b&b201: AAFCI: highlighting and bridging racial knowledge and resource gaps

The African American Financial Capabilities Initiative is sponsored by Prosperity Now’s Racial Wealth Divide Initiative. Their website describes the motivation for and goals of the program:

“The Racial Wealth Divide Initiative at Prosperity Now believes the people closest to racial economic inequality are also best positioned to address it. It is estimated that it will take 228 years for Black Americans to reach the level of wealth White households enjoy today. Individual behavior is often seen as the cause of this racialized wage and wealth divide. However, there is compelling evidence that racial economic inequality is primarily the result of long-term investment in some communities and a lack of investment in others. The African American Financial Capability Initiative aims to reverse this trend.

“The stark racial economic disparities are a wake-up call to the Northwest Area Foundation and a call for fresh thinking and new investment. In response, the Foundation committed $4.35 million over three years to Black nonprofits in six cities within its footprint and to Prosperity Now to provide technical assistance to the participating organizations. The Initiative brings together six African American communities of practice (CoPs) to collaboratively develop and implement innovative, community-centered financial capability pilot projects. This development model also aims to highlight promising practices that address racial economic inequality developed the communities most impacted.”

In the Twin Cities, Marcus Owens, ED of African American Leadership Forum, identified the problem of homeownership disparity–the highest in the country, and responded by providing financial education, homeownership and business development. The pilot project is designed to create a “One Door” client support system.

In Tacoma, T’wina Franklin, Interim President of Tacoma Urban League, and Pat Coleman and Annie Jones-Barnes, of Coleman & Associates, asked their communities what the biggest problems they faced were. The answer: “There is a gap that exists between the African American community and the public and private organizations that provide financial resources and services.” They use Community Based Participatory Action Research to increase understanding of communities and how and why financial services are failing to serve them, in order that those services may amend their practices.

In Minneapolis, Ambreasha Frazier, Project Manager of Minneapolis Urban League, addressed disparities in homeownership, education, employment and wealth. Minneapolis has a historical lack of safe and affordable banking, and a lack of conversation about money within the African American community. The North Minneapolis Community of Practice implemented a referral network to increase financial awareness and capability.

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Music featured in this episode:

Sonny Seattle by Ghost Insight
Revolution Rhymes by RAH
Midsummer Night’s Dream by Chris Jones

Episode Highlights:

Marcus: The way that I see our community right now, and the way we’ve been thinking about it as a community of practice, is we’re seeing acceleration of disparities within our communities. Minneapolis and St. Paul have some of the highest disparities amongst African Americans and White people in the country right now, and it’s just getting worse.

Marcus: One of the biggest disparities we see right now is our poverty gap. And so in Minneapolis and St. Paul we roughly have 40% of the Black population in poverty right now, in comparison to about 5% of the white population.

Marcus: For every eight jobs that we have open in the twin cities here today, we have one person that’s unemployed, and if you’re not able to match those people up, there’s a labor shortage.

Marcus: We’re gonna start working on physical development of real estate within our community so that we own the pieces of our community that are still remaining. So, when we think about the Randall neighborhood in St. Paul and when we think about North Minneapolis in Minneapolis, these are historically Black communities. How do we maintain that semblance of culture and that semblance of what was in the past in those communities because we’re seeing rapid gentrification…And so, how do we think about ownership now, before the price goes up? If we wait ‘til the price goes up, we’re gonna be priced out, and now we’re gonna be dispersed across the metro area and even beyond out of state, because we’re not gonna to be able to even afford to live within the city that we love so much.

Annie: There is life expectancy issues. Like, in the poor neighborhoods, disenfranchised neighborhoods in our area, people are likely to live ten years less than people who are in affluent neighborhoods.

T’wina: Our charitable organizations simply can’t absorb all of the need in our community…our greatest need, I would say, is making sure that we’re taking care of the whole person, and that includes their financial capability.

Pat: One of the things I think pops out the most for us in just our own lived experience is: we don’t see White people patronize Black businesses. Even though it may be something very generic, like a restaurant, and everybody loves to eat, but why isn’t this Black business attracting a eclectic crowd and racially mixed crowd when African Americans patronize other businesses?

Ambreasha: Higher income doesn’t necessarily mean that someone has higher financial capability or is in a stable place

Ambreasha: The average score for African Americans is not that far from the minimum to purchase a home

Pam: I feel like that’s the hugest thing, you know, in learning about this and getting fed this hard work rhetoric our whole lives, and the American Dream, and individualism and all this stuff is to hear like: You’re not crazy, it’s not your fault, and you’re not alone.

Ambreasha: During segregation we had to establish our own banks and savings, and building things to make things happen in our communities, and that’s been lost. We had banks, but there wasn’t return on interest and stuff, but nobody talks about that. That’s missing from the narrative.

Ambreasha: Go to college, get a degree, make more money, and all those different things. Save more! …The reality is the disparities still exist, even after you achieve all those things