It’s time to unite, economically… Part 1

Universally Speaking

By Rahim Islam

Rahim Islam

Rahim Islam

Rahim Islam is a graduate of LaSalle University with dual degrees in accounting and finance.

A proponent of life-long learning, his educational background also includes specialty areas of tax accounting, oil refining, investment banking, marine transportation, community development and real estate development.

Mr. Islam is a founding member of Universal Companies and has served as President & CEO since its inception in 1993.

Universal is a comprehensive community development and education management corporation founded by Kenneth Gamble, accomplished singer, songwriter, music composer and philanthropist.

Universal is also the largest community-based, private manager of public schools in the country.

With 2 Campuses here in Milwaukee-Universal Academy for the College Bound Under his direct leadership, Universal has been the conduit for over $1.5 Billion of real estate development and investment and currently educates over 4,500 students in 10 schools (K-12).

What the Black community needs more than anything is UNITY.

Not the unity that is some superficial description where all Black people are all doing the same thing at the same time – that’s unrealistic.

The unity that I’m referencing is a “functional” unity. A functional unity where representatives (leadership) from all segments of the community are working together around a common and collective agenda – I call this Collective Leadership.

A. Phillip Randolph stated: “At the banquet table of nature, there are no reserved seats.

You get what you can take and you keep what you can hold. If you can’t take anything, you won’t get anything, and if you can’t hold anything, you won’t keep anything.

And you can’t take anything without organization.” Restated, “Nobody is going to give us anything – we must take it; we must organize ourselves.” It’s Time to Unite!!

Black people need functional unity now to restore some of the pre-integration economic gains we achieved over the 75 years after the emancipation of our people (1865 – 1960).

Those gains followed more than 300 years of brutal chattel slavery and, in spite of numerous challenges, we made tremendous economic gains in a very short term.

While we didn’t have capital, what we did have was each other.

In many of the cities where we lived, especially if you’re of a certain age (50+), we all have memories of a thriving Black community. We remember when we “Did for Self.”

Jim Crow, comprehensive discrimination, terroristic violence, police brutality, or the lack of capital kills, did not kill our economic growth, integration did.

What we see today is the full manifestation of those losses.

There are many issues worthy of in-depth studies, but, in my opinion, “integration” has had a damaging economic impact on our community and has thwarted our economic growth as a group.

While I’m for challenging the laws and discrimination practices that was in full swing during that time, we should’ve never abandoned our community and integrated our scarce resources – our money – because real integration was never achieved.

We are more segregated today with 75% of all Blacks living in approximately 30 cities and within those cities; we are relegated to predominately all-Black neighborhoods.

The Black flight of our most economically mobile ultimately produced communities that are predominantly Black and poor. I believe this group, more than any other, took their eyes off the prize and tried to assimilate into American mainstream; unfortunately, this was never achieved. Blacks were getting positions in the private sector that they had never gotten before and with the new found political power, Blacks were able to make progress within the public sector as well.

Black flight was an economic boom but not for Black people.

Blacks who moved into all white neighborhoods set off a gigantic movement of people that ultimately created the suburbs (new neighborhoods) – for the most part, blacks moved in and whites moved out.

This effort was further exacerbated by massive public subsidies in the form of highways, federally backed mortgages, and significant tax incentives which were given to employers who relocated to the suburbs.

These actions caused massive disinvestment within our urban cities also creating majority minority populations.

Blacks didn’t benefit from, but in fact, incurred the wrath of this movement.

This was a massive economic engine for many in the majority community (i.e. developers, builders, bankers, real estate brokers, etc.) and I fundamentally believe that what fueled this from a Black perspective is the delusion of the American dream coupled with a significant level of the belief in Black Inferiority and White superiority (their ice is colder).

Many, especially within social settings, began to define our success by how far we are away from our people.

We began to hear comments like: “I’m the only Black on this block” – in many cases not for long; “My child is the only Black at this school”, etc. etc.

Those that “got out” were deemed to be successful and it became a badge of honor for many Blacks; however, the reality is integration was extremely costly to the fabric of our community.

Getting out of our neighborhood became the name of the game, not staying and fixing whatever ailments our community has or has always had.

No one will do for us what we must do for ourselves.

In addition, in many of these cities, the combination of both white and black flight produced a disproportionate number of citizens in need of public assistance with families and children living in poverty; a decline of the public school system negatively impacting the labor market; a shrinking tax base due to long-term economic disinvestment of businesses due to higher cost of doing business (i.e. higher taxes, increased violence, anemic labor market, etc.); a ballooning of public safety budget (i.e. police, courts, prisons, judges, district attorneys, probation officers, staff, etc.) due to increased violence and underground economy; and, in many cases reduction in federal and state resources because many of the legislators represent a belief that these cities are supposed to be on their own.