Business Lead Story West Edition

National leaders form Black Wealth 2020 movement

WASHINGTON — Black Wealth 2020, a new movement aiming to change the course of black wealth in America, is gaining swift support from national advocates of economic justice.

“The struggle for black wealth is a legendary struggle. And so whether we’re talking about what we have attempted to do in the past or what we should be doing now, the fact of the matter is that African-Americans have not really realized their potential in this country,” said U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, the ranking member on the House Financial Services Committee in a recent interview about the necessity of Black Wealth 2020.

“If black people are to have a future and to move forward, we’ve got to not only build wealth by home ownership, where we can build up our equity and have money to turn around and invest in business opportunities, but we must also learn more about and be aggressive in going after franchises and getting involved with investment opportunities — all of that is extremely important. And now is a very crucial time in the history of black people.”

Two years ago, Waters was among the first to interact with the then fledgling group, founded by Michael Grant, president of the National Bankers Association; Jim Winston, president of the National Association of Black-owned Broadcasters; and Ron Busby, president/CEO of the U.S. Black Chambers Inc.

At that time, the groups worked with Waters in an attempt to assure black economic participation in a merger between NBC Universal and Comcast.

They were successful. The merger failed. But, the groups continued to meet and has since grown to about 10 heads of organizations with economic justice as core values. They convene monthly to strategize on ways to significantly strengthen black homeownership, black businesses and black banks by 2020 and beyond.

In addition to Waters, their goals have attracted growing attention — and respect — from other major national leaders.

“What they are talking about is aligned directly with the work that we do on the ground,” said National Urban League President/CEO Marc Morial, who, manages one of the nation’s largest homeowner counseling services. The National Urban League also has about a dozen small business entrepreneurship centers “where we’re providing coaching and counseling classes to approximately 10-12,000 small businesses,” Morial said.

Morial said he has discussed the goals of Black Wealth 2020 with the organization’s leaders and they are in sync with the goals of the National Urban League.

“I’ve met with them and I’m aligned with them,” he said. “We invited Michael to come to our conference. I mean, my philosophy is I believe in being supportive of everyone because we’re all aligned. We’re not competing with each other. … What they are doing in their thrust is very welcome because for a long time the Urban League has been sort of holding up the economic empowerment banner in the civil rights community.”

Morial agreed the work of economic justice is crucial, but he also concedes it is daunting.

“It’s a very tall order because we lost so much black wealth in a 10-year-period,” he said. “In the period since the recession, we’ve lost almost 10 percent of our homeownership and it’s difficult to rebuild it and renew it because black people are also — like many Americans — suffering from income inequality, earnings suppression and wage stagnation,” Morial said.