By Charlene Muhammad & Barrington Salmon | FinalCall.com
Harsh realities await Blacks in 2018, and to overcome hurdles they must unite, better educate themselves and their children, and pool their resources, said activists, educators, and legal analysts.
Black awareness on the basic principles of economics and more involvement are key to a better year and future in economics, according to TeQuila Shabazz, founder and chief strategist of the BRIJ Embassy, which promotes business and economics and is located in Chicago.
It is a collective of over 5,000 members and supporters from all walks of Black life that work to build economic stability within Black America.
“Most of us are simply reacting to the environment without any true understanding of how to move beyond the world created for us. The majority of us are looped into a pattern of group think, stuck as consumers, not owners or creators,” stated Ms. Shabazz.
Black buying power is predicted to top $1.5 trillion by 2021, according to African-American Women: Our Science, Her Magic, a Nielsen report released in September. Ms. Shabazz suggested Blacks get back to the basic understanding of economics and expand the conversation beyond traditional financial literacy and consumerism, and take inventory of their time, money and resources for maximum benefit of their dollars.
Start first with self, then family, next local community, and then the community at-large, she explained. It’s the way at BRIJ, which promotes the Build Black movement through the Neo-Green Book, a guide to Black business and services, and accountability of individual and collective economic practices, according to Ms. Shabazz.
“Are we learning a new skill, like farming, that can help with both individual and collective independence, or are we binge watching our favorite show on Netflix? Are we making excuses of why we can’t support Black businesses, or are we planning ahead to make sure that we can? You have to be honest about who you are and your contribution to the problem or solution,” Ms. Shabazz said.
In criminal justice reform, Blacks must continue the dialogue around ending money bail and jail expansion, said Nana Gyamfi, a Los Angeles-based human rights attorney.
In addition to the 1.6 million people incarcerated in federal and state prisons, there are 646,000 people locked up in more than 3,000 local jails throughout the U.S., according to Prison Policy Initiative. Seventy percent of those in local jails are being held pretrial—meaning they have not yet been convicted of a crime and are legally presumed innocent.
“There’s a real push to reform the bail system, and I think that that push is getting a lot of traction, and that we may find in 2018 that in some places, bail is no longer an issue, unless we’re dealing with super serious cases and that we have less people that are spending months and years of their lives in jail, innocent until proven guilty, just because they can’t afford bail,” said Atty. Gyamfi.
She said Blacks must also continue to push back against jail expansion, and the investment of hundreds of millions of dollars into incarceration and policing.
In addition, connect the dots between immigration and detention centers and mass incarceration, she said.
The new year demands Black college students focus on acquiring the knowledge necessary to build a nation and a better future for their people, said Salih Muhammad, chairman of the Afrikan Black Coalition, which works to unify Black students across California and resolve issues concerning academic retention, academic policy, campus climate, matriculation, and political education.
According to a recent study (“The Asset Value of Whiteness: Understanding the Racial Wealth Gap,”) published by DEMOS, the median White adult who attended college has 7.2 times more wealth than the median Black adult who attended college and 3.9 times more wealth than the median Latino adult who attended college.
“Strategically, we must find innovative ways to best organize the resources we do have toward meaningful freedom-based objectives. Toward this goal, our biggest issue continues to be the lack of knowledge of self, which produces a downward spiral of productivity. The lack of self-knowledge robs our people the benefit of ‘education,’ ” he said.
Parents, guardians, and mentors should consider guiding young, Black people toward making a future for themselves, he argued. College access isn’t necessarily the pathway to freedom, personally or collectively.
Learning trades certainly helps, according to Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence of Detroit, Mich., who sponsored the “Putting Black America to Work: the New Skilled Trade Workforce” panel at the 47th annual Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Conference in September in Washington, D.C.
The United States is importing foreign welders for jobs that pay from $30-50 an hour, observed Gregory Clay in the AFRO.
According to Rep. Lawrence, the average age of skilled trade workers is 53, and the trades are one industry that needs an infusion of youth, especially from the Black community, wrote Mr. Clay.
Rep. Lawrence sponsored the panel to determine why young Blacks are seemingly shying away from the trades, such as welding, plumbing, construction, electricity, heating and air conditioning, post office positions, railway occupations, etc.
Salih Muhammad, a young leader and Nation of Islam student minister, cautioned against steering Black students into the social sciences and liberal arts without thought to what their educational outcome should be.
Others advocate self-education as a supplement to formal education to ensure Black students land on the right side of the economic track.