There is an immense wealth gap in our nation’s city centers that causes African Americans, particularly our youth, to live quite differently from their white peers. Many of the issues we are observing in our communities: the violence, the poverty, the low graduation rates, the disproportionately high incarceration rates—are symptomatic of structural inequities that cause our Black and brown youth to bury themselves in an underground economy.
And so, there is no time than the present—as the San Antonio NAACP commemorates 100 years of service to the city of San Antonio in 2018 —to shine a beacon of light on the state of youth unemployment and its relationship to race, equity and inequity. Racism has, and continues to be, an ideological and systemic stratification process upon which codified discrimination, including slavery and Jim Crow, were built. The bitter fruit of racism continues to bear negative results.
The strength of Black San Antonio comes from the people who live and work here. San Antonio is almost 7-8% African American and we are, individually and collectively, assets to be recognized. We are about 3% of the business market place of San Antonio.
Being so small puts us at the mercy of those who have jobs and power. Only through effective coalitions can the whole be in a stronger position. The high joblessness among our youth reflects a sustained lack of effective private and public interventions, further entrenching racial inequality. The story we construct concerning the future of Black youth must therefore focus on the root cause of employment inequities, as opposed to demonizing the current techniques the youth have adopted to survive.
Last summer I was very sad to see no real efforts to empower our youth by offering jobs. The City of San Antonio and Bexar County must focus on our workforce development. At the same time parents and grandparents must return to the day where the child first learned first in the home. When our children lack guidance at home, it shows. We must make our families great again – each one must teach one.
Dismantling youth unemployment for this African-American generation also requires us to change the insidious narratives that impede the very progress we seek to protect. The work we do at the Texas Association of African American Chambers of Commerce and at the local level with the Alamo City Black Chamber attempt to improve the opportunity and change the script. Just as important, the San Antonio Observer along with all Black media outlets are united to ensure they keep us informed. But what about our largest collective unit that our community mobilizes and responds to?
One of the major leaders in the Texas Black economy are Black churches. To change the traditional narrative I am calling for every church in the state of Texas to do something different. First I would hope the church would open the doors and invite business education into the lives of their congregation. We would hope that with 2,000 churches being financial members of their local city Black chamber and their only state chamber, we would be in position to take control of our financial future. Why place a request to the church pastors? Simple. In the state of Texas, African-American or Black business formation is our #2 type of business formation just under medical doctors or physicians. Unlike other racial or ethnic groups, churches do not rank in their top 5 business types.
For our community, when you define our Black community – we see churches at the corner of many of our streets. The question is not what are the churches doing but what is the relationship between the church and the community? A Church-Chamber partnership would enable the 2000 congregations to better understand the opportunity to support their local Black businesses which can create more jobs and be more responsible to the community. The church members, with chamber workshops could learn how to form a business and do it right; empower the children to see themselves as the future store owners, business owners, and really control their future.
As many of us found out, Big Mama lied. Mama lied to us indirectly. She told us at a young age that if we go to school, get good grades, go to college, we would be employable by Fortune 500 companies and life would be great. Unfortunately, US statistics support that Black unemployment rates, wages, and promotions are not as good as what Mama said back in the day. In order to replace the lie that keeps on repeating itself in African American homes, we have to have a new model.
Today the new model, which we should subscribe to is to encourage your children to go to school, get good grades, go to college if possible, if not a trade school or even the military, and once they have experience and have soaked up all they can from their job and life experiences, then they should start to think about building a business and doing something for their family.
This new model for Black America is really a reflection of how it used to be when we could only depend on ourselves under America’s Jim Crow.
Back in 2005, T.D. Jakes wrote the book “The Ten Commandments of Working in a Hostile Environment… Your Power is Your Purpose!” He talked about what so many of us felt, and that was addressing the question “have you ever hated the thought of getting out of bed and going to work?” From Black people who have not still done as well in Corporate America, this book hit so many as being prophetic when in fact it was a sign of the times. Well in 2017, with Corporate America even being harsher to the Black and Brown with income and wage disparities, Bishop Jakes published a new book called SOAR! Twelve years later, the book SOAR! is the real-deal solution for Jake’s Ten Commandments book. SOAR! completes the journey. It takes you on the path to see yourself as an entrepreneur and to think like one. My family is encouraged to work with Bishop Jakes and T.D. Jakes Ministries as there is so much work to get accomplished.
Again, guest speaker to our state chamber conference, Rev Dr. Frederick D. Haynes, III, Pastor of Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas gets it.... Bishop Jakes also really understands the problems we are living through…. As the Chairman of TAAACC, I want to make sure that all of our 2,000 church leaders and religious leaders understand the problem, and see the solution to change the narrative and to help ourselves. The Future Is NOW!
As our state chamber puts our plans together for the 2018 Black Business Day event in Austin (typically March 31st), I want the leaders of these Black churches to save the date – save the last week of March – to prepare to come with your business owners (those who sit in your pews) to Austin and into a new relationship with your chamber of commerce.
In the words of Rev. Dr. Haynes, “We can form a new community”. I am moving on building this new community, hoping to form a marriage between the church, the chamber and our legislature.
Last year, I signed, with our TAAACC President Mr. Charles O’Neal, twenty or more agreements with our state public agencies to better support Black businesses in contracting with the state of Texas. You can see the agreements on www.TAAACC.org. The agreements, all Good Faith agreements are written to encourage the best intentions of both parties. Currently Black businesses receive a paltry 1.55% of the tax dollars that over 15% of Black Texans contribute through taxes. It is an insult to know that Good Faith has not produced what we are hoping to achieve which is at least the same percentage of what we represent..
So now that you know the reality, my Mother also taught me to make a bad situation good…"with the Lord on my side."
With that being said, in 2018 we will look inward to know how can we generate more business within our race.
See more from me at Twitter @BlackAmerica!
Remember, our young people are our future, and we will protect their potential to flourish in San Antonio, and in the world at large today—and every day. I can't wait for Black Business Day 2018 - we are going to change the story starting with each church family!
The Future is NOW!