The scripture of various religions states that the truth will set you free. If you study or analyze the economic conditions of the African-American community in 2012, it could lead to a telling reality. Although African-Americans now spend in excess of $1 trillion annually, our communities are not economically free or sufficiently empowered. How is it that so much money flows through our communities without making a serious sustainable economic impact?
The increasing poverty among African-Americans at a time of increased buying and consumerism is a glaring social and economic contradiction. We have to do much better. This does not make any rational sense. Of course we understand that racism, injustice and bigotry are all irrational facts of life in the world in which we live. Yet, our long struggle for freedom, justice and equality reveals our historic willingness to stand up, speak out and to emphatically say no to oppression and injustice in America and throughout the world.
The truth about our collective and diverse situation deep in the belly of America is more than a matter of economic statistics or the latest U.S. Census track research. We are more than 45 million strong and have managed to build and sustain families, communities, businesses and institutions in spite of unprecedented human oppression and victimization.
We have contributed to every aspect of American culture and spiritual uplift. Yet, we are still exposed to painful tragedies such as young Trayvon Martin in Florida or senior citizen Kenneth Chamberlain in White Plains, N.Y. Our youth today are the most intelligent, gifted and talented generation that we have ever been blessed to witness. But far too many our young people are in failed school systems that contribute to the highest high school dropout rates across the nation. Inadequate education leads directly to disproportionate black incarceration.
I mention this litany of problems and challenges that beset the black community in America not to just bemoan or simply agonize about our past, present and future. I want more of us not just to be angry or upset about the state of the social and economic conditions in our communities. I am encouraging us to take more responsibility for our empowerment. This is the time for us once again to raise the issues of self-reliance, self-improvement and self-development. I refuse to be pessimistic about our future in America, in Africa and everywhere African people are moving forward to change the tide of contemporary history through building stronger participation in the global economy as producers and not just as mass consumers.
In fact, I am optimistic. Why? Over the past two years, I have witnessed a pivotal and significant change in the strategy for African-American empowerment. Most of our national civil rights organizations and professional organizations now appear to be embarking on supporting the economic development of the African-American community today without overly relying on external forces from our communities for funding or financial assistance. In the past 24 months there have been a record number of Black-owned businesses that have been established by up-and-coming young African- American entrepreneurs in nearly every region of the nation.
Another encouraging example comes from the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB), which recently sponsored a successful national conference at Howard University on the "State of Housing in Black America." It was an intergenerational conference of African-American professionals in the real estate field with students, community leaders and economic developers. Under the theme "Conquering Foreclosure Mitigation, Neighborhood Blight and Disaster Recovery, NAREB did an excellent job in not only defining the systematic problems that African-Americans face in the current housing and foreclosure crisis in the United States, but also offer realistic and practical solutions to these critical problems.
It was good to see NAREB join forces with the National Association For Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO), which represents all of our Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). For the record, many of the problems that we face, whether economic, political or social, will require solutions that are undertaken and primarily led by African-American leaders and innovators. It is long overdue for us develop our own economic development projects and programs and to extend a mentorship hand to next generation of youth leaders. Our future is in our own hands.