Sunday, January 06, 2008

New Year Resolution: Urban Michigan Must Come Alive Through Genesis by Akindele Akinyemi

Three visions of Urban Michigan are currently competing to define its agenda, image and presence in the international community. I did not just say the immediate community. I said the international community. The first, an urgent humanitarian aid version at the core of which is the view that a portion of that $800 billion that we produce as consumers annually in this country is urgently needed to save inner city residents from specific diseases, self-inflicted violence, dictators and poverty. Two diseases that have captured the interest of the urban community the last decade are HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis B. Of course all urban communities must stop the flow of Black Genocide in the womb of the mother if we want to continue life on Earth.

A second vision is the bottom-up version from community-based citizenship groups calling for statewide priorities for poverty reduction through a focus on grass root governance.

The third and most current vision calls for the positioning of Urban Michigan as an economic force in the 21 century, and calls for strategies to promote the business and economic vibrancy in the inner cities of Michigan. For proponents of this vision, aid and charity has failed and Urban Michigan's quest for economic sustainability can only be realized through direct investments and export opportunities. Part of this is realizing that economics, not politics, must come first to change the conditions in the community.

Perhaps we can take a page from our African counterparts in Africa.

While conceding that HIV/AIDS is a huge assault in a minority of African countries the picture is not unremittingly grim. Moreover, many of the alarming numbers (statistics) are worst-case projections, rather than detailed snapshots of what has already come to pass. The alarmist projection of doom and disaster on Africa by fund-raisers have the effect of making Africa out to be a basket-case yet again, in need of foreign charity to survive.

Like many other optimists about Africa’s future, base their arguments on detailed and strong evidence of social, economic and political growth in the continent. Nigeria’s military regime, for example, was finally stopped … and a democratic regime opened the books to let the people monitor the uses to which oil riches were put. … Uganda’s government achieved better economic growth and income-sharing than Asian countries.

The Ghana Stock Exchange regularly tops the list of the world's highest-performing stock markets. Botswana, with its A+ credit rating, boasts one of the highest per capita government savings rates in the world, topped only by Singapore and a handful of other fiscally prudent nations. Cell phones are making phenomenal profits on the continent. Brand-name companies like Coca-Cola, GM, Caterpillar and Citibank have invested in Africa for years and are quite bullish on the future. Unless investors see the Africa that's worthy of investment, they won't put their money into it. And that lack of investment translates into job stagnation, continued poverty and limited access to education and health care.

The crisis for Urban Michigan today is that the wave of optimism that has been sweeping across the state has failed to capture attention. It is becoming common knowledge in Urban Michigan that the inner cities is falsely and exclusively represented in the media and institutions as an area of devastation; disease, violence, corruption and poverty, and inhabited by peoples totally incapable of addressing these challenges. While these factors exist in each inner city in Michigan I look at revitalizing the economy in urban areas from a different light.

We have to begin looking at urban Michigan as economic engines. As urban sprawl takes root we need to often remind ourselves how present day policies have not worked. Families should be in the business of teaching financial literacy to their children and extended family members. Financial literacy is the grease on the gears of economic conversion.

80% of the U.S. economy is consumer driven, 80% of the government receipts for the State of Michigan, are generated from income and sales tax, and yet no one is teaching our children Life 101 skills — the basics of a checking account, a savings account, and the importance of credit and investment, insurance, and the history of banking and financial services in this country.

Middle class 30 years ago was one parent working, while one parent stayed home as a domestic engineer. Today middle-class is two parent’s working, the television and popular culture is raising your child, and you aren’t making any more money.

Capitalism has been used as a tool against black America in America’s storied past of the 20th century, but that doesn’t mean we cannot learn to make capitalism and free enterprise work for us in the 21st century. It will take capitalism,not socialism, to generate wealth building in our families here in urban Michigan.

Blacks were denied a quality education in the 20th century, but that does not mean we should not pursue, nor not actively encourage our children to pursue (with a vigor akin to eating three meals a day), a quality education in the 21st century; for education is the ultimate poverty eradication tool. When you know better, you tend to do better.

We should be in the business of converting check cashing customers into banking customers.
Converting renters into homeowners. Converting small business dreamers into small business owners and entrepreneurs. Converting minimum wage workers into living wage workers.
Converting those on the poverty rolls to those on the payrolls. Moving people up and out of poverty.

The Genesis Project is that poverty eradication ministry that is geared towards family values through education to generate wealth creation. Making capitalism and the free enterprise system work for the poor. That is what this is all about. Eradicating poverty through quality education. We have to focus on spiritual wealth, emotional wealth, economic wealth, and especially educational wealth. I was at the Reedemed Church (this is a Nigerian Church) this morning and the first thing this young Nigerian girl said was her education means the world to her. It has been a long time since I heard that from a young adult. When I tell people I am preparing to work on a doctorate there is no excitement from our brothers and sisters in the community. I tell other races and they are not only excited but will support me the whole way.

Urban Michigan should be in the business of connecting internationally with others on the planet that are working towards the same goals and ambitions.

John Hope Bryant of Operation HOPE said this below:

"When you have a homeowner, you have a taxpayer. I do not care about tax policy unless I have a job. I do not care about a bond issue for infrastructure repairs unless I own a home or a business. It is not a miracle; it is common sense. It is enlightened self-interest.

When you have a homeowner, you have a potential venture capitalist. Why? Because when you have a home, you build equity. If you want to start a business, and the bank turns you down, you approve yourself and get a home equity loan, and invest in your own business. You become your own scholarship and send your own child to whatever four-year college you want. You have options in your life, and you take those options because you have empowered yourself with the pride and substance of ownership. When you have a homeowner, you have a stakeholder."

That is extremely important to know because often times the ability to turn our community around is what we are sleeping in every single night. A house.

We have a state representative race coming up in Michigan. If you are a leader in government, whether on the local, regional or federal level, I say, help me create new low to moderate-income homeowners and small business owners. Help me to train educators and march them into our economy. Help me to train individuals in new economy job skills. If we began to do this Doing it will benefit the community, benefit the private sector, benefit real people in real places, and will also benefit government. 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 America too. You also create an individual who is too busy too hate. Too filled with hope to be filled with self-doubt and self-pity. Too on fire with the possibility of progress, to be occupied with protest.

This is how I feel. People are blowing my phone up with ideas, opportunities and even ministering to my mission.

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.

We need leadership to truly empower and uplift under-served urban 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.”

Where there is no vision, the people perish. People always say I am crazy. Well, they are probably right. To accomplish anything, you have to be crazy. If not, fear will tie you down, fear will debilitate you and paralyze you. But with God by your side, anything is possible. No one knew that I have been doing what I have been doing for 20 years this year. Sometimes I get loud while MOST of the time it has been quiet.

I believe that we stand on the threshold of great change in this state. People don’t care whether you’re 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 really do not care. As long as you’re willing to join GENESIS in our efforts to end poverty and thread the needle of hope. We are about connecting with the global world not just living in a box.

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