To address the U.S. racial wealth divide, many organizations are taking a localized approach to building Black wealth. See what solutions and models are working in the field as we explore how three organizations are working to address the structural barriers preventing Black wealth creation in their cities and regions.

In this webinar, Community Science’s Mike Shields has a conversation with the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia, the Boston Ujima Project, and the Atlanta Wealth Building Initiative as we discuss their localized approaches to addressing the racial wealth divide and their work to create Black wealth.

Webinar Resources

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So today’s takeaways. What I’m hoping you walk away with today, one is just a basic understanding of place-based collective black wealth creation models and their importance.

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The barriers that these models face and and how we’re trying to address or solve that. To learn from our experts today on how they’re working to build Black Wealth in their respective communities with their programming and initiatives.

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And using an evaluation lens, I’m hoping we learned some lessons today about the effectiveness of these models.

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That is what’s working, what might not be working, how can we improve, how can we think about incorporating other sort of some of these strategies or models in other places so that we can kind of build this work out more.

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The webinar today was organized by community science and our emphasis for this webinar today is learning and evaluation.

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So community science is a research and evaluation organization that recognizes in order to be good researchers, good evaluators and good community members, we need to constantly be open to active learning from expert sources.

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So not only learning from extra sources but also kind of applying our evaluation lens so that you know what we learn we can build and expand upon.

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Bringing out the successes, talking about the barriers and impediments so that we can kind of amplify this good work.

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That’s in line with our equity centered mission.

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So let’s dive right in. So what do we mean when we’re talking about rac explicit strategies to economic development and in particular those working to build black wealth or sort of black explicit strategies.

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And we’re talking about strategies, initiatives, policies, or programs that center equity to address the needs or disparities faced by a specific race or ethnic group.

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That’s not to say that they are race exclusive in their approach, right? We’re not trying to do this only for the benefit of one particular group and not care about anything else.

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Rather the understanding is that the current economic system has both disproportionate access and impact for certain groups.

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So the disproportionate access and access and impact for something like education, that people kind of access education in this country very differently across racial and ethic groups for a variety of reasons.

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And, and a legacy of past and present laws, policies, practices, and biases are informing how our present day resources are valued and distributed.

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So these race explicit or race informed strategies. Abandon sort of the color blind assumption of equal access across all groups and and really looks at a way of building tailored or nuanced approaches that work to combat the exact inequalities or barriers.

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Preventing certain racial or ethnic groups from freely accessing resources or assets. So the mindset is if you fix it for this one group or you tailor your approach to get better housing access for this indigenous population that I’m working with, you’re fixing it for later groups and other groups that are also experiencing that disparity or that sort of limited access in a different way.

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You’re helping, you’re fixing it for all groups by focusing and tailoring your strategy towards one.

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So then the question really becomes you know, why Blackwell? Why have the black explicit in your strategies or programming?

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And the answer is unfortunately simple. No other racial group in this country has consistently faced more barriers to collective well-creation than black individuals.

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And I think that’s evident in this timeline of this country’s treatment of black individuals. Since, you know, the first enslaved Africans landed here in 1619 were brought here in 1619.

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We’re talking about 250 years of slavery. Almost 90 years of segregation following that and we’re currently in a system that continues to devalue and extract upon black livelihoods and assets right now in this era of structural racism.

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But we consistently, the economic system consistently asked and expects black individuals to make the same amount of progress as white populations have in this country.

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You know, even though they’ve been extracted. Even though basically make the same progress that white populations have in the same, you know, in the short time period and all, by the way, during that time period when white populations were extracting and benefiting from your forced labor.

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So it’s basically like asking a group of we’re gonna run a relay release but you can’t start until 300 years after I did and make sure that you have caught up to me at this point basically.

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That’s the analogy here. So that’s sort of the emphasis on on building black well building collective black well.

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So when we talk about this, we’re talking about confronting the structural determinants or barriers purposely or implicitly in place that prevent collective wealth creation among black individuals.

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So we’re talking structural determinants. What are those factors that influence these social and economic outcomes that influence how we value assets and resources for different groups.

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So when we think about drivers of wealth creation, we think about these sort of boxes of income, whether that’s through, you know, gaining your income through employment or through owning or operating a business.

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Through housing, through health. You know, to be healthy is to be wealthy as the saying goes and and assets.

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So what have you saved or invested in as well as anything that can be passed on to the next generation.

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And if we look at what are those structural determinants that that kind of in inhibit creation of collective black wealth.

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We’re talking about what are those factors that are in place that make it harder to gain. Sustainable family waging employment or to build your own business and we’re talking about a consistently defunded public education system.

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We’re talking about the high cost of secondary education. And professional credentialing. We’re talking about the the emphasis on minimum wage versus a living wage.

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We’re talking about racial biases and in hiring practices and wage negotiations. The cost of home ownership.

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And one thing I want to emphasize in these is like 2 often we talk about the structural determinants.

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Oh, it’s the past that’s influencing how we act now. And yes, that is true, but it’s also these sort of biases, prejudice and inherent racism that is happening right now and manifests its way right now.

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It’s not just the past, it’s racism now too. And I think, you know, if we think about sort of the biases and property appraisals, that’s a perfect example of that’s happening in 2,023 that’s happening in 2,022 there’s been plenty of research and studies out there where individuals at the same property will make the house look like

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it’s white owned versus black own and each time the appraiser will come in and devalue the black own property even though there’s not much difference in terms of the housing structure or what it is.

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Gentrification too, we’re seeing predatory investors kind of come into areas, mostly black neighborhoods and brown neighborhoods that they believe are going to gentrify and will offer sort of opportunities to sell the, we’ll buy your homes, we’ll buy your house, you know, and then are able to flip it and get a higher market value for it afterwards.

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So these these structural determines are, yes, a legacy of racism that is in our history, but they’re also sort of the racism of today.

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Health the general cost of health care the fact that we have a predominance of employer provided health insurance in this country and not necessarily a well funded public health system.

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The legacy of dehumanization and medical experimentation in the African-american community by the medical researchers.

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Tuskegee, the Henrietta Lacks are just 2 prime examples of that that cause have caused sort of mistrust.

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Over policing and gun violence that has occurred and you know disproportionately for black communities in this country environmental pollution.

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And then assets, sort of the predatory credit, you know, if you can’t sort of get a financial, if financial institutions are biased toward you and providing you loans, credit card companies may prey on you or prey on low income populations.

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Access to legal counsel, this is something we’ve been dealing with with some of our work too is just sort of the ability to write a will is expensive and being able to make sure that you can pass on your savings and investments to the next generation.

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The impacts of mass incarceration and inhibited generational wealth. The other part of this too is like, yes, we kind of categorize these across these measures of the drivers of wealth collection, but these are not mutually exclusive.

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They feed into each other and one affects the other. So, you know, your racism and financial institutions or lack of access to capital.

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It’s related to how you’re building assets later. So I just want to emphasize that. And we see this kind of play out in the data.

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And in the data that we know and our economic data, black becomes the ultimate signifier of variation across economic metrics.

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When we look at sort of labor force participation in employment, education, you know, black is sort of devalued and dehumanized across our metrics here.

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It automatically signifies less than in this country. If I were to say black schools, black neighborhoods, there’s a connotation there that our economic system places on that when it shouldn’t.

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Building black wealth is about dealing with our history. It’s about working to address the systems in place.

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That continue to extract upon and devalue anything black.

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So that is why we are talking with our experts today who are working on this. We’re working to address this.

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We’re working to build collective black wealth. One thing I want to emphasize too is that you know building collective black wealth and being race explicit or being black explicit in your approaches.

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That doesn’t mean you have to build a whole program that is exactly black explicit. You can do that and we do have one of our part about panelists day who does do that.

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Their work is that and and do a great job of that. But you can build sort of these race explicit strategies within your existing programming as well, right?

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So you could have a program that is working to help minority owned businesses and you recognize that there is a barrier that black business owners are facing in comparison with other groups and you develop a strategy to address that in some way.

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And like you said, you’re sort of building an opportunity basically to fix it for other groups coming forward by doing a nuanced black explicit strategy or approach in your programming.

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So let me introduce our panel and their organizations and I can’t wait to get into our discussion today.

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So first stop from Philadelphia, we have Kenyatta James, the page director at the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia.

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Page stands for Philadelphia Anchors for Growth and Equity. It is an anchor collaborative in Philadelphia where more than a dozen regional hospitals and universities are working to localize and and diversify their procurement supply chains.

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Pages also working with small and diverse business owners and entrepreneurs to help build their capacity to better compete for large procurement contracts and to work their way in industries that have historically barred their participation.

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Do a variety of strategies initiatives. Kenyatta and his team have helped unlock over 37 million dollars in contract revenue for local and minority home firms in 2,022 alone.

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Next we have Nia Evans, the executive director of the Boston Nujima Project, as well as her colleague, Sarah Peters, who is the director of communication culture and enfranchisement.

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The boss of Juma Project is a democratic member run organization building cooperative economic infrastructure in Boston with the mission to return wealth to working-class communities of color.

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The Ajima project incorporates a variety of strategies as it builds resources for local communities of color.

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Just check out their website. And one central component of that is the Eugene Fund, a democratic investment vehicle raising capital to finance small businesses, real estate and infrastructure projects in Boston for their working-class Bipod communities.

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And at its core, Eujima Project is a model of deep democracy through community planning and non-extractive financing.

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As of 2023 the Eugene Project’s commitment to fostering economic empowerment has propelled it to invest over 1 million dollars with over 1.6 million dollars deployed across 8 businesses since its launch in 2,018.

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Finally, we have Dr. Alex Karmadel from the Atlanta Wealth building initiative or AWBI.

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AWBI is a dynamic regional nonprofit made up of a community of investors, advocates, and activists working to transform systems and structures of capital to create opportunities to build black wealth in Atlanta and across the South.

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Since 2,018 AWBI has provided over 2 million dollars in grants loans and technical assistance to strengthens the land of small and diverse business ecosystem.

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They are black explicit in all of their approaches and strategies and I’m very excited to have you all here today.

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So I’m gonna stop sharing my screen for a little bit here so we can kind of jump into the conversation.

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And my first question is, we talked about sort of the structural determinants. We talked about sort of being black explicit, race explicit strategies.

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Kenyatta, I’m gonna go to you. What do you see as the problem and how are you working to solve it?

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How you define the problem and how are you working to solve it?

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Did I lose Kenya?

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I may have lost them for a minute. So you know, Nia, I’m gonna go to you.

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What do you see as the problem and how are you trying to solve it?

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Sure. Thank you, Mike. So first I appreciate your, introduction and I saw, one of the questions was, are you gonna share the presentation and definitely would like a copy of the presentation in myself.

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Of course, of course.

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Because I’m gonna say for you you’ve hit the nail on ahead for us I know.

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In our formation, in terms of the reality that we wanted to address. And an enduring reality that we like to address is poverty, in our communities.

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That said, I think we, we are under no, illusions.

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As to how, our communities had our wealth stolen. And then, you know specific institutions, laws, practices, etc, played in a role in and creating enduring realities.

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Of poverty. And so when I say you, you hit the null in ahead, what we’ve done is we’ve created an ecosystem approach.

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So really love the chart where you you spell out structural impediments and assets and income, etc. Because we understand when we’re talking about poverty, at the time that you, Gima formed, it was against the background of very intense, gentrification, very intense displacement.

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The federal reserve of Boston that just put out a report. Cloth of color of wealth. About the racial wealth gap so that was a newer conversation that was that was entering the dialogue and so then there was also reaction to the very stunning report that came out of Boston and then later other cities in the US as a whole.

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And so, you know, when I say poverty, gentrification, displacement, racial wealth gap.

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We understand, understood then and understand all of these as interconnected systems as you’ve as you’ve already correctly identified.

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And, so for us, we said. Realities that we understand as interconnected.

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You cannot attribute them to a singular cause. Which is what organizations in the past have attempted to do and you number one you can’t attribute it to singular cause.

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Number 2 the direction whatever the cause you’re attributing it to is important. And again, historically, for example, one reason that was given for our realities was our lack of financial literacy.

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That’s questionable. That’s debatable in the first place. And again, even if we through everything we had at financial literacy, which we’ve seen some people try to do.

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Again, because we are not talking about, realities that have that can be attributed to a singular cause.

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Those efforts are gonna fall. Way short. So our response, our redress has to be, appropriately, systematic.

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Or not systematic, I’m sorry, appropriately systemic. And appropriately address how the different institutions policies, etc.

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How they are interconnected. And so we focus on a ecosystem approach.

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The second thing I’ll say before I’ll pause and and hand the bike back back to a Kenyatta.

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Is For us, we are also thinking about power. So again, when I think about, your excellent, introduction.

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Again, one of the things that we understand is our wealth has been stolen and power in this country.

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Is a function of wealth. Then there’s, power that’s been, stolen, from our communities.

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As well. And as you’ve said, continues to be impeded. So I actually really do appreciate opening with this question.

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It’s not like we don’t think about what the problem is all the time, but I do wanna say what I am newly adding to this, again, when I think about The racial wealth gap, poverty, gentrification, displacement.

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What I newly want to add to this is the thought that a problem, not the problem, but a problem.

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Has been or is I should say

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The theft of our power to be active agents in our communities. And so what I would say Eugene is doing, and you’ll see this in our offering memorandum.

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We have a section that’s called appreciating the true value of our community’s assets. Black life in general in this country is devalued and some of that means our ideas are devalued, we as people are devalued, what we create is devalued.

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So then a problem then is that actual devaluation. And address then is to appropriately properly value us and then everything that follows.

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Then I think we’ll show. We’ll show that value.

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I really appreciate, everything Nia says. I think, you know, first of all, thank you for having us.

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I appreciate that. Sarah, did you want to add anything to Okay.

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I think secondly, you can permit me to add some levity, you know, if Nia is Jay-Z and is, you know, wrapping off of the dome.

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I’m a very writerly person. And so you will see me reading and I just want you all to know that that is definitely what’s happening.

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I think, you know, Nia, you really hit the nail on the head and this is something that we discuss a lot in our time together this is something that we discuss a lot in our time together working together these past couple years.

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I think, you know, as you stated earlier, I’m currently I’m a fair candidate, at an art school and I’m thinking really deeply and have been thinking really deeply as a result of my engagement with Eugima, thinking really deeply as a result of my engagement with Eugene, I have been thinking really deeply as a result of my engagement with Eujima about narrative and narrative building and the

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ways that power is usually exercised and narrative building and the ways that power is usually exercised and conferred through stories of the wealthy and the ways that power is usually exercised and conferred through stories of the wealthy and the power of the wealthy and the ways that power is usually exercised and conferred through stories of the wealthy and the powerful and the ways that, Whitney is talking about like this intentional deliberate assertion of power, you

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know, negotiating power, understanding our power. Reclaiming power, understanding the difference between power and domination, how all those things feed into narrative building, and feed into the work that we’re doing, you know, to keep wealth in our spaces.

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I think that, you know, while I think that Eujima, ultimately is trying to tell a new story about the way the power is created and shared through culture.

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Participatory in economic democracy. And in a lot of our communications were, you know, we’re really, engaged in a deliberate kind of narrative shift around asnia said earlier.

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Who and what is valued in our communities and money being part of that, It’s also not just money, it’s also about affirming kind of, and I hate to get Super Bowl here, but affirming our best most natural ways of being while Eugene is attempting to solve for material needs, thinking about housing, food, health justice, etc, etc, queer and trends, justice is.

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I think there were also just another thing that he says a lot. We’re also thinking about all the other things that we need to drive and thinking about how we can repair our relations with one another.

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So when we are in spaces, we are able to value each other and, you know, engage in some, evaluation of formal and informal ways that our power is being negotiated.

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So really appreciate, everything people just that you just said. And, and I’ll pass it to you.

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What is the problem, right? What do we identify as the problem?

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What’s the problem and how are you working to solve it?

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Oh, right now, Zoom. So let me stop. So one of the one of the weird things about being African-american in the space, right, is that We have to compete.

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And I’m a sure economy and in a McCon and in an economy that’s been allowed to mature at times when we weren’t allowed to participate, right?

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So when you look at the United States, not like a developing country where you just need people that can build roads.

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You just need people that can set up infrastructure. You just need people that can cook food and take land and make productive uses out of it or whatever.

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Like everything valuable in this country. Are most things that are considered valuable in this country are kind of owned by someone, right?

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Like, so you have to pay a premium to get into every industry. To compete for every opportunity. Which means that if there’s not space given to you, Everyone can move.

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Forward as though you don’t exist. And I think that for the group that we work with, which are minority businesses that are B 2 B that are looking to work with institutions.

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That’s the situation that they find themselves in a lot, right? They provide needed services. There’s a market for their services.

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But there’s also others that provide those services. And many times the others that provide those services are older because they were allowed to start in the fiftys and sixtys and fortys when we were not.

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So we end up in this super competitive market. Where minority businesses are trying to muscle their way in against normally larger and more established competitors.

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And that doesn’t mean that these competitors are better, right? Like I think that There is a lot that our businesses have to offer that the larger competitors can’t.

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And I mean, we have hospitals and colleges buying books from Amazon and they can’t get returns.

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They can’t make adjustments and they’re frustrated and they would love to work. With local businesses.

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We’ve been able to help them facilitate that because they wanted that customer service element. So there’s always that opportunity.

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But I also think that the one of the major problems that we face is that black Americans

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Make this light, but we do live in this space. Yeah, I know. All of the things, right?

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I was gonna say, you said too many wrong things.

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Black people in the dark. But. Yeah, one of the things that we all have to deal with is the fact that We are in a mature economy and it’s hard to compete when there’s already a bunch of businesses that do what you do.

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Right, right. And I think they like emphasize your point too. It’s like those older companies that were allowed to compete help establish and sort of build the infrastructure.

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Around themselves basically in those positions of power like me and Sarah were saying they got to say in how to move forward in their industries or how to move forward with their B 2 B relations that they made the rules basically and now not only are you entering a system that kind of you know you weren’t you were excluded from but the rules weren’t made with for you at all either so

00:27:24.000 –> 00:27:32.000
And this isn’t, I, you know, I think you mentioned this. I think, you mentioned this a little bit, but this isn’t like some far-off academic issue, right?

00:27:32.000 –> 00:27:33.000
It’s not, oh, a long time ago they made the rules and now we have to reverse it.

00:27:33.000 –> 00:27:45.000
Like today. Large players write the RFPs for contracts that come out of institutions and government. Right.

00:27:45.000 –> 00:27:53.000
How are you supposed to compete with the organization that wrote the contract? That they are then going to bid on.

00:27:53.000 –> 00:28:06.000
That makes it a really difficult ecosystem. Right now, these organizations have people that used to work at their organization that now work at the institution that makes the hiring decision for the organization.

00:28:06.000 –> 00:28:15.000
These are not like academic far-out issues. My minority businesses are rarely at the scale to have that.

00:28:15.000 –> 00:28:27.000
Whereas, you know, a top, accounting firm for example. The controller, the in house account and that institution likely worked at a top firm before getting that job.

00:28:27.000 –> 00:28:32.000
Which means that they know people at that firm, which means when it’s time, it comes time for that contract to come up.

00:28:32.000 –> 00:28:41.000
It’s, hey, my buddy George that I used to work with for 12 years. Are this random minority business that I don’t have any relationship with?

00:28:41.000 –> 00:28:46.000
And it’s hard to break people out of those habits. And this is not, like I said, it’s not some.

00:28:46.000 –> 00:28:54.000
Academic practice. It’s very direct in the way it works in our markets.

00:28:54.000 –> 00:29:01.000
Alex, I kick it over to you. How are you defining? How is your organization defining the problem and what are you doing to solve?

00:29:01.000 –> 00:29:23.000
Yeah, well, thank you for having me. And I’m listening to my colleagues and peers on this call and we have are all in different places but we share some of the same definitions in terms of what the problem is and we’re certainly tackling it from a very similar angle.

00:29:23.000 –> 00:29:41.000
I I will start I think by putting a bit of a twist on this so in it you know if you indulge me it kind of gets to the why of what we do and why we’re so firm about our position on focusing on collective black wealth not just individual black wealth so recently I posted on LinkedIn a very controversial news article about Tyler Perry.

00:29:41.000 –> 00:30:03.000
I live in Atlanta, Georgia, you know, commonly understood the black mecca, the seat of black middle class achievement, and a lot of that reputation is drawn from the success of individuals like.

00:30:03.000 –> 00:30:15.000
Mr. Perry and others and I live on the south side of just maybe 5 min away from the movie studio, which is massive and takes up a lot of land.

00:30:15.000 –> 00:30:35.000
Not too far from the airport. And the story was about the fact that despite, Perry’s ascendants into becoming a billionaire and owning such a large plot of lands which he acquired through a city transactions at a steel.

00:30:35.000 –> 00:30:38.000
I mean, pennies on the dollar, relatively, you don’t see the community benefit.

00:30:38.000 –> 00:30:52.000
In fact, the article revealed that despite having received significant credit, tax credits and other incentives.

00:30:52.000 –> 00:31:02.000
He’s been able to avoid property taxes, which if folks understand, you know, how our schools and communities and broader infrastructure are funded.

00:31:02.000 –> 00:31:07.000
It’s through general. Revenue funds that are supported by our tax code. And so having a studio situated in a community that is majority black.

00:31:07.000 –> 00:31:21.000
And with schools that I’m sure he wouldn’t send his own kids to, it would, you know, make sense to folks that we might wanna, you know, critique or at least scrutinize the existence of the studio and that that form of wealth.

00:31:21.000 –> 00:31:34.000
So anyway, a lot of backlash from that post and my only contribution in the in the comment was that individual wealth is not someonymous with community wealth and this is a great example of just that.

00:31:34.000 –> 00:31:53.000
Now of course the response is well he’s creating jobs. Well there was a giant film tax credit audit that came out a few years ago finding that most of the jobs generated from that credit do not go to local residents.

00:31:53.000 –> 00:32:03.000
The wages are abysmal and so much more. So it’s just not enough to say that one’s, you know, philanthropy is enough to build wealth.

00:32:03.000 –> 00:32:11.000
And this is one example of a repeat story that is the backdrop of that Atlanta, Georgia, the city of Atlanta.

00:32:11.000 –> 00:32:31.000
This is one story about how economic development has happened decade after decade in the city. And a result of this this approach to economic development has led to Atlanta being the number one place for income and equality in the nation for decades.

00:32:31.000 –> 00:32:36.000
A place where the median wealth of White House holds is 46 times more than it is for black households.

00:32:36.000 –> 00:32:46.000
And so much more, right? In fact, Atlanta was a majority black city just 5 years ago.

00:32:46.000 –> 00:32:54.000
It’s no longer a majority black city, which, you know, means we might need to change our title as the Black Mecha.

00:32:54.000 –> 00:33:03.000
And so I raise all this to say that this is why AWBI exists. You know, we were kind of called into this work maybe 5 or 6 years ago.

00:33:03.000 –> 00:33:13.000
To address, the lack of attention given to actual wealth disparities, there’s lots of work to do in terms of filling income gaps, right?

00:33:13.000 –> 00:33:21.000
Like we institute a lot of job training programs and there’s tons of anti-poverty work in the community, but very few efforts actually focusing on building wealth.

00:33:21.000 –> 00:33:35.000
And our original approach to this was through entrepreneurship because Atlanta’s legacy has been through building black wealth through small business ownership and through entrepreneurship primarily into the great work of Kenyatta and his colleagues to procurement.

00:33:35.000 –> 00:33:51.000
And through contracting, under former Mayor, Maynard Jackson and his work with Diana Airport, which is the busiest airport in the world.

00:33:51.000 –> 00:33:52.000
So, given that legacy, we leaned into that as a way to help address racial wealth disparities.

00:33:52.000 –> 00:34:06.000
But, you didn’t, you know, start to realize that if you focus on that, you’re only touching probably about 3% of businesses.

00:34:06.000 –> 00:34:11.000
That are black owned in this city. The vast majority of businesses that are exist in this place are solopreneurs.

00:34:11.000 –> 00:34:24.000
Which means that they’re not operating a firm to build wealth per se. They’re operating their firm as a survival tactic to, you know, keep a roof over their heads and so much more.

00:34:24.000 –> 00:34:31.000
And so once we understood that, you know, maybe entrepreneurship isn’t the sole focus for us to as a wealth building strategy.

00:34:31.000 –> 00:34:33.000
What are some ways we can tackle kind of broader the structural determinants that you laid out earlier today.

00:34:33.000 –> 00:34:51.000
Mike. So That is the work of 8 of us today. And our main, we have a practice and programmatic arm of our organization that does things like provide flexible loan capital to business owners.

00:34:51.000 –> 00:35:03.000
We are working with the broader capital ecosystem. To figure out how to coordinate financial institutions in a way so that they can adhere to their community.

00:35:03.000 –> 00:35:24.000
Reinvestment act goals and you know drive capital into communities where they have historically redlined those communities and some of the research that we’ve been able to produce over the last several months have shown that things consistently continue to red line communities as far as home loans are concerned and as far as bank loans are concerned or business loans, excuse me, and so much more.

00:35:24.000 –> 00:35:45.000
So we are, you know, flexing kind of our research and policy muscle now to help change the narrative around wealth building so that we don’t focus solutions exclusively on direct service on job training programs and more, but instead on actually rewriting the codes, rewriting the statutes so that black folks are seen in these in these policy debates.

00:35:45.000 –> 00:35:51.000
In terms of the place-based piece, you know, we are, birthed out of Atlanta.

00:35:51.000 –> 00:36:06.000
And we continue to work in Atlanta. It’s it’s kind of our home here, but we’re also partnering collaborating with entities municipalities and other organizations across the South because we recognize that the Southeast is a.

00:36:06.000 –> 00:36:16.000
It’s a bastion of, you know, black folks, right? Like it’s where most of us live and we drive resources into communities through grant capital and through other forms of capital to help.

00:36:16.000 –> 00:36:27.000
So the capacity of other organizations in those southern places to do great work too. We do a lot more place-based work.

00:36:27.000 –> 00:36:37.000
I’ll save maybe some of those examples for other questions or comments, but that’s that’s our problem and that’s why we’re here.

00:36:37.000 –> 00:36:46.000
Thanks. Thank you all. So we’re kind of framing the problem here, but I want to start asking sort of what are your ingredients of success?

00:36:46.000 –> 00:36:53.000
What were the key elements of your initiative? That you couldn’t do your work without basically at the end of the day.

00:36:53.000 –> 00:36:59.000
Let’s think about that. And, and me, I’m gonna kinda throw it back to you since you started our conversation before.

00:36:59.000 –> 00:37:02.000
What are the key elements to the Eujima Project success.

00:37:02.000 –> 00:37:19.000
Thank you. So number one, I would say is relationships. And I think. That well, there’s a way in which, talked about this.

00:37:19.000 –> 00:37:31.000
I think there is a writ large and under appreciation of how much is driven. By relationships.

00:37:31.000 –> 00:37:39.000
When we talk about kind of. How you create that you something like a Eugene and a place where you are.

00:37:39.000 –> 00:37:45.000
I think one of the things we’re always very careful to say is

00:37:45.000 –> 00:37:53.000
I mean, I think eventually, you know, if you keep at it, you’ll find some success, but I’ve definitely been in some places.

00:37:53.000 –> 00:38:04.000
Where. People look at the model. We’re multi stakeholder so we’re multi-racial multi-class multi-stakeholder that’s the other piece that I’ll say.

00:38:04.000 –> 00:38:07.000

00:38:07.000 –> 00:38:11.000
As an aside, we’re bringing but an important aside. We’re bringing a lot of expertise to the table.

00:38:11.000 –> 00:38:22.000
Less the multi stakeholder piece. And then when I combine the multi stakeholder piece with the relationship piece, what that is looks like is We have.

00:38:22.000 –> 00:38:39.000
People from organizing. We have people from finance. We have. People regular community members we have small business owners who came together in the creation of Eugima.

00:38:39.000 –> 00:38:49.000
And so that means. Whatever our prior experience, our prior background. The relationships that we have already formed.

00:38:49.000 –> 00:38:58.000
We’re bringing that to the creation of Eugene. Whereas what I, and this is what I was starting to say earlier, I have been in some places.

00:38:58.000 –> 00:39:02.000
Where people have looked at that and said, okay, they’ve got impact investors, they’ve got small business owners, they have organizers.

00:39:02.000 –> 00:39:17.000
Okay, let’s go out and find these people in this place. And then let’s say let’s do a thing together.

00:39:17.000 –> 00:39:18.000

00:39:18.000 –> 00:39:36.000
But you’re missing the prior relationship piece. And so I was actually in a place where after kind of doing a workshop and having a conversation It was really notable because very particularly black community members in that place then came up to me afterwards and said We’ve never talked to these people before ever.

00:39:36.000 –> 00:39:48.000
We’ve never been in a room with these people and it was not for lack of trying. And so again, we go back to.

00:39:48.000 –> 00:39:49.000

00:39:49.000 –> 00:40:00.000
How are black people truly regarded and valued? So community members who are coming up to me afterwards and saying, Never had a conversation with them have been excluded from conversations, had been dismissed.

00:40:00.000 –> 00:40:14.000
What’s also notable is they were not the ones that brought us there. It was white power brokers in those communities that brought us there.

00:40:14.000 –> 00:40:15.000

00:40:15.000 –> 00:40:19.000
And so again, those same. People who had been dismissive. We’re now willing to act transactionally.

00:40:19.000 –> 00:40:29.000
And use people. To get a thing done. So. I think it’s going to be tough going.

00:40:29.000 –> 00:40:37.000
If you see Eugene, if you see Atlanta wealth building initiative, if you see other peers and partners and say.

00:40:37.000 –> 00:40:50.000
Their work looks cool. Let me start a thing like that here. But because I actually don’t truly value different expertise and I don’t truly value different community.

00:40:50.000 –> 00:40:56.000
I have not put any time, but type of time in. I’ve not built any type of relationships.

00:40:56.000 –> 00:41:03.000
I’ve not been in solidarity. I’ve not worked with anyone and so I think that that’s been key.

00:41:03.000 –> 00:41:08.000
To Eugene with success. Is we were not a group of people who just came out of nowhere.

00:41:08.000 –> 00:41:09.000

00:41:09.000 –> 00:41:14.000
Again, there were about 40 of us that came together this start, We were coming from different places.

00:41:14.000 –> 00:41:24.000
We had already built trust. And what I want to emphasize there is. We did not build trust transactionally.

00:41:24.000 –> 00:41:32.000
So even as I’m saying this today, I can also imagine someone saying, okay, let me now put together my 3 year plan where the first year will be trust building.

00:41:32.000 –> 00:41:33.000

00:41:33.000 –> 00:41:40.000
That was not how we operated. I’m black. I’m a black queer woman.

00:41:40.000 –> 00:41:42.000
I am not scared of black people. I am not scared of women. I’m not scared of queer people.

00:41:42.000 –> 00:41:54.000
So what that means is in my everyday existence. I love black people. I love women. I love queer people.

00:41:54.000 –> 00:42:04.000
That means in my every movement. That shows. And so then that means that I’m interacting with fellow community members.

00:42:04.000 –> 00:42:17.000
In a certain way. That shows that I value us all equally. And so then when the time comes and one of the things that I think this is another reason for success when the time comes.

00:42:17.000 –> 00:42:24.000
And I’m able to, say to community members before you, I was with the Boston Branch and the NAACP.

00:42:24.000 –> 00:42:36.000
And I’m able to say so in conversations in our communities. I’ve heard people say. I have a bunch of ideas.

00:42:36.000 –> 00:42:37.000

00:42:37.000 –> 00:42:44.000
The problem is as an individual, I don’t have the resources to carry it out. I would love to be able to do is I would love to be able to get together with family members, with friends, with community members.

00:42:44.000 –> 00:42:52.000
I’d love for us to be able to pull our resources together. And I’d love for us to be able to to that actually do our selves.

00:42:52.000 –> 00:43:00.000
What we wanna do, we have dreams, we have ideas. We don’t have the individual resources and power.

00:43:00.000 –> 00:43:06.000
To do so. So again, appreciating Alex taking the time to focus on collective wealth and collective power.

00:43:06.000 –> 00:43:22.000
Because then when we came together for Mujima, I was then able to say to NAACP members and to fellow community members yesterday you said you would love to be able to do this guess what?

00:43:22.000 –> 00:43:23.000

00:43:23.000 –> 00:43:26.000
Today you can do it. It’s not a dream. It’s not far fetched.

00:43:26.000 –> 00:43:43.000
It’s not one day, it’s not so aspirational that it seems impossible. It’s actually possible and we’re creating the skeleton But we’re creating the skeleton such that you can get in on the ground floor again.

00:43:43.000 –> 00:43:54.000
So we’re not a group of people that came out of nowhere with some great, wonderful, fully baked idea and we’re just asking you to buy in and we’re hoping you’re happy that we’re here.

00:43:54.000 –> 00:44:03.000
But we’re able to present. a bit of enough enough to have something that is not completely blank slate to say, what do you think?

00:44:03.000 –> 00:44:11.000
And we invite you in. To create this with this and I shape it with this. So relationships.

00:44:11.000 –> 00:44:22.000
Multi stakeholder bringing, bringing various expertise to bear and then, and, and the I mean, there’s more, but in terms of what I’ve what I’ve just said to summarize.

00:44:22.000 –> 00:44:26.000
And actually.

00:44:26.000 –> 00:44:37.000
Being responsive to what communities have said. That we want. And being responsive to our to our expertise.

00:44:37.000 –> 00:44:46.000
Really is like a power and not only the relationships but like building authenticity in those relationships as well. And I really like that like too often it’s transactional and too often is that we had a question.

00:44:46.000 –> 00:44:57.000
Come up that in sort of asking you directly, like how important are those white power brokers in your conversations of building black wealth or building power in Boston.

00:44:57.000 –> 00:45:12.000
You know, can we create black wealth without white power brokers in the current system.

00:45:12.000 –> 00:45:13.000

00:45:13.000 –> 00:45:16.000
Sure, and I wonder if this is there a couple of anonymous attendees asking I wonder if this is the same anonymous attendee.

00:45:16.000 –> 00:45:29.000
So I think there are 2 ways I’ll answer this question because there was a thing that you added at the end of that question, Mike, and you said in this current system.

00:45:29.000 –> 00:45:44.000
So. One of the things that I appreciate that I think both Kenyatta well, see you, Mike and Kayata and I think I heard this in Alex’s remarks as well.

00:45:44.000 –> 00:45:52.000
I think there are a couple of things that always have to be happening at the same time. And I think it’s something that Eugene does.

00:45:52.000 –> 00:46:02.000
I think we have to be creating. The world that we want. And we also have to.

00:46:02.000 –> 00:46:07.000
Contend with the world as it is. So I don’t I don’t think we I don’t I think to choose one or the other.

00:46:07.000 –> 00:46:18.000
Is a mistake and it’s and it’s misguided. I think to reside in one or the other is misguided.

00:46:18.000 –> 00:46:26.000
So, and the, in the world as it is.

00:46:26.000 –> 00:46:33.000
Let me look at this question again. I don’t think I’m gonna say so how I’m putting our white power brokers.

00:46:33.000 –> 00:46:39.000
I think in the world in the world as it is. White power brokers can be important.

00:46:39.000 –> 00:46:47.000
I think I would stop short of saying. They are necessity. But I think they can be important.

00:46:47.000 –> 00:46:59.000
I don’t think white power brokers, have to be ruled out. Or dismissed the way that this looks at Eugima for example is We have.

00:46:59.000 –> 00:47:05.000
2 broad tiers of membership. This is just one of the ways it looks. We have a voting membership.

00:47:05.000 –> 00:47:16.000
We have a solidarity membership. Loading membership is for people who are resident of Boston proper and we say we really want to center working class by pop people.

00:47:16.000 –> 00:47:26.000
So if you don’t identify as working class. Or if you don’t identify as We ask you to consider taking out a solidarity membership.

00:47:26.000 –> 00:47:36.000
So voting members vote directly on what it is we invest in. Our thesis is you should have that decision making power by virtue of your residence.

00:47:36.000 –> 00:47:42.000
So we have some black people, for example, who don’t identify as working class who will take out a solidarity membership.

00:47:42.000 –> 00:47:49.000
And then we have some people who don’t identify as Bipock, even if they live in Boston who will take out a solidarity membership.

00:47:49.000 –> 00:48:00.000
And the solidarity membership in any organization is support of that organization that support of that community. So then there we can see how, for example, a white power broker can interact with Eugima.

00:48:00.000 –> 00:48:09.000

Your Host

Michael Shields, Ph.D.
Managing Associate
Community Science

Mike has expertise in social science research and community development. He is passionate about forging impactful partnerships with nonprofit and community organizations, government agencies, private entities, and academic institutions. Mike excels at translating complex research topics and products into accessible insights for different audiences, especially those with little technical or specialized knowledge about research or relevant topics.

Your Panel

Kenyatta James
PAGE Director

Economy League of Greater Philadelphia

Kenyatta James is an entrepreneur and community organizer who brings 8 years of Human Centered Design experience to the Economy League. He began his career studying Human Centered Design as a participant in Project Breaker, an immersive design apprenticeship pioneered by TED Fellow Juliette LaMontagne, where he learned design thinking from experts at IDEO, Frog Design, Google Creative Labs, AOL Ventures and Viacom’s MTV Scratch unit. After that experience, Kenyatta brought his design thinking skills to the social impact world as a community organizer revitalizing a city park and coordinating nationwide volunteer programs for the American Friends Service Committee.

Nia Evans
Executive Director
Boston Ujima Project

Nia has an educational background in labor relations, education leadership, and policy. Her advocacy work focuses on eliminating barriers between analysts and people with lived experiences while also acknowledging the value of diverse types of expertise in policy. She is a co-creator of Frames Debate Project, a multimedia policy debate program that explores the intersection between drug policy, mental health services, and incarceration in Massachusetts. Evans has a bachelor’s degree in industrial and labor relations from Cornell University and a master’s degree in education leadership, with a course of study in leadership, policy, and politics from Teachers College at Columbia University. She also studied at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, where she focused on international labor relations.

Cierra Michele Peters
Director of Communications, Culture & Enfranchisement

Boston Ujima Project

Cierra employs a practice that includes video, installation, and durational performance. She works as an artist, curator, and organizer with projects that attempt to examine visual, spatial and sensory representations of blackness. Her conceptual work uses wry humor to present commentary on subjectivity and ontology against an urban backdrop. Her recent projects include Print Ain’t Dead, a pop-up bookstore and publishing platform, and Demo Radio, an underground sound archive.

Alex Camardelle, Ph.D.
Vice President of Research & Policy
Atlanta Wealth Building Initiative

Dr. Camardelle most recently served as the Director of Workforce Policy at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, where he led a program that centers Black workers in policy debates concerning the future of work, workforce development, and access to good jobs. Dr. Camardelle also served as the Senior Policy Analyst for Economic Mobility at the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, where his research and advocacy supported policy reforms shaping workforce development, worker justice, and access to core safety net programs for individuals and families with low incomes. Lastly, he worked at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, where he was responsible for strengthening economic opportunity through research, grantmaking, and partnerships.