WHILE CORPORATIONS ARE BAILED OUT, BLACK BUSINESSES ARE STUCK AT THE BOTTOM:
WE MUST ADVANCE COMMUNUITY DEVELOPMENT THROUGH COMMUNITY OWNERSHIP
UJAMAA (Cooperative Economics) - To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together. –Dr. Maulana Karenga
The current state of unemployment in California is 12.5%, the highest percentage in modern times. According to the National Urban League CEO Marc Morial, “Unemployment among African Americans is 15.8% and 42% for African American teens.” Many economic academicians and researchers suggest that unemployment and underemployment for African Americans is approaching 30%, as many people have given up and do not even apply for unemployment insurance. Mr. Morial goes on to say, the recently passed $38- billion jobs bill falls “woefully short of what is needed to put substantial numbers of Americans back to work.”
If we trace Black economic development back to 1865, when following the Holocaust of African Enslavement, the United States Congress along with the Freedmen’s Bureau created the Freedmen’s Savings and Trust Company to aid Black people in their transition from slavery to freedom, up to 2010, it can be safe to say that the capitalistic system is not working for our people. It can also be argued African Americans are “not working” the capitalistic system, and through decades of negative and erroneous programming, we have become the “consummate consumer class”. There are many indicators which point to the loss of an entrepreneurial spirit among Black people, which we at UAAMAC feels that we must regain if we are to effectively deal with the economic problems that currently confront us as a people.
Consider these devastating facts:
- Black contractors receive less than 1% of contracting opportunities from the City of San Diego;
- Whites Contractors receive 98% of contracting opportunities from the City of San Diego;
- 70% of employment opportunities are denied to the formerly incarcerated, many of whom are African American;
- Of the 170 Black-owned businesses listed on the San Diego BLAACK Pages, 6% are barber or beauty salons, 6% are eating establishments; 12% are related to fashion or interior design, and 4% are daycare providers;
- Nationally less than 50% of Black people own the homes they occupy;
- San Diego has the second lowest lending rate to African Americans in the nation;
- Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBE) Consultants received only 7.9%
- of contracts awards related to Propositions S and N (San Diego Community College Construction Projects); and
- DBE firms received 8% construction contracts related to Proposition S and N
It should be noted that the definition of a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise is a “firm that is at least 51% owned by one or more socially and economically disadvantaged persons”. Those disadvantaged persons are members of the following groups: Black American, Hispanic American, Native American, Asian-Pacific American, Subcontinent Asian American or women. Additionally, a person can be found to be “socially and/or economically disadvantaged on a case-by-case basis by a certifying agency”.
In short, these broad guidelines could conceivably include in and everybody, which again leaves our people out of the economic benefits associated with government contracting opportunities.
What is to be done? First and foremost we must not succumb to the magnitude of the problem for despite the complexities, the solutions lie within us. Next, we must change our minds and thusly economic practices that are injurious to our financial health. We must understand the new watch word for economic development is “equity” as opposed to the traditional concept of “equality”. We must develop cooperative projects and programs in which our people are encouraged to invest in financially. We must remember that where there are great risks there are also great rewards.
In 2006, an Initial Public Offering (IPO) was initiated by the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation (JCNI), in which 418 community residents and stakeholders invested $500,000 in the community shopping center named Market Creek Plaza which is located near the corner of Market Street and Euclid Avenue. Those investors now own 20% of the membership interest in the $23 million commercial development and they are receiving a 10% return on their respective investments that ranged from $200 to $10,000.
At a shareholders meeting, this author presented the idea to the investors that they should pool their dividend checks to create a larger amount of money to be used at their discretion for future investments. The response to the idea was overwhelming in that 138 persons (of the 418) took advantage of that opportunity and in a relatively short period of time have amassed more than $60,000. This group called the Community Investors Fund (CIF) now has at its discretion money to invest in economic development projects and has set an immediate goal of $100,000.
As it relates to community development through community ownership, imagine 200 residents in each of the 23 neighborhoods that comprise the Fourth Council District investing $200 per person in the CIF. That is $920,000! That would enable us to now begin to seriously consider “building our own stores, shops and other businesses”.
This is real possibility, but we must act now for ourselves and the future.