"To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships."– W.E.B. DuBois, American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Pan-Africanist, author and editor.
THE COST OF FINANCIAL INCLUSION
I recently re-read the book A Tree Grows in Brooklyn in which the financial poverty of the Irish working class residents was an invisible character driving the story. The lack of hard currency combined with limited opportunities to acquire it led them to measure their real wealth in other ways with the true value expressed in how the family and, by extension, the community thrived as a whole. It was a place and time in which community members knew each other’s story and valued their roots. All knew they’d have to venture further from that world in which those non-monetary capitals shaped their lives in order to attain financial opportunities and, by the end of the book, the main characters had done just that. They knew and accepted the deeper cost of financial gain.
It was very interesting to re-read this book and wonder how technology would have changed the characters’ opportunities. Prior to the now ubiquitous technology connecting the world, communities had local institutions in the form of trusted—or at least accepted—people in the community who acted as banker, enforcer or educator. However, all accepted they had to move beyond the community to expand the opportunities for the next generation. This included sending their children away for education that separated them culturally and made it difficult to return to the community, thus this part of their wealth was gone and the community suffered. The cycle became worse over the years as the institutions and mechanisms for identifying, activating and generating community-based wealth faded and eventually disappeared.
We now have the ability to rebuild opportunities in the community so that wealth is not only retained, but deepened and activated by financial, creative, cultural, historical and other capital forms that comprise the sustainable wealth picture. This, in turn, creates a language of opportunity, shared across generations. Until you have this shared language, the right questions cannot be asked and the needed answers never emerge. It is now time to return to these places, ask the questions, listen to the solutions already in play and use technology to amplify the opportunity to plant and keep wealth in the place it grows best, the community.
As an example of this local wealth creation model, Neighborhood Economics co-founder Kevin Jones has partnered with Jessica Norwood, founder of Emerge Change to develop a project focused on this idea of setting a higher bar than just financial inclusion for African American communities. Learn more at the links noted below:
RESOURCES FOR IDENTIFYING AND ACTIVATING BLACK COMMUNITY WEALTH
Impact Hub DC is a radically inclusive coworking space. We believe innovation is a community act. Here you’ll find the space, inspiration and technology to create solutions for a sustainable and more equitable world. Impact Hub DC will open a local doorway to a growing, global movement of thousands working at Impact Hubs across the world from Amsterdam to Johannesburg, Singapore to San Francisco.
Mere financial inclusion often has the connotation of fitting a square peg in a round hole. Unless the transferred tool is culturally appropriate, it doesn’t work in its new environment. Rethinking financial tools through the lens of black culture is the heart of this project. In addition to cultural diversity, our new solutions will exist as part of a wider taxonomy with the objective of being situationally diverse.
We must align programs and policies to better support the financial strength and security of families of color today, while keeping sight of the long-term benefits for all of creating a truly inclusive economy.
PROJECTS RECLAIMING MULTIPLE FORMS OF BLACK COMMUNITY WEALTH
Residents look to revive Austin's shrinking black community – CNN – Cultural Wealth
"I would like to see more promoting of African-Americans and other minorities in the technology space," Smith said. "It's always more comforting to see other people at the table."
Magic Johnson Enterprises – Urban Investments – Economic Wealth
Johnson's urban investments were formed in 2001 as the Canyon-Johnson Urban Fund, an alliance with Canyon Capital. The alliance has financed 31 real estate developments in 13 states and Washington. The first Canyon-Johnson Urban Fund struggled for two years to raise $300 million to invest in urban neighborhoods. A subsequent fund raised $600 million while the third and biggest investment fund was started in April 2008 and drew $1 billion from pension funds and other investors.
Preserve Rosewood – First African American US Housing Project, Austin Texas – Historical Wealth
We are a coalition of concerned citizens and volunteers advocating for the preservation of Rosewood Courts and to make these historic buildings in East Austin a City of Austin Historic Landmark. – Dr. Fred McGhee, PhD, Author & Educator, Austin Texas
Reappraising the Art of Norman Lewis – African American Abstract Expressionist Artist – Creative Wealth
He had to deal with being left out of exhibitions of white artists. "But he also was left out of exhibitions of black artists that I would have thought he would have been in," said Fine. "But he was too abstract. He wasn't fitting the picture that people wanted to tell about what black art was. So he got it from both sides."