by Santura Pegram
One of the most difficult things for most people to accept in any form is the truth. Although as bitterly distasteful as it usually is, truth is liberating and life-changing. Unfortunately, for change and growth to occur people must be receptive to it and willing to implement it in their daily lives.
Never has such a message been more applicable than to the lack of progressive thinking involving economic conditions facing urban and rural communities of people of color throughout the globe.
For far too long, generations of African-Americans have used the excuse of racism primarily as their lone justification for the masses of them not achieving higher levels of success. And, while it embarrassingly has been, and continues to be, a legitimate problem even in the 21st century, the fact remains racism alone is not the sole reason for holding most people of minority backgrounds back in life. Such groups of people on both sides of the equation should not continue to ignore how their own ongoing refusal to adapt to cohesive, forward-thinking is causing current and future generations great harm.
According to research, African-Americans as a group are collectively spending an eye-bulging estimated $1.3 TRILLION (with a “T”) dollars annually on everything from food/alcohol at restaurants, nightclubs and bars, clothes/shoes, automobiles, jewelry, cell phones/I-Pads/computers, haircare products and miscellaneous services like hotel/resort/spa visits or flight/travel excursions from companies which are often owned and operated by people who look nothing like them. On top of that, consider the fact that most urban and rural communities are doing worse today in many ways than they were 30-plus years ago (despite having a far greater number of black elected officials and senior executives in place who have seats at major ‘tables of discussion’), many enlightened thinkers continue to wonder when are black people going to wake up from falling asleep at the wheel of reality?
Think about it, the only tangible institutions and sectors of business black people can be considered “majority stakeholders” in today are churches, jails/prisons and cemeteries, where such entities are over-populated, especially the churches with their easy-to-manipulate people who will not think twice about giving their last dollar to a so-called “faith-based organization”(whom most have done very little or nothing impactful whatsoever for the black community). And, if not a faith-based organization, then it’s usually another sad ‘We Are The World’ quasi-humanitarian purpose, but yet those same donors are struggling with how to figure out ways to keep a roof over their head, food in their refrigerator, and cover other basic financial-related necessities from day to day, week to week.
Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu, the brilliant and noted scholar, illustrated that there are three (3) types of churches: ENTERTAINMENT, CONTAINMENT and LIBERATION. According to Dr. Kunjufu, “the entertainment church is known for singing and dancing, singing and dancing all day long throughout their services; they love to holler and shout, but they actually do very little work, if any, in the larger community outside of the church.”
The second type of church is the containment church, which are known “to open basically only on Sundays from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 pm. (and maybe for an hour or two during each week for a mid-week service) and take the millions of dollars raised collectively from each weekly service with them; at times, willing to help only a small percentage of their members. Yet, unwilling to invest anything back into their own local communities. They function, almost obliviously, to the problems of the greater community around them outside of the church and prefer to abstain far away from political, economic and/or social justice issues taking place outside of the doors or walls of their environment.”
And the third are liberation churches, which “not only have a liberation theology modeled out of Luke 4:18-19 and the 58th chapter of Isaiah, but they also attract larger numbers of men and women and whose members most often better understand, among all types of faith-based congregations, the SERIOUS need for economic empowerment.”
Keep in mind that according to researchers, black-owned companies received just 1.7% of the overall loans distributed by the U.S. Small Business Administration in 2013. (A stark difference from the 8.2% black businesses received in 2008 from SBA loan dollars). And, those statistics have not improved much since then. In knowing that, Dr. Kunjufu has proposed some very thought-provoking, although disturbing, questions in his assessment. Among them, most disturbing is his question of “WHY is the black community in its present condition with our roughly $1.3 TRILLION DOLLARS in collective economic spending potential, five million college graduates, 9,000-plus elected officials, and 85,000 churches nationwide?”
If other ethnic groups of people (who often may be unrelated) can invest together in projects and initiatives, pooling a percentage of their weekly/bi-weekly finances together to send something back to their family members in their native country on a regular basis each month, and/or use their collective resources to launch small businesses, then black people who are U.S.-born citizens should surely be doing similar acts of “pooling their resources” to start a business or invest in the stock market. * ( Read “Pooling Our Resources to Foster Black Progress: An Entrepreneurship and Impact Investing Framework” by Michael J. Isimbabi).
African-Americans cannot continue to blame the lack of togetherness, like everything else, on the “lingering effects of slavery” or other foolish cop-out excuses that hold us back. Every ethnic group of people help their own except African-Americans. Therefore, progressive-thinking faith-based congregations should be including frequent financial literacy and investment education workshops, conferences with licensed financial advisors, as well as entrepreneurial and community empowerment initiatives in their ministries if they ever expect to truly uplift generations of suffering people here in this lifetime.
Racism and classism may still be relevant obstacles today, but Starbucks Inc., Waffle House restaurants, Walt Disney World theme park, luxury clothing brands, upscale eateries, automobile brands and other establishments cannot enrich themselves while treating African-Americans less than human beings if people of color begin patronizing businesses and brands that reciprocate their financial support or opening businesses that produce the same product(s) or service(s). The future of black people depends on such concepts and churches play a critical role in our survival besides merely attempting to sell the message as being the “place to be to save our souls.”
Which leads to proposing two more closing questions: What type of church do you represent or do you attend: entertainment, containment or liberation? And, what impactful things is your church doing to make everyday conditions better for ordinary people of color outside of your church?
About the Author:
* Santura Pegram is a freelance writer and business professional. A former protégé-aide to the “Political Matriarch of the State of Florida” – M. Athalie Range – Santura often writes on topics ranging from socially relevant issues to international business to politics. He can be reached at: email@example.com