Monday, December 29, 2008

2009: Building A New Urban Community by Akindele Akinyemi

We are approaching 2009 and we still have a lot of work to do. As urban conservatives we have a responsibility to educate to liberate our community. Some feel that this urban conservative approach will not work. How can anyone criticize a plan when they themselves do not fully understand what lies ahead?

The transformation of our urban areas are necessary to get Michigan moving again. This is why urban conservatives must begin to assist with the outreach by promoting quality education and sound economics.

Operation HOPE founder and CEO John Hope Bryant has called for a "silver rights movement" in our country. Sounds like something we should embrace as a group.

The silver rights movement in this country will be fueled by people who have one common agenda. Freedom. What type of freedom? Making capitalism and the free enterprise system work for the poor. Education is the ultimate poverty eradication tool. That individuals don't need to necessarily make more money, but rather, to make better decisions with the money they make.

Part of this eradication stage must start in K-12 education and move into both public and private universities. Instead of focusing on classrooms such as "How To Be Gay" and other classes that students are paying tuition for we should ask the question of how our public universities can be aligned to support economic development, the eradication of poverty and sustainable use of natural resources. Institutions such as Wayne State University and the University of Michigan must become critical to making poverty history and preparing countries to cope with disasters.

Urban conservatives can help with the silver rights movement by creating a strong pan-continental community of researchers to discover resourceful, timely ways to deal with poverty's many causes. This requires the development of strong research universities — institutions with a strong emphasis on graduate research, as opposed to undergraduate teaching, and where graduates are taught by lecturers who themselves are expanding the frontiers of knowledge.

At the K-12 level the neglect of advanced science, technology and innovation when building educational facilities in the urban community must be addressed. For far too long this folly has been compounded by a failure to focus knowledge creation on urban America's research needs: data about biological processes, minerals, public health, water and food.

When our public and private universities work together on research in these urban areas that they will provide relief from — rather than add to — the burden of urban America's poverty.

Urban conservatives must embrace the silver rights movement because it is a global initiative. An urban conservative platform connects our community with the rest of the world. This is why I reject Black Americans notion of victimization, anti-Americanisms and whining because I have seen worse with other people in the African Diaspora in places such as Haiti, Nigeria, Ghana and even Burkina Faso. Yet, they come to America and prosper. The formula? Education, strong family and cultural values that translates into wealth creation.

People in the inner city have to learn to think through their problems and find solutions without blaming others for anything that may go wrong. It is precisely to change the asymmetric relationship with donors that knowledge and research generated and owned by urbanites to solve urban problems must be promoted.

When I look at places like Detroit, Flint, Benton Harbor and Saginaw I see cities that is experiencing some challenges for sure, with crime, murder, failing education and other important stabilizers, or destabilizers, of a community. But I also see these same cities brimming with future potential, and significantly unleveraged assets. The Bible teaches us "where there is no vision, the people perish." Again I ask, ...this is your city, and at the end of the day, it must grow and prosper because of your vision for it.

We can grow but we cannot place our eggs in one basket politically. To think that President-elect Obama has the answers for urban policy is the same as seeking hope instead of working towards our goals. The only people that should be in the business of designing think tank and setting up urban policies is those who live within the region.

The 20th century was marked by issues related to race and the color line. Today, the 21st century is marked by issues of class and poverty.

There is no way we are going to revamp Detroit or other urban areas unless we discuss financial literacy and financial engineering to our families. Gone are the days of graduating from a high school diploma and working in the plants. We need to take a lesson from other people who immigrate to America and work hard to get ahead. Our society has become lazy and unproductive.

In a study conducted by the Jump$tart Coalition, students in all fifty states, of all races and socio-economic standards, were asked 30 multiple-choice questions on money management, savings, investment, and credit. The compiled results confirmed an average failing score of 51.9 percent. Of all students polled, only 6.7 percent achieved a "C" or higher. Based on the results of the test, it was concluded that the majority of America's young adults are not prepared to make sound financial decisions.

That is a problem.

The silver rights movement fits into the mode of an urban conservative platform because it is a movement that is based on empowering for the wealthless in America. While the silver rights movement is not restricted to just an urban conservative platform however, one must realize that in order to move urban communities forward we need to look at our priorities.

What our leadership sometimes forget in our inner cities is the fact that in order to achieve the social justice in areas such as Detroit, essentially a capitalist and consumer led country, was through ownership.

The agriculture age leads to the industrial age, which in turn leads to the technology age, and finally, the age of information, which is where urban America finds itself today. But urban America, just like during the time of the Civil War, is indeed split. Inner cities today are locked in an industrial (and in some extreme cases an agricultural) model, utilizing labor while we are always resisting our suburban counterparts in terms of economic domination.

Urban conservatism is about economic conversion not just at the family level but also at the regionalization level.

For example, Detroit Public Schools must be broken up into six separate school districts focusing on K-14 education only with both fiscal and academic responsibility. Educational options are necessary to assist with the revitalization of the community. Privatizing some city services would not hurt Detroit. In fact, it may be the ONLY way to reduce or even eliminate our deficit. And what's wrong with groups like MOSES pushing for regional mass transit? In fact, I would like to see high speed rail connecting Benton Harbor to Detroit, Muskegon to Detroit and Mackinaw City to Detroit. We have to get out of this industrial, archaic mindset if we have a fighting chance to produce an economy that works.

There is no "white" man trying to take over Detroit's water. The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department service to over 126 communities in Southeast Michigan. Some of these communities cater to BLACK, Jewish, Asian and Arab communities. I support any regionalization of water services.

The question that urban conservatives should be asking is how do we convert people in our community from being check-cashing customers into banking customers? How do we convert renters into homeowners? How do we help convert small business dreamers into small business owners. How about converting the economically uneducated to the economically literate, and empowered.

This should be the quest of urban conservatives in 2009. We are done engaging in debates over what this political party has done and what that political party has done. We already know that there are faults on both sides. What is hardly ever discussed is the need for financial engineering in our community. Financial engineering is the grease on the gears of economic conversion in the urban community. We must be in the business of converting minimum wage workers into living wage workers with new job skills. Period.

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said at the 2001 White House Conference on the New Economy, “there is only one irreversible asset in the 21st century; education and access, or information and access. Once you have these things, no one can take them away from you!”

This is true. This is what the silver rights movement is all about. That is what REAL urban conservatism is all about. Movement and motion. Let's ring in 2009 with a vision, a purpose and a plan to execute.

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