Friday, January 02, 2009

Bridging The Gap Between Wealth and Education by Akindele Akinyemi

I would like to begin this article by wishing everyone who may be reading this a Happy New Year. While 2008 was a year to remember there are good things in store for 2009.

This is a year where urban conservatives must begin to push for Silver Rights in communities that are less fortunate. The poor in our community must become fully educated in order to connect to the global market. However, I am one that do not continue to give a man fish. I am one that will teach you how to fish and then you can provide for your family on your own.

It is our duty to tackle poverty-stricken mentalites in our cities. We can no longer ignore this.

I strongly believe that one of the reason why poverty exists because of the weak educational system. Therefore, for this reading, there are two cities we can make an example of how silver rights can transform these urban depressed communities.

(1) Muskegon Heights, Michigan. The population here is 11, 644 (according to the U.S. Census report). The racial demographics are 77.8% Black, 16.4% White and 3.5% Hispanic. While 68% have a high school diploma from a K-12 institution only 5% have a bachelors degree. A mere 1% have a graduate degree.

The entire Muskegon Heights School District did not make the federal AYP. Muskegon Heights High School students are being totally disserviced. Only 34% of them passed the reading portion on their state exams and 4% of their math exams. I am using the high school because these students are closer to entering the real world than K-8 students.

(2) Benton Harbor, Michigan. The population here is 10, 746. 92% of the city is Black, 5% of the city is White and 2% is Hispanic. 60% of the population have a high school diploma but only 4% have a bachelors degree. Only 2% has a graduate degree.

According to the Michigan Department of Education Benton Harbor Area Schools passed the AYP. But the Benton Harbor High School did not pass AYP. In fact, only 40% passed the reading portion on their state exams and 5% passed the math portion.

Both cities are considered Cool Cities, an initiative under Gov. Jennifer Granholm to keep young people within these urban areas to help repopulate it with "hot" jobs with trendy shops and neighborhoods. This is a concept that came from Dr. Richard Florida, who is the author of the Rise of the Creative Class.

However, there is nothing cool about these cities because education is not at the forefront of building self-sustaining jobs and initiatives that will help produce legacies.

A urban conservative approach to fixing the chaotic issues in both Muskegon Heights and Benton Harbor is to initiate a silver rights approach to the problems facing both cities. The major problem is not addressing the mental approach to eradicating poverty. What I mean by this is so many of our people still wait for the crumbs to fall from the table instead of getting up and baking the pie themselves. We still rely on the federal government to help people of color instead of understanding all politics are local. And we already know what party is running the show locally in both Muskegon Heights and Benton Harbor.

According to the Michigan DLEG, The State of Michigan currently has a 9.6% unemployment rate. However, in Berrien County (where Benton Harbor is located) the unemployment rate is 9% and in Muskegon County the unemployment rate is 10%. How do we transform urban communities into goldmines? Take a look at our past history.

There have been examples throughout time of how silver rights have been utilized in our community. For example, in 1921 we had Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Right here in Detroit, Michigan we had Paradise Valley and further north we had Idlewild. There was a time when we kept our dollars in our community and the money turned over 10-15 times. Allow me to remind you that at this time we did not have affirmative action, Jim Crow was in full effect, and while welfare existed there was very little talk about being on the system because of a strong family and educational structure.

Even when Blacks began to cross over to vote for the Democratic Party there was still a sense of pride and economic gain within our community. It's only when President Lyndon B. Johnson initiated his Great Society programs where we lost our communities. I am not giving Republicans a free pass on neglecting our communities either because the GOP has not physically reached out to our community. If we are serious about transformation we are going to need people who are willing and able to work together. AIDS does not discriminate which party you are in nor does failing education or a bullet.

While I did not vote or support him at all I respect in-coming President-elect Barack Obama and if I am foolish enough to root for his failure, then I am also rooting for my own -- for we are one country, with one President. When Obama steps out of line I am urging my urban conservative brethren to STEP their game up (not just the social issues) and point out the better solutions for OUR community. Whether he will do better as President is not my concern. My concern is how do we bring silver rights to the local communities such as Muskegon Heights and Benton Harbor? I am a Republican who happens to be Black and I understand that the GOP was founded originally as a party of freedom. Well, it's time to pick up the pieces of freedom again. Educational and economic freedom. That's all I am concerned with this time.

Both cities need both an educational and economic movement that will transform these communities into international cities. Blacks were able to overcome these challenges through major movements guided by faithful, competent and unrelenting leaders. The 21st Century is no different; it too brings with it full of challenges. But the challenge today is not Civil Rights. That battle was won, finally, in the 20th Century. The new issue is Silver Rights (Wealth Acquisition) and, as Blacks did in the last two centuries, we must meet the dominant challenge of this century head-on with an Educational/Economic Movement that will connect us with the rest of the world.

Urban conservatives have been called on to become the new leaders of this generation to take on their historic responsibility and charge them with the task of launching this 21st century movement for Silver Rights. At the center of this new leadership are members of the emerging urban business class, primarily those high-level managers whose business knowledge and expertise gained in corporate America give them the best chance for entrepreneurial success, and economic success for us all, in this Silver Rights Movement.

This movement and initiative encourages us to applaud and respect the efforts and contributions of current members of the Congressional Black Caucus and countless other local and state leaders born out of the Civil Rights struggle. But the challenge those engaged in Silver Rights issues to help them understand that their historical status as effective leaders of the Civil Rights era does not necessarily qualify them for 21st Century leadership. This is different and education must be brought forwards as a means to fuel economic development in these urban cities.

Therefore, these leaders are simply not prepared to deal with this new economic challenge. They, for the most part, represent 20th Century ideals and have not recognized that the struggle of the 21st Century is that of building wealth. Simply put, they have not demonstrated that they have the vision, insight, or capability to develop the wealth acquisition strategies necessary for those in the urban community to overcome the challenges we will face in the 21st century.

Urban conservatives must be able to stresses the important of creating a strong black business class, because a viable black business class is the engine for community reinvestment and ultimately, centers of wealth. It is the principle component for establishing and retaining capital within a community.

The reason why Benton Harbor and Muskegon Heights has failed time and time again because the leadership belongs to the old Civil Rights Movement. Historically, the Civil Rights movement was never meant to create wealth. While the Civil Rights movement has ended, but the need for civil rights organizations has not. The character of civil rights organizations, as a result, must change. We have made profound advances since Brown vs. Board of Education more than fifty years ago. But our urban communities in Michigan are falling through the cracks academically. Also, through the last half century Blacks have not accumulated wealth at the same rate as other Americans. Therefore, the leadership in these cities must shift their attention to the principal challenge they face – the acquisition and management of wealth.

I believe the most dominant issue facing the urban community in the 21st Century is that of educational and wealth acquisition, and therefore for the next several months I will be leading an effort to help cities such as Benton Harbor and Muskegon Heights to meet the demands of this 21st century challenge. In this day and age we have more Black elected officials, professionals, and college graduates as well. The foundation for wealth-creation therefore has been established. The Civil Rights Movement created economic opportunities, and now the Silver Rights Movement must create the vehicle for seizing them. This is why urban centers, such as Benton Harbor and Muskegon Heights, can no longer be ignored and neglected.

1 comment:

Digital Publius said...


I appreciate your efforts and applaud your dedication, but I humbly submit to you that the top priority should be spiritual. In many of our churches today there is more emphasis placed on the financial well being of the flock, and the need for education and empowerment, than on the cross of Christ. It rings hollow and has no effect because without renewing of the mind through Christ, their can be no urban renewell, financial or otherwise.

The issue is more churches preaching the whole word of God, Less preaching your financial breakthrough is just around the corner, and more preaching Godliness with contentment is great gain.

During the times of financial responsibility that you harken back to in your article, we used to have faith that God was the source of our prosperity and we depended on each other to help in times of need. We as a community saw to it that charity was provided for and rendered. Now the emphasis is on what you can gain from God, and not being a servant.

Education is important, and some will hear, but without the clear spreading of the Gospel of Christ, it will be more of the same. We need missionaries, not mentors.