We Need Real Economic Development for the African Community!

Wide Economic Disparities

  • In 2003, the recorded national unemployment rate for Africans in the US is 11.8%, as compared with 5.5% for whites.
  • The median income for black families is only 60% of that for white families.
  • Black families with children are more than three times as likely as white families to live below the government poverty level.
  • In 2001, Africans made up 13% of the US population but owned 3% of the assets.
  • From 1995 to 2001, the net worth of typical families of color fell 7% while white families' net worth rose 37%.
  • The typical white family has more than six times as much wealth as the typical black family ($120,900 for whites compared to $19,000 for blacks.)
  • Typical African families have debt of 30% of their assets, while the debt of typical white families was 11% of their assets.

The African People's Education & Defense Fund (APEDF) calls for true economic development for the African community. Every community has the reasonable expectation of success for their people and a future for their children. This vision requires a total transformation of the current economic relations, and a very different program than the traditional responses by city governments and local financial interests whose approach has resulted in economic development at the expense of the black community.

Economic development has not happened by luring corporations and jobs to the African community. While it is true that every community needs employment, jobs alone will not solve the serious problems. And while the corporations provide services that other communities take for granted, placing a needed supermarket in the Black community is not economic development. If it's not owned by the community that it's located in, it represents an extraction of resources, taking out, not bringing in resources. It is comparable to a company owning a gold mine in South Africa that would "hire" Africans to mine the gold, but neither the mine nor the company provide for the development of the community. The company gets richer and richer while the community is drained of resources.

Gentrification Is Not Progress!

The housing boom -- the hottest economic growth category from 2000-05 is based on land speculation, which is profiting off the African community. In the absence of real economic development, the impoverished African community is denied the resources to maintain and upgrade our own homes. This leaves the community vulnerable to individual and corporate speculators who utilize city code enforcement fines and unaffordable rising taxes to push us out! In Philadelphia, in one month alone, over 1100 houses were sold in a Sheriff Sale. These were fully paid for houses in majority African and Puerto Rican communities. People lost their homes due to inability to pay their mortgages.

The historically Black south side community of St. Petersburg, Florida, has been impacted by a frenzy of Condo development, speculation and gentrification over the past four years that has pushed out African families from homes they have shared for three and four generations. This is a community where 71% live on or below the poverty level. In one instance, in the Ingleside community, over 20 proper-ties were bought up by two individuals who are "rehabilitating" them for resale. The corner park where elderly men once could be seen sitting under trees watching their grandchildren play is now fenced off, artificially landscaped and empty.

In the predominantly African areas of East and West Oakland, California an estimated 35% of residents lived at or below the poverty line in 2000. This is compared to 9.4% countywide. It is not uncommon for African families to spend up to 75% of their income on rent.

Trail of Broken Promises

We see our local tax money and the federal tax money -- given to city governments for the purpose of eliminating poverty and "blight" -- being used for projects that benefit developers and corporations from outside the commu-nity. Throughout the country, HUD grants designated for solving problems of poverty get used for every-thing but. This includes the expansion of wealthy universities. The history of the displacement and destruction of African communities and businesses in the name of economic development is a trail of broken promises and hopes. It has been documented in detail how these projects have not brought benefits to the community. One recent example is the use of Community Development Block Grant funds for the destruction of the Gas Plant and Laurel Park communities in St. Petersburg, Florida to build a baseball dome parking lot. Years later we see the same old story: no decent jobs created, no light industry, no African businesses enriched, no African contractors benefiting from the construction, or parking contracts.

Instead of looking for creative solutions that will uplift the community as a whole we see city officials making "done deals" by awarding millions to a few individual Black people in their favor, with no consultation of the affected community. At a minimum, any develop-ment must be at least 51% owned by the African community and jobs and contracts must be given to African contractors, businesses and residents.

Labor of African People Built the Economy of this Whole Country

A 2006 exhibit at the New York Historical Society stated that for two centuries New York City was the capital of Chattel Slavery. In the urban landscape African people enslaved did virtually all the work. These early craftsmen and manufacturers did most of the heavy labor of building New York's infrastructure. Africans built the roads, the docks, and most of the important buildings. The system of Chattel Slavery was no milder in the North than in the Deep South. African labor created economic benefit for everyone except the African community. This combined with the fact that slavery also resulted in separating Afri-can people from the wealth of the natural resources of Africa, set in motion a level of poverty that has devastated generations. APEDF has real proposals to solve the problems that have been going on for hundreds of years -- genuine economic development.

What Genuine Economic Development Really Looks Like

Economic development means ownership and control of the economy, property, profits, and development. A real commitment to fixing our cities requires a com-prehensive approach that includes a massive infusion of capital for a total transformation of African communities. There are many possibilities that would grow an economic capacity from within the African community; that would create African-owned businesses as opposed to importing corporations. We need to grow the entire economy, increase business and job opportunities for everyone, raise the pay scale for all workers by making black labor more competitive.

The APEDF in St. Petersburg, Florida, with no city money and few resources, created more African businesses in 9 months with the African Festival Market than the city did with millions of dollars over several years. APEDF also has several institutions run by and for the community, serving needs of our community and empowering us in health, education, and economic development. The All People's TyRon Lewis Community Gym, Wellness Center, Uhuru Furniture & Collectibles stores, Uhuru Youth Basketball teams, and Uhuru House community centers are just a few of these programs.

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