5 Threats to The Black Man In America Part 5: Politics

The Declaration of Independence was unanimously signed by the Second Continental Congress on July 4th, 1776.

On July 5th, 1776, you, Black Man in America, were still a slave.

On June 21st, 1788, New Hampshire became the 9th (and deciding) state to ratify the Constitution of the United States of America.

On June 22nd, 1788, you, Black Man in America, were still a slave.

The 13th Amendment to the US Constitution, ratified in 1865 following the Civil War, outlawed slavery for all people EXCEPT convicted felons.  Three years later, the 14th Amendment guaranteed citizenship to all people born or naturalized in the United States.  The 15th Amendment ratified in 1870 grants voting rights to all people without respect to race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

Of these three amendments, the 13th is the most important in terms of how America uses its laws to continue our oppression in other forms.  “Black Code” laws and variations of those laws legally upheld segregation and unequal treatment of Black people for decades.  It allowed for harsher prosecution of Black criminals, leading to disproportionately high conviction and incarceration rates, and providing over a century of data to support the “fact” that Blacks deserve the treatment they receive from law enforcement.

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, EXCEPT AS A PUNISHMENT FOR CRIME WHEREOF THE PARTY SHALL HAVE BEEN DULY CONVICTED, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction…”

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(Picture source: http://solitarywatch.com/2011/07/28/gods-own-warden-inside-angola-prison/)

Keep in mind, from a federal standpoint, women still didn’t have the right to vote.  That didn’t come until the 19th Amendment, ratified in 1920.  So only our men could vote.

Long story short: The cost of your freedom was NEARLY ALL OF YOUR FREEDOM.

The Constitution is the “supreme law of the land,” and no piece of legislation is allowed to stand in opposition to it.  All the legislations, statues, and lesser documents, including the ones that restricted our freedoms, were in agreement with this constitution. America’s history has shown, unequivocally that THESE LAWS ONLY CHANGE WHEN WHITE AMERICA FEELS THREATENED ECONOMICALLY.

Had Black people not rebelled through violence and escape from plantations, causing untold millions of dollars in damages to property (including themselves, because they were considered property), we’d probably still be slaves today.  Had Black people not been so economically prosperous during the latter half of the Jim Crow Era, to the point of organizing and sustaining targeted economic actions against legalized segregation, we’d still be drinking out of “Colored Only” water fountains and giving up front seats on public buses.

The reason American politics is a threat to the Black Man in America is because we, as a group, believe that it will cure our economic woes.  “Voting for the right politician will help us get out of our rut.”  “The next election is the most important election.”  And on the day after Election Day, we’re thrown on the backburner, left to wonder in amazement at how we got nothing out of the deal.

Wash.  Rinse.  Dry.  Fold.  Store.  Use.  Repeat.

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A big deal was made within the Black community about voting during 2016 election cycle.  Two candidates, Democrat Hillary Clinton, and Republican Donald Trump, fought for the presidency soon to be vacated by Barack Obama.  Neither of the two candidates were good choices for Black people.

Donald Trump…well, we know his history.  He touted it as a source of pride throughout the election with impunity.  Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, was considered by many to be the more palatable choice.  As First Lady to former president Bill Clinton, she supported his 1994 Crime Bill, which drove already high rates of incarcerated Black people into the outer reaches of space.  She was also seen on video referring to gang members (read: Black people) as “superpredators” who needed to be brought to heel.

No remorse for her support of that crime bill or her own statements was shown until she needed our vote.  And Black folks FLOCKED to her as though she could do no wrong, the same we were fooled into thinking Bill Clinton was our first “black president” because he played the saxophone on “The Arsenio Show.”

“You have to vote!  Our ancestors died for your right to vote!”

You know what my ancestors DIDN’T DIE FOR?  Me to settle for mediocre and to just hope that someone will “be nice to us.”  Or to settle for “the lesser of two evils.”  I didn’t vote in this election for those reasons.

It’s one of the most important decisions I’ve ever made in my life.

Surely, progress has been made in the fight for social justice. The 1964 Civil Rights Act was the last major piece of federal legislation to make us, in theory, equal to the rest of America. In practice, however, America continues to do what it’s always done: find ways to skirt its own laws to keep the upper hand in its relationship with its Black citizens.

We have to stop looking to politics as our way up and out.  Given the history of how this country has treated us LEGALLY, I see no hope in relying SOLELY upon our vote.  In a nation where capital fuels politics, a broke person with the power to vote can only elect an official who’ll continue listening to the person with the money.

I love you.  #BlessedBeTheGrind

 

5 Threats to The Black Man In America Part 4: Wealth & Ownership

Dr. Claud Anderson, in his book, PowerNomics: The National Plan to Empower Black America, defines “wealth” in an exceptionally accurate manner.  He defines it as, “…the net value of a person, group, or community less their liabilities of debt at a given point in time.  It is stored value.”  This net value can express itself in many ways, such as cash reserves, natural resources, or businesses owned.  He goes on to define “income” as, “…the flow of dollars over a period of time.”  These definitions are critical when discussing the wealth and ownership in Black America.

His overall assessment of Black wealth in America: WE OWN ALMOST NOTHING.

Taking a tour of the community in my own Black community of Fort Wayne, Indiana makes this assertion glaringly obvious.  Hair and beauty supply stores owned by Whites and Asians.  Gas stations/“convenience” shops and Chicago-style fry joints owned by people of Middle Eastern descent.  Drug stores chain stores and low-cost chain stores owned by Whites.  Banks owned by Whites.  In a neighborhood where Black people are the majority, we own very few essential businesses.

We’re constantly relying on other people to run businesses and provide services to us when we should be providing them ourselves.  And because we don’t own those businesses, we have no say in who gets hired.  We’re at the mercy of anyone merciful enough to set up shop in our part of town.  And we have to damn near beg for those business owners to hire us.

Cut the BS and call it what it is: ECONOMIC ENSLAVEMENT.

Economic enslavement doesn’t depend on your income.  You can be the richest man on the face of the earth, but it means nothing if your source of that income is dependent upon someone else paying you to operate their business.  I should make one thing clear: I find nothing wrong with working for someone else.  Some of us are happy with just punching the clock and doing whatever task is asked of them, without the added pressure of keeping an entire enterprise afloat.  But don’t get it twisted for a MOMENT.  You are always at the mercy of someone else, and the thought of that should make you at least a little bit uncomfortable.

 



 

Take a minute to study this graph, created by the Pew Research Center, highlighting income disparity between races:

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In 2014, the average income for a Black household of three hovered around $43,300.  Hispanics averaged around the same.  I grossed $43,472 that year, so I was right in the middle of that range.  After factoring in Federal, State, and Local taxes, 401(k) payments, and insurance, I was left with around $500 a week.  Accounting for rent, utilities, food, phone, and gas to get to and from work took me down to $170 a week.

And these are all considered necessities.  I just HAD to have that flippin’ iPhone, smh…

Then came my debt obligations.  My student loans ran me $60 every week, and my credit card debt for 2 cards totaled $30 a week.

Grand total spending cash for the week: $80.  Once again, that number may be higher or lower for you, depending on your own financial obligations.

My next question to you, Black Man in America, is this: What are we doing with the money we have left?

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One of the lasting effects of our physical and economic enslavement is, in my opinion, our reliance upon material things to flaunt our status.  It isn’t just the people flashing stacks of cash, driving fancy cars with rims taller than toddlers, or buying every pair of Jordan shoes that hit the market.  This cuts across age, sex, religion, and any other means of categorizing Black people.  We take our income and wealth and spend it, not only on things that depreciate (lose value) over time, but with people and business having little vested interest in our community.

In short, we buy things that lose value, from people who don’t value us enough to spend their earnings in our community, all just to show each other that we’re valuable.

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The most impactful thing we can do with our money is keep it in our communities as long as possible to bring the kind of economic change we need.  That means shopping local and “buying Black” wherever and whenever possible.  And if you can’t get it local, get online and seek out someone who has it.  The goal is to grow business for people who have a mutual interest in seeing our communities thrive.

Some people will accuse you of being racist, saying that you’re excluding other races of people from participating in our economic resurgence.  That is as far from the truth as our sun is from the edge of the universe…plus a foot.  Don’t fall for that BS argument.

Anyone who offers up that defense of the way things are is no friend to you. That person does not care about your economic well-being. It’s that simple.

We live in a capitalist society.  In order to thrive in that society, you have to play the game.  The hallmark of capitalism is competition, and letting the “free market” decide what’s fair.  You can shop wherever you want.  For the most part, one can control how you spend your dollar.  And anyone that wants your dollar better offer a product or service worth purchasing.

You can buy and own a pair of shoes.  Pool your money, and you can buy and own a shoe store, and generate wealth selling shoes to everyone.  You’ll always depend on customers for income, but you’ll see a greater reward from your hard work, because it’s yours.

When you own something, you become invested in its future success.

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It’s very rare that someone invests in something hoping that it’ll fail.  When you’re invested in the success of something, you’ll do whatever it takes to make that success possible.  When you begin to own and control the economics in your own neighborhood, you can create the jobs needed to generate more business for yourself and others, and put more people on the path to financial freedom.  It’s a beautiful thing.

And, most importantly, it stops gentrification.  Don’t get me started on that shit, B.

So, start a business. Invest in the stock market. Find ways to make your money work for you and Black America. If we don’t, we’ll continue to be where we’ll always be: Dead last and begging for a pass.

I’ll leave you with Malcolm X’s explanation of economic Black Nationalism.  I love you…

#BlessedBeTheGrind

“So the economic philosophy of black nationalism means in every church, in every civic organization, in every fraternal order, it’s time now for our people to become conscious of the importance of controlling the economy of our community. If we own the stores, if we operate the businesses, if we try and establish some industry in our own community, then we’re developing to the position where we are creating employment for our own kind. Once you gain control of the economy of your own community, then you don’t have to picket and boycott and beg some cracker downtown for a job in his business.”                 – Malcolm X, “The Ballot Or The Bullet”

5 Threats to The Black Man In America Part 3: Education

5 Threats to The Black Man In America Part 3: Education

Mental genocide.

This is what the educational system is to Black people in America.

In his book, Countering the Conspiracy to Destroy Black Boys, author Jawanza Kunjufu opens the first chapter by defining the word, “genocide.”  It’s imperative that we look at the education of our youth in those terms.

Our children are dying before they ever pull a trigger, push a drug into their veins, or travel down the road of sexual promiscuity.  Our history is given to us in a few shattered pieces, with no thought given to whether they even fit together.  Many of us know little, if anything, about ourselves and our contributions to the world prior to our kidnapping and enslavement.  Our history is whitewashed in both fact (i.e., the study of Egyptian history separate from the rest of African history) and fiction (i.e., cinematic depictions of ancient Egyptian historical figures).

This ain’t education.  #IssaIndoctrination.

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We are indoctrinated to believe that our contributions to history only began after we were given freedom from slavery.  Our culture prior to European “intervention” is considered backward and counter-productive.  Our pre-Christian and pre-Islamic spirituality is derided as demonic and unrefined.  Many of our advances in medicine and in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) were stolen, copied, and mishandled, and the original innovators were thrown away and buried.

We’re told in history that the Greeks were, for all intents and purposes, the original philosophical thinkers.  What we’re NOT TOLD is that many of the most well-known philosophers studied in Africa.

Archimedes, widely regarded as the “father” of western mathematics, studied in Egypt.  Hippocrates, the world-renowned “father” of modern medicine, was highly influenced by the teachings of Imhotep.  Untold thousands of Greek and other European scholars either traveled to or were influenced by teachings based on ancient Egyptian knowledge.

Just so we’re clear: Egypt is NORTHEAST AFRICA.  NORTH AFRICA.  AFRICA.

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I’m a firm believer in the idea that all knowledge is for everyone in the world.  I’m just as firm in the belief that credit should be given where credit is due.  Don’t allow anyone to pass the BS line of “color doesn’t matter.”  If color didn’t matter, why was there such an attempt to white wash our history?  Why IS there an ongoing effort to continue colonizing free information?

Black people, we do a disservice to our children when we don’t teach them about who they really are, where they come from, and what came from them.  If anyone should be indoctrinating our children, it should be US.

This goes way deeper than simply telling them what they need to know.

Teach them why they need to know.  Anyone who’s been around a toddler more than five minutes knows how inquisitive they can be.  Use that to your (and their) advantage.  A parent is the best history teacher a child will ever have.

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We’re also taught to mistrust one another.  The divisions of this mistrust are many.  It includes, among other things, skin tone (“light” vs. “dark”), age, sex, and intelligence.  Commonly known as “Willie Lynch Syndrome,” this tactic has been used to our disadvantage for centuries to keep us divided from each other and conquered, unable to progress without the intervention and guidance of White people.  It has expanded to keep pace with the growing autonomy of Black people in America.

(Take a moment to read the letter allegedly written Willie Lynch.  I believe Willie Lynch didn’t exist in history, however I DO BELIEVE the letter to be an accurate psychological representation of what has happened to Black people in America, how it happened, why it happened, and how to reverse it.  Dr. Kwabena F. Ashanti may be the letter’s actual author.)

As long as we’re mistrusting and fighting ourselves, we’re manageable.  How does one standardize that manageability?

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It’s given freely to you by what they DON’T teach you.  You weren’t told about your history because to do so would jeopardize your physical and mental enslavement.  That’s one reason why reading was forbidden among slaves. Learning is rebellion.  It’s the most dangerous form of rebellion.  You can kill a million people, but you can’t kill an idea.  History has shown us that time and again.

I will always encourage you to learn more.  Don’t take what I blog here as gospel.  These are my beliefs based on what I’ve learned.  It does neither one of us any good if you don’t research for yourself, challenge your core beliefs, and act upon new knowledge and understanding.  Our continued existence depends on what we know and how we grow.  I love you.

#BlessedBeTheGrind

5 Threats to The Black Man In America Part 1: Diet

5 Threats to The Black Man In America Part 2: Religion

5 Threats to The Black Man In America Part 2: Religion

I’ve been a member of a certain church on the Southside of Fort Wayne literally my entire life.  I was baptized into the faith as an infant, and raised in it.  I attended Christian schools from Kindergarten until I graduated from Concordia Lutheran High School in 2003.

Christian churches have been staples in Black communities all across America since the days of chattel slavery.  The church has been one of the few places where Black people could come and express all the emotions conjured up by the harsh, unforgiving, racist world, and receive a message of hope.  The Nation of Islam, The Hebrew Israelite faith, and many other faith groups have also come into play the past decades.

During the era of legalized segregation, the church played a vital in the lives of the community.  They were more than simply houses of worship.  They provided food and shelter for hungry and homeless souls, funded schools to educate children, and backed the Black business owners that helped create legendary Black Wall Streets in towns all over the country.  The churches cared for the communities they served. And it showed.

But the direction changed after the Civil Rights Movement.

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Somewhere along the road, the church has lost the spirit to help the Black community.  I believe the church, specifically the Christian church, is hiding behind its religion to shield itself from its economic obligation to its community.

There was a homeless man who came to the church every week asking for money.  The usher who passed out the Divine Service agenda would always offer him canned goods in lieu of money.  One Sunday I finally asked him why we didn’t give him any cash.  His response was that if you give them cash once, they’ll keep coming back.  What bothered me most was that it was ASSUMED that this guy was not going to be a good steward of any money given to him.

I was blind to the fact that the church wasn’t any better of a steward.

With as much money as Black people tithe on any given Sunday, I believe that the Black church is OBLIGATED to put that money to good use in the community.  And I ain’t talking about the “building fund,” either.

The money we tithe every Sunday is being put to use AGAINST US.  Our churches take that money and deposit it into banks.  I’ll make a conservative guess that 99% of all our money is being held in banks that Black people don’t own, in banks where it’s tougher for us to get a business loan, personal loan, or any other type of financial help than for a White person.

That money is being used to give loans to people, businesses, and government agencies that engage in, among other things, the gentrification of Black neighborhoods.

In essence, we’re helping to fund our own demise.

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You don’t have to love money in order to use it.  Understanding that you’ll need a lot of it to effect meaningful change in the community doesn’t necessarily make you greedy or sinful.  Our relationship with money must change, because as long as it doesn’t, Black people will suffer.  We should provide for our people by any means necessary, and that includes money, wealth, and ownership.  There’s nothing wrong with using our money for a cause that secures the safety and health of the people.

In the Bible, the love of money is considered to be the root of all evil.  It also tells us that we should be content with just food and clothing.  Both of those ideals can be found in the book of 1 Timothy, the 6th chapter And, if you ask me, it’s no coincidence that servants are also exhorted to obey their masters in the same chapter.

In my mind, it conflicts with the idea of helping others in need.

“But Jesus walked into the temple and drove out all the people who bought and sold inside of it. It’s right there in the Bible…”

Yeah, it’s in there.  But that doesn’t stop you from conducting business in another building.

So why is it such an anathema for us to talk about what Black churches do with our money?  Why is the talk of economic empowerment so vehemently hushed up?  I have a million reasons as to why that is, but not one of them justifies our willingness to allow things to continue on this present course…a course of continual enslavement.

We see pastors everywhere urging their congregations to organize for social and political matters.  We see them march, rally, and protest all types of injustices.  But we rarely see or hear our pastors preach economic empowerment.  There’s so much talk of our people being in poverty, unemployed, uneducated, and under deadly scrutiny of law enforcement, while ALMOST NOTHING is being said to address it other than to pray for better days.

We’re always pushed to seek justice and equality through social means.  The problem is that we’ve achieved as much social equality as is humanly possible in this still-racist society, and we’re STILL in our own hell on earth.

Our parents and grandparents fought for social justice.  Now it’s our turn to fight for economic justice.

Our churches need to get their eyes on the ball.

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Those of us who are Christian need to start asking questions of our church leaders.  You don’t have to make a grand stand and rival your preacher’s sermon.  It may very well be the case that the economic role of the church was honestly never brought up in your congregation.  You could be the catalyst.

Even Jesus was one man.

Economic empowerment can come in many forms.  It can come through scholarships, home ownership programs, job fairs, or building and/or restoration projects of houses and other structures.  Starting a church garden or buying a farm and producing your own crops to feed your congregations and others in the surrounding area is a possibility.  Whatever choice is made is better than no choice at all.

It’s time the church use its God-given abilities to produce God-fearing results.

You don’t have to have all the answers up front.  I know I certainly don’t.  But it’s a conversation that we need to engage in, and I believe it’s the Christian thing to do.  When it’s all said and done, it’s about helping people to be better than they were yesterday.  Doing that helps EVERYONE in our community.

Everyone wins when we take a more holistic, unified approach to our prosperity.  Religion and economics can be separate and equal at the same time.  One can certainly help the other.  We just need to make the connection happen…

#BlessedBeTheGrind

I encourage you to check out Part I of this series if you haven’t yet done so…

5 Threats to The Black Man In America Part 1: Diet

The Black Man in America is under assault.

From the moment we were dragged from those floating wooden caskets onto the shores of the New World, we’ve been under assault.  Our men have been beaten and emasculated.  Our women have been raped and abused.  Our children have been rendered orphans in their own homes.

Psychological.  Physical.  Spiritual.  Intellectual.  Nutritional.  Economic.  ASSAULT.

Any person with an objective eye could spend hours listing examples of how this unyielding assault on our whole personage has been so successful for so long.  I only intend to list what are, in my humbly emboldened opinion, the FIVE BIGGEST THREATS to the Black Man in America.  I intend to address these threats individually in a 5-Blog series over the next five weeks.  In no specific order, they are:

• Diet
• Religion
• Education
• Wealth & Ownership, and
• Politics

I’m not here to debate which of these is more important than the other; my goal is to show you WHY they are all important.  How you arrange, add, or subtract from this list is up to you.  What matters is that we begin to look at and implement ways to improve our lot in America, and in the world.

And for y’all out there petty enough to try it…

The term “Black Man” in the title doesn’t suggest that I’m not only speaking on Black males.  This includes women and children.  EVERYONE.

Now that the streetlights are on, it’s time to GO IN

THREAT #1: DIET

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I’ll take a chance here and say that you’ve heard of the phrase, “you are what you eat.”  It’s a phrase that rings true of all people.  The food you put in your mouth gets broken down, and whatever nutrients that food yields get distributed throughout your body.  Generally speaking:

If your food is healthy, you will be healthy, and…

If your food is unhealthy, you will be unhealthy.

What we eat determines everything about us on a cellular level.  Humans are natural, organic people.  Our food shouldn’t be any different.  We’ve spent centuries eating others’ leftovers and calling it “soul food.”  I like dressing, fried chicken, candied yams, and collard greens as much as the next Black person.  But I’ve come to understand that these foods are killing us with much more consistency than ANY form of external physical aggression.

And we’re addicted to it.

All the refined salts and sugars, animals and animal fats, and excessive cooking of our foods render our bodies nearly useless to do the things it needs to do to keep us healthy.  You’d be hard-pressed to find a Black person who DOESN’T know of a close family member (or maybe YOU are that family member) who suffers from hypertension, diabetes, obesity, or any other of a host of medical issues that are preventable.

One more time for the people in the back: IT’S PREVENTABLE!!!

Take a hard look at what you eat and be honest with yourself.  Is it good?  It probably is, and that’s why it’s sitting on your plate.  But is it good FOR you?  If that answer is “no,” then you need to take steps to remove it from your diet.

We have to regain control of what we eat.  This is the beginning of taking control of ourselves, our families, our neighborhoods, and our future.  If we can control what we eat, we can control what we are.  We need no further proof that our foods are killing us than to look at our own people.

We’ve got mothers, sisters, aunts, grandmothers, and friends who can take the worst part of a pig and make it edible, but they’re barely into their 60s, and are one bowl of “chitlins” away from losing a foot.

We have fathers, brothers, uncles, grandfathers, and a host of other men who were as strong as ever back in their 20s and 30s, but are now in their 40s and 50s suffering from hypertension and prostate cancer rates higher than almost any other group of people ON EARTH.

It has to stop.  And we have to be the ones to stop it.  No one else will to stop it for us.

An unhealthy diet is a threat to anyone who engages in it.  It’s a threat to one’s family, neighborhood, and to the very survival of one’s race of people.  If we are truly serious about the empowerment and progression of Black people in America, and worldwide, we can’t overlook our diets.  No army trains for war by willingly sabotaging the well-being of its soldiers or their families.  We have to have the same mindset.

We’re at war for our very survival.

We are being assaulted from the outside AND the inside.  The best way to combat this all-out “nutricide” is to control our food supply.  We must grow our own food.  There are people all over who are starting and maintaining gardens in their backyards, or planting single seeds in windowsills.  I know two brothers here in Fort Wayne who STARTED FARMS for the sole purpose of providing healthy food options to an area of town known as a “food desert,” a highly populated, lower-income area where healthy options are extremely limited.

If you can’t get it local, MAKE IT LOCAL.  A closed mouth won’t get fed.

With all the information of the world at our fingertips, we can find ways to make this work.  We can find helpful tips on how to home garden.  And for those of us with the proverbial “black thumb” for gardening, we can look up what foods are healthy to eat and where to purchase them.  If you know of a Black person in your area engaging in urban agriculture, find out how to donate or invest in their work.  If you have time, volunteer.

We all can’t do EVERYTHING to help alleviate our plight, but can all do SOMETHING.  That’s where we have to start.  It’ll definitely involve spending extra money; after all, we live in a capitalist society, so nothing comes free, and unfortunately that includes the right to fresh, healthy food.

I’ve found brothers like Dr. Sebi and Dr. Llaila Afrika to be extremely helpful in my quest to eat and live a healthier lifestyle.  Ya know, those “crazy,” “dashiki-in-the-hood wearin’,” “angry Black man on the elevator” type of people you’re always told not to listen to because they don’t know what they’re talking about?

Yeah, those guys.

Two years ago, I tipped the scales at around 320 pounds with no intention of getting smaller or healthier.  Now, I’m nearly 50 pounds lighter, and after taking some time to rest on my laurels, I’m ready and more prepared than ever to lose even more!

But it’s more than just numbers here.  It’s a plan, a means to an end.  This isn’t just for me.  It’s for my family.  It’s for you.  I love you.

#BlessedBeTheGrind

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