LEIMERT PARK — A call for a holiday specifically for black people — to be celebrated on the second Saturday of August each year — was issued at a Harvest Festival Day event Aug. 10.
The holiday was proposed by world-renowned author and economist Claud Anderson, who spoke by video at the Harvest Day Festival. He said the special day would promote economic empowerment for African Americans.
“Hispanics have Cinco de Mayo, the Irish have St. Patrick’s Day and the Germans have Oktoberfest,” said Anderson, president of the Harvest Institute, a nationally recognized think tank. “White Americans have the Fourth of July, Independence Day. I make a motion to adopt Harvest Festival Day. We are the only people who don’t have a special holiday — and we need to have a special holiday.”
Rosie Milligan, one of the organizers of the local event, added, “This is a celebration that will take place every second Saturday in August each year to recognize and celebrate ourselves.
“It’s time to pick the economic cotton. After 460 years of slavery, it’s time for us to come together to reap the harvest,” Milligan added.
Milligan said the Leimert Park event was one of several being held in different parts of the country that day. With the threat of growing gentrification impacting African-American neighborhoods across the nation, Milligan said it was time for African Americans to start pursuing buying rental property and real estate as a way to establish generational wealth.
“Time is of the essence and we must buy real estate as soon as possible, either individually or by partnering with others,” she urged. “It is essential for you to have great credit scores so we can make the purchases necessary to save our community.”
The daylong event featured a lineup of speakers who discussed topics ranging from economic empowerment and reparations to home ownership and generational wealth.
The speakers included Adrian Dove, chairman of CORE California and president of the Kingdom Day Parade; Wilfred Marshall, U. S. Department of Commerce Regional Director Economic Development Administration; Robert Saucedo, president of Community Build; David Horne, a member of the Reparations United Front and Crystal Mitchell, co-director of Recycling Black Dollars.
The keynote speaker was Boyce Watkins, an author, economist and political analyst.
Marshall of the U.S. Department of Commerce said that the organization is actively seeking entrepreneurs who are looking for funding.
“We have a loan program where you can decide what kind of loan you need to manage your business,” he said. “If you have a company you want to finance, we will help you with real ownership. If you can come up with a strategy to create jobs to support families, I want to talk to you.”
Watkins, who flew in from Chicago to attend the festival, was warmly greeted.
“We need to create our own jobs,” the former Syracuse professor said. “Black unemployment has existed for many years. Black people have not been trained to create our own jobs which could lead to less physical and mental stress.”
He said that black men die earlier because many toil in environments that are frequently hostile and stressful.
“When I started working in black environments, my stress level decreased,” Watkins said. “Black men are seen as a threat. They want to eliminate you.
“We are spending countless hours building the white man’s business. If you want to be a king, you have to build your own castle. No other person is going to invite you into their castle and make you a king — but you’re welcome to come into their [economic] system as long as you support the system,” added.
Watkins said it was urgent that black families teach their children early about business, the stock market and financial literacy.
“It’s the responsibility of the parents to teach the child instead of [blindly] handing our kids over to the public schools,” he said. “By the time your child is age 12, he or she should know everything about how to start his or her own business.
“Black boys are miseducated early,” Watkins added. “As a youth, I was guided into playing basketball and football like that was the only gift I could give to the world. I thought I wasn’t smart.
“Many black males are pushed into pursuing sports like football and basketball. This is happening to millions of young black boys across the country who are being miseducated early.
“They should not know more about basketball and football than how to establish their own businesses and how to accrue economic wealth. Everyone should be building an empire that will have a mass impact on their children and grandchildren,” he added.
Watkins urged families to hold weekly meetings to discuss pooling their resources to further their economic growth.
“My family members and I meet every Sunday night on Zoom to discuss how we plan to accrue economic wealth,” he said. “We pool our money and fund projects each one of us is working on. It’s about leaving a legacy for the next 100 years.
“Start with your family or a team to build an empire,” he urged. “What seeds are you going to plant to grow economic wealth for the next 100 years? Look into buying land and investing in the stock market because we need a nation of builders.”
Robert Saucedo, president of the Leimert Park-based Community Build, said that for the past 25 years, the nonprofit organization has been working locally to invest in youth, families and commercial economic development.
“Community Build provides tutoring and counseling for dozens of children and families,” he said. “We also work with Gang Reduction and Youth Development’s Safe Passage Program to provide safe passage for students attending nine local schools. Over the course of the next five years, Community Build plans to develop 10 local businesses, including a food service business.”
The organization is fighting the affordable housing crunch by building a new apartment complex at 88th Street and Vermont Avenue.
Reparations continues to be a hot topic among African Americans and Horne, a member of the Reparations United Front and professor emeritus of the Pan African Public Policy Institute at Pan African Studies at Cal State Northridge, said that reparations is a wrong that has to be identified.
“We need an apology for that great wrong and an atonement in order to move beyond that wrong,” he said. “This country does not have enough money to pay us for all the crimes they have committed against us.
Horne said that House Resolution 40, the reparations bill, would eventually be passed by Congress.
“We have to hold our elected officials accountable,” he said. “The House of Representatives and the Senate will pass it by the end of the year,” he said.
“Reparations should not only be about money and 98% of white people in this country believe that it is, and they’re wrong,” Horne added. “We took a survey and found that there is no one reparation solution that everybody agrees with yet. Some people want a 50-year commitment from the government to provide free college education for every African-American high school graduate in the country. Others want a 50-year government commitment to provide business support to every African-American entrepreneur who wants a business.”