Sunday, September 30, 2007

Utilizing Better Education Can Prevent A Shutdown by Akindele Akinyemi


The State Budget crisis here in Michigan is catastrophic. Unless a deal is made soon we will witness the old Soviet Union all over again right in our own backyard.
For those of us who live in urban communities across Michigan this is a wake up call. Our state government is holding people hostage.
The mark of the twentieth century, was racism. The mark of this century will be poverty. The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, and it’s harder to be middle class. You look at any place in this world where there’s anarchy – and what you have there is a country divided between the very rich and the very poor. You have a country where there’s no way for the very poor to become very rich, so they take it. Any society is at its greatest risk from those individuals who have no stake in it.
The goal for every urban community in Michigan is to have people move from the working class, through the stakeholder class, to the middle class. However, our path is not really about making more money, but making better decisions with the money they make. If both urban conservatives and liberals would follow through on a modern urban agenda we would the potential to be the best urban agenda in thirty years. We need to understand that the war on poverty failed. The proof of that is the gated community.
Today, we are moving from race-based and place-based discrimination to class-based discrimination -- discrimination based on education and access and information. This is the danger.
In urban Michigan, the poverty eradication tool will be education. Wealth will be decided by your access to information and education. If you have a more educated populace, they make better decisions. I am beginning to question our leadership in Lansing in terms of dealing with the State Budget. After 8 months and still no results are they really educated? All I am seeing is finger pointing.
Urban communities need to embrace free market economics as a means of rebuilding communities in Michigan. The days of relying heavily on government is over.
If those living in the urban community are making better decisions, they’re going to make more conservative decisions. By its very nature, a liberal decision is an emotional decision.
As an educator it is my divine duty to educate our families in our communities. I made it a passion and focused it on changing the world through One Network. One Network is not male or female, Republican or Democrat. It is both. It is a conservative and holistic approach to eradicating poverty and solving the problems we face.
We are at a point where people are receiving a maximum level of pain in their personal lives, and they’re going to start making choices. Shut down the State Government here in Michigan and see what happens. What I’m telling you is exactly what I tell people in Highland Park; it’s what I tell people in Benton Harbor; it’s what I tell every ethnic group that comes to hear me: It’s about a hand up and not a handout.
It's strange that our elected officials are in Lansing, trying to raise taxes instead of coming up with a concrete plan to not only increase wealth in our communities but end poverty and moving individuals up the economic ladder in life are not political issues. Anyone who genuinely wants to contribute to and has something meaningful to offer should be welcomed to the process, to the big tent of hope.
In my book, if you are a Democrat then we should be in the process of working on promoting an agenda of responsibility, self-help, true empowerment and a hand up, in our under-served communities. If you are a Republican and have some decent ideas about bootstrapping individuals into real progress in Urban Michigan, I say great, that’s beautiful too. Show up sometime, in Detroit and Highland Park where I work, and “walk as the people walk.” Live as the people in these communities live. It is empathy and dignity these people want and need, not sympathy, handouts and finger pointing. To leaders of both state parties here in Michigan I say, let’s work to truly help and empower people. Do this, and they will reward you with a lifetime of loyalty, and their votes. A hungry stomach does not ask about your political affiliation. It asks, do you care about me? Will you work with me?
If you are a black or brown community activist, or better still, a transparent conduit for God in the faith business, there is a genuine, unique opportunity to seed hope and grow a new crop of stakeholders in our blighted inner-cities and under-served communities. There is a genuine opportunity to eradicate poverty, but it will be “hands up” based, and not “hands out” based.
If we began to work responsibly with and in our community, you can do good there. If you are a white capitalist in the private sector please realize that there are genuine new market opportunities and untapped profit centers in places that people, and the media in general, have told you are slums, barrios and wastelands in urban Michigan. You can do well there. I am telling both community leaders and capitalists alike, you can indeed “do well by doing good” in our urban, inner city and under-served communities.
If you are a leader in government, whether on the local, regional or federal level, I say, help those who are trying to create new low to moderate-income homeowners and small business owners. Help those in the community to train entrepreneurs and march them into our economy. Help those who are training individuals in new economy job skills. Doing this will benefit the community, benefit the private sector, benefit real people in real places, and will also benefit government. Think about it. In Detroit, Pontiac, Highland Park or Benton Harbor when you create a homeowner, you create a new taxpayer. When you create a new small business owner, you create a new taxpayer. When you create a new economy worker, you create more tax revenue for government and more productivity for Michigan too.
But you cannot tax people out of business or their homes because you have not looked at an alternative.
In urban Michigan, when you create a new generation of stakeholders you also begin the invaluable process of seeding hope in a new generation of leaders. Based on what I have witnessed personally, the leaders in waiting are there, ready to be called to the cause of public service.
I say to seasoned and new leaders alike, we need both of you to truly empower and uplift under-served urban areas in Michigan. As columnist Clarence Page said, “When principled leaders fail to rise, no one should be surprised that imperfect leaders fill that gap. Most successful blacks are too busy doing the things that brought them success to play the blame game. They aren’t singing about overcoming; they’re just overcoming. They should be the example for others, including people of other races, to follow.”
I believe that we stand on the threshold of great change in Michigan. People do not care whether you are white, black, red, brown or yellow, so long as you can produce some green. They don’t care whether you’re a Latino leader, they don’t care that you’re a Black leader, or a White leader. I definitely do not care. Race or racism does not matter to me. My concern is will you help me eradicate poverty through education in our community?
Otherwise, we will STILL be relying on state government to take care of us and you can clearly see, with this budget crisis, relying on our state government is a waste of time.

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