For a group that’s supposed to be so poor, African-Americans generate a surprising amount of wealth.
The problem is that it’s going into the wrong pockets. At the National Urban League’s State of Black America town hall meeting Thursday afternoon, syndicated radio host Warren Ballentine said that last year alone, residents of two of Chicago’s most impoverished neighborhoods collectively spent an eye-popping $52 million on lottery tickets.
“A dream without a plan is nothing more than a wish, and that’s what African-Americans are living on now,” he said.
The reality, Ballentine said, is that African-American communities need to begin thinking more like entrepreneurs. If they pool their money together, they can create employment and educational opportunities for their communities instead of hoping that big corporations or the government will save them. He cited as an example a project in which he worked with listeners in each city his program is broadcast in to incorporate and pool their funds to take advantage of franchise opportunities, which has created jobs in their communities.
“We have to invest in us,” Ballentine said.
Erica Williams, deputy director and co-founder of Progress 2050, a project at the Center for American Progress that is working to develop a progressive policy agenda that reflects the nation’s diversity, said that younger generations of African-Americans need to build a movement that will support their ideas for creating the opportunities that will enable them to achieve the American Dream.
“Our generation has been sold a bill of goods,” she said about young adults have been told they could achieve by simply graduating from college, which at minimum meant a good job and a house. “The challenge for our generation is to build a movement. We have to figure out how all of us are going to come together with our empty wallets, our degrees that while absolutely valuable are not getting us the jobs they should be getting us,” she said. “What are we going to do? Where’s the next generation of leadership?”
Williams added that it is critical that young adults participate in the political process and work together to create their own civic engagement activities and organizations and build businesses.
“It’s a clear challenge for us economically, but it’s also a tremendous opportunity for us to grow and create,” Williams said.
Click here to view a webcast of the town hall meeting.
(Photo: National Urban League)