Building Black Communities

In most major cities there are areas that are exclusively inhabited by groups of people who share the same ethnicity, race, or religious beliefs. Both New York City and Los Angeles have famous Chinatown areas where a collective of people of Chinese descent successfully live, work, and support one another. Rarely are the sections considered segregated but by definition that is exactly what they are. Segregation is a concept that is often viewed as distasteful though much of the nation is technically segregated despite policies that on paper only attempt to say that it no longer exists. In reality, traditional American laws were not meant to include us. According to Rebecca Sibilia, founder of the non-profit EdBuild, predominately all-white school districts receive $23 billion more in funding than non-white districts. School funding disparities are an example of why brown and black children have a disadvantage in comparison to their white counterparts. The numbers do not necessarily dictate that success is not possible just much harder to obtain depending on your zip code.

Hayti, Durham, North Carolina - Wikipedia
Hayti, Durham, NC circa 1940. Credit to Durham County Library.

This is why the idea of creating spaces comprised of black people by black people where our spending power is recycled back into our own communities is steadily growing traction. Areas that were inhabited by majority black people are not a new phenomena in the United States. Black Wall Street in Tulsa Oklahoma, Rosewood in Florida, Hayti in Durham, North Carolina and 125th in Harlem, New York (this is not an all-inclusive list) were all Meccas of black progress and livelihoods that held vast cultural significance and economic prowess. Due to outright hate, rapid gentrification and other harmful policies most of these places have long but disappeared. Is rebuilding similar communities to rival those of the past a viable option today?

Imagine how great it could possibly be if African Americans collectively pooled our resources to build communities that rivaled those of our ancestors. They accomplished great success despite having much less in terms of education and resources than we have today. The power of the black dollar has become a mainstream topic within the last year despite many activists shouting from the mountaintops for decades about the importance of being conscious of where and how we spend our money. The University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business estimates in their latest Multicultural Economy Report in 2018 that African Americans have a buying power of $1.3 trillion compared to $961 million in 2010. Buying black is a concept that is either highly celebrated or shunned but many major companies are going out of their way to pander superficial support for black causes so they will not lose out on the black dollar. Creating and recycling those dollars back into our communities could impact education funding, support minority-owned businesses, and help put in place civil servants that mirror those who they serve.

This is not to say that people of other races and ethnicities would not be welcomed. It is basically the theory of focusing on doing for ourselves instead of expecting others to see how valuable we truly are to a nation where our lives are severely undervalued. There are those that share the same skin that immediately flee to more affluent areas once a certain income level is achieved. While the reasoning for this is completely understandable, investing in our home places is paramount to growth and success for future generations. This does not always have to be financially, but could include other means such as volunteering for clean up or tutoring and mentoring disadvantaged youth. As long as effort is put forth to ensure a helping hand up and not out, the source of the assistance does not truly matter. Believing that we are worthy of investing in ourselves is the crux of this dilemma.

Do you think that supporting and building strong, safe black communities is paramount to our future progress?

Leave a Reply