do for us?

He showed us what we could do for ourselves when we stick together.

Garvey founded the United Negro Improvement Association in 1914, with the aim of promoting “pan-Africanism,” bringing together the African Diaspora for the purpose of empowerment in all aspects of global society. He spoke on street corners in London, England, and to large masses in the United States. He founded Negro World, a newspaper that was distributed and read on four continents. He founded factories to participate in industries he believed were needed to sustain and perpetuate African self-sufficiency. His most famous endeavor was the Black Star Line, a shipping company, with the aim of controlling the transportation of African peoples and goods around the globe. He was the catalyst for many other endeavors in his lifetime. Decades after his death in 1940, Garvey’s ideology and work continued to inspire many groups of African peoples around the world to create organizations and movements that motivate and empower ourselves to achieve self-determination. I encourage you to research his life, his work, and his legacy. A mere blog post won’t even scratch the surface

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He was derided as nothing more than a separatist racist by whites and blacks alike for his message of economic rebellion and self-sufficiency. He also had enemies within the Black community, and they only grew when his “respect” for the Ku Klux Klan became known, as well as his meeting with then Klan leader Edward Young Clarke. I believe his admiration for the KKK was due to the fact that, during the height of Garvey’s work, the Klan answered to no one. They were active in all areas of government, garnered widespread support among White Americans, and created fear in anyone who opposed them, especially Black people. For better or for worse, they were respected, and I believe Garvey wanted that respect, and more, for Black Americans and all people of African descent.

Again, I encourage you to research his history. You will learn that his imprint is everywhere, from the Civil Rights movement, to the Nation of Islam, the Black Panther Party, to the present day, and hopefully, beyond. He showed us, through both word and deed, what could and can still happen when Black people love, trust, and help one another. Our possibilities are endless. And it doesn’t take hatred on our part to make this happen. Support a black-owned business. Participate in the development of our Black youth. Promote positive cultural ideals among one another. Learn your history and ask questions. It is true for EVERY member of the African diaspora to understand that our history didn’t start with kidnapping and slavery.

“Up, you mighty race. Accomplish what you will!”

My Response to Retired officer Chris Amos’ Open Letter to Colin Kaepernick

(Click here if you have not yet read Officer Chris Amos’s open letter to Colin Kaepernick.)

Officer Amos, your service is truly appreciated.  From what I gathered in your letter, you were involved in a police-action shooting.  You were shot and wounded, and you responded by returning fire.  Unfortunately, a man died.  You were put on paid administrative leave and rehab, and returned to duty.  I’m glad you pulled through.  For that, I am thankful.

Now, let’s get down to business.  Your open letter to Colin Kaepernick DISGUSTS me.

Kaepernick’s protest specifically calls out police brutality.  His protest brings attention to officers who shoot and kill people UNJUSTLY and get away with it.  If you believe your actions were justified, why would you believe that he’s protesting you?  I’ll tell you why.  It’s because he IS protesting you.  Your open letter, no matter how well-intentioned, is merely a written version of the response given for as long as America has existed: a response of deflection.

His protest, along with many patriotic Americans, doesn’t just call out the obviously corrupt officers.  He also points the finger at you and your fellow officers who say and do little to root them out.  You speak about all the good that the overwhelming majority of 800,000 officers do for us as though it should be enough to shut us up about the few that do bad.  You deflect attention away from the real issue: POLICE BRUTALITY.

What also disgusts me is how you “dig up” your friends who either died or commited suicide in the line of duty, in an attempt to shame him, and by extension all protesters, for showing and voicing their discontent.  Allow your fellow officers to rest in peace!  They died upholding the same laws of this country that you upheld.  Those laws, among other things, grant the right to protest.  You don’t get to pick and choose which rights you care to enforce.  Your personal feelings DO NOT MATTER.  Kaepernick could hate your guts, but if he’s within his rights to do so, you have no choice but to protect him.  Here also, you deflect attention away from the real issue: POLICE BRUTALITY.

To protest, by definition, is to express objection to someone or something.  There’s no acceptable or inoffensive way to engage in it.  Dismissing the REASON for a protest because you don’t like the METHOD is unacceptable.  Dismissing his protest because he’s rich and famous is unacceptable.  You don’t respond by relabeling the protest a larger problem than the one it seeks to address.  But you did just that, and in doing so, you again deflect attention away from the real issue: POLICE BRUTALITY.

You made it a clear point in your letter to let us know that an elderly black man assisted you in locating the criminals you were chasing.  His helping you and your partner DOES NOT JUSTIFY YOUR BELIEFS IN ANY WAY.  He was simply doing what all citizens of America are asked to do when crime happens: speak up.  If anything, he and Colin Kaepernick have more in common than you will ever have with either one of them.  Speaking up in a community where decades of mistrust demands that you don’t talk to police is a tough thing to do.  And apparently, so is speaking up about law enforcement not serving and protecting everyone equally.  In this regard, once again, you deflect attention away from the real issue: POLICE BRUTALITY.  (I’ll spare you, in the interest of time, my opinion of the history of America trotting out individual black people that, knowingly or unknowingly, cosign its agenda of racially-motivated politics, economics, and education.)

At some point we, as a nation, have to stop deflecting.  In the same way we call on other nations to own up to their mistakes, we must also own up to our own.  There’s no shame in that.  The shame comes when we deflect attention away from issues we need to address.  It’s paramount to defending bad behavior.

Sincerely,

Devin Wilson