Category Archives: Urban Policy

Pooling Our Resources on a Large, Transformative Scale: Breaking Through the Trust Barrier

The “trust barrier” is the major obstacle hampering the establishment of a large-scale, self-reliance-based resource-pooling fund that can have a transformational impact in addressing urgent problems in our distressed communities. Even black churches are losing trust and credibility among many African Americans. There would be no “trust barrier,” however, if, for instance, five or more of the most respected African Americans got together to start a fund and hired a few highly competent people to run it.

A fund backed by such an ideal “dream team” is unlikely or infeasible (but not impossible!). The more likely way it will happen: a few visionary, motivated, and accomplished entrepreneurs who have solid, unblemished reputations, armed with a sound and credible business plan, convince some less well-known but equally highly-regarded people to back the fund. 

Such backing need not even be financial: by virtue of their strong reputations, relationships, and public standing, just lending their credibility, prestige, gravitas, and imprimatur to the fund will provide it with the instant credibility it needs to be able to attract contributions from large numbers of African Americans even at start-up.  This is the most likely way a potent large-scale fund will get established. 

As discussed in the article, Financing Black Progress, Part 1: A Publicly Financed “Marshall Plan” Is Unrealistic, So What’s the Alternative? A “Self-Reliance Marshall Plan”?, given the current noxious and racially-charged political environment — in which even the reasonable and very modest American Jobs Act remains stalled in Congress — waiting for massive public investment in initiatives that can transform distressed communities of color is largely futile.

And there is no indication this situation will change in the near future. Regardless of who is president and whether or not Democrats retain control of the Senate and/or retake the House in 2013, Congress will most likely remain closely divided, highly polarized and acrimonious, and is unlikely to pass any legislation to fund, on a substantial enough scale, the types of initiatives that can sufficiently meet the dire needs of these communities.

Rather than simply standing by helplessly and wringing our hands while Congress remains gridlocked and yet another generation of children in distressed communities remains trapped in poverty and dysfunction, we must focus on organizing proactive self-reliance approaches to transform our own communities.

By pooling our resources on a large enough scale, we would be able to amass sufficient capital to adequately attack the most critical problems in our communities, especially with respect to education, entrepreneurship and business development, job creation, and wealth-building. The article, Financing Black Progress, Part 2: A Self-Reliance “Marshall Plan”: Creating a National Resource-Pooling Fund, discusses such a resource pooling effort–a National Ventures & Excellence Fund or “EXCEL Fund”. Continue reading

Wealthy African Americans Can Jump-Start Initiatives to Transform Distressed Communities Nationwide

In August 2011, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and philanthropist George Soros announced that their respective foundations will each contribute $30 million to a $127.5 million Young Men’s Initiative to “tackle the broad disparities slowing the advancement of black and Latino young men” in the city, by addressing the problems of education, poverty, health, unemployment, and incarceration.

An obvious question is whether, given the prevalence of these problems in many cities, the Bloomberg-Soros initiative can be replicated across the country, as Mayor Bloomberg hopes.

According to, Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) “hopes President Obama takes a lesson” from Mayor Bloomberg:

“I think what the mayor has done is what the nation is going to have to do…This has to be a national policy.” [Rangel Wants the Nation to Follow Bloomberg]

Leaving aside how exactly the initiative can be translated into national policy, with respect to replication, few, if any, other cities have philanthropic-minded billionaires like Bloomberg and Soros who are similarly motivated and willing to put up substantial amounts to jump-start initiatives that address the problems of minority youth.

However, it does not have to happen on as large a scale as New York City’s–there are variants of the approach that are feasible for most other cities. Rather than wait for other Bloombergs and Soroses and/or the government, which would most likely be futile, one way is for a few wealthy people in an urban area to pool their funds on a more modest scale to jump-start an initiative. This could conceivably grow over time into a multimillion dollar effort through contributions by others, including people of more modest means who are similarly motivated. Continue reading

Black Philanthropy and the Creation of a Transformational National Resource-Pooling Fund

An obvious question naturally arises with respect to the feasibility of a large-scale national resource-pooling effort: Will a large enough number of blacks contribute significant amounts to make the fund sizable enough to have the desired transformational impact?

The article, Financing Black Progress, Part 2: A Self-Reliance “Marshall Plan”: Creating a National Resource-Pooling Fund, optimistically asserts:

“[T]here is strong reason to believe that there is a significant proportion of African Americans that constitutes a large enough base that would be willing to make at least modest contributions to jump-start the Fund and ensure its success. There is a strong tradition and long history of philanthropy and “giving back” in the black community, such as financial contributions to churches, charity and community organizations, etc. Of course, a crucial prerequisite is that potential investors must be confident that the Fund has the potential to successfully address the plight of those, especially children, who, sadly, remain trapped in distressed communities without much hope.” 

The following excerpts (emphases added) from various sources support this assertion: Continue reading

Financing Black Progress: On a Marshall Plan for the “Abandoned,” Self-Reliance, and “Pooling Our Resources” Via a Transformational National Fund

In his book, Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America, Washington Post columnist and MSNBC commentator Eugene Robinson (winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary) exhorts that “our most urgent priority should be an all-out assault on the stubborn, self-perpetuating poverty and dysfunction” of the segment of Black America he dubs the “large, Abandoned minority with less hope of escaping poverty and dysfunction than at any time since Reconstruction’s crushing end.”

Of course, approaches and strategies for addressing this challenge must span several interrelated areas: financing (public and private), entrepreneurship, wealth-building, job creation, education, job training, politics and policy, racial disparities, societal and cultural trends, etc.

Robinson proposes in his book a publicly financed “Marshall Plan for the Abandoned” (MPA) that would involve “massive intervention in education, public safety, health, and other aspects of life, with the aim being to arrest the downward spiral.”

Even at the time he proposed it – the book was published in October 2010 when the political environment was relatively less toxic (before the November 2010 elections, the subsequent budget and debt ceiling debacles, and the nasty and racially charged political environment that ensued thereafter) – Robinson acknowledged that the MPA “will be expensive, and politically it will be a hard sell.” Nonetheless, he argued then that the MPA could be politically feasible: Continue reading