There is a great deal of concern regarding wealth, or the lack of it, in the Black community. To their credit, several individuals are organizing around restoring “Black Wall Street.” Black Wall Street is a reference to a calamity that occurred during the early part of the last century in Tulsa Oklahoma wherein the U.S. government destroyed a prosperous Black community, the Greenwood District. The excuse for the attacks, including bombings, was an alleged assault of a white female elevator operator by a Black male shoe shiner. The debacle was called a “race riot,” but was actually a white on Black massacre. The Greenwood community had many prosperous Black-owned businesses which were decimated by the attacks, and the only thing of substance left regarding it are the stories of old-timers who remember it, or are related to those who do.
Within 5 years of the destruction, survivors started to rebuild the community. As it turned out, desegregation helped stifle these attempts. The community had thrived because segregation forced residents to support each other, and desegregation resulted in Blacks starting to focus their economic power elsewhere. This is an example of why some people say that the Black community was better off with segregation. In actuality, desegregation was not the culprit, the inability of Black people to continue to support each other was the culprit. This was (is) a spiritual problem.
Fast forward to 2016 – many communities of color are impoverished, and though not attacked by governmental bombs, are suffering from the havoc created by economic bombs. Food deserts, substandard housing, blight, the lack of viable businesses, crime, and much more plague many of these communities. This is one of the reasons why Greenwood is looked upon with such nostalgia. But today there are people who are trying to revive the spirit of prosperity that the community once knew. However, it will be imperative that the spiritual vacuum be addressed if they are to succeed. The truth of the matter, when viewed from an overall perspective, is that the Black community is not poor! The issue is really connected with the priorities identified by those who spend money AND who they choose to spend it with. The Black community is generating over a TRILLION dollars at this time, but apparently, very little of it circulates back into the home. The consequent poverty, therefore, is connected with BEHAVIOR! We have Black millionaires; we have Black people in positions of power all over the United States and abroad; we have high school students in “inner city” schools wearing extremely expensive jackets and gym shoes and who have been known to camp out in long lines waiting for stores to open so that they could purchase them. We see women spending upwards of $300 for hair weaves that have to be replaced periodically. We have Black people who purchase luxury automobiles and who don’t even own their own homes.
We all know that there are dominant forces in the United States and elsewhere that strive to keep people of color, and specifically Black people, in the economic doldrums. The previously cited Black Wall Street debacle lends testimony to this notion. But it’s also true that cooperative economics, Ujamaa, would go a long way in helping to eradicate the negative economic circumstances disproportionately faced by Black people.
When considering the foregoing, it might be concluded that the major hurdle that the Black community must overcome is the lack of self-respect and a resulting lack of economic and spiritual support! There is enough money in the community, if strategically spent, to correct many of the ills that plague it. There are a lot of African Americans who are doing quite well financially. The question is how are they doing spiritually? This is the problem – it is spiritual poverty, and not just an economic one that thwarts community viability. We must realize that we can’t do it alone; that we need each other. Economic development without a spiritual development will not equal success. We need both in order to survive and thrive. A luta continua.