By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
As the presidential election draws nearer, the list of Democratic candidates has begun to dwindle. For Mike Bloomberg, who announced his campaign in November 2019, things are still going strong.
This past Saturday, the Bloomberg campaign held two events in Wisconsin. In Madison, the Bloomberg campaign opened its campaign office, and in Milwaukee a conversation was held at America’s Black Holocaust Museum in regard to the Greenwood Initiative.
Although Bloomberg himself did not attend the events, actor Michael Douglas appeared in Madison and Karen Freeman-Wilson, the former mayor of Gary, Indiana spoke in Milwaukee.
To kick off the event, the community watched Bloomberg’s speech where he introduced the Greenwood Initiative. The video is available to watch on YouTube.
Bloomberg first introduced the Greenwood Initiative in mid-January in Greenwood, a residential neighborhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma. During the 20th century, Greenwood was known for its black-owned businesses, it was even nicknamed Black Wall Street. However, in 1921, an event, which later became known as the Black Wall Street Massacre, obliterated the businesses.
In addition to destroying the livelihood of a majority of the blacks living in Greenwood, it also claimed the lives of many. According to ABC, an estimated 300 people died during the 16-hour massacre.
During his speech, Bloomberg said that over 6,000 arrests were made, but that only black residents were the ones in handcuffs.
Bloomberg essentially wants to bring Black Wall Street back but on a national scale. The Greenwood Initiative is designed to help create generational wealth for black Americans through economic empowerment. The plan has three major goals. Over the next decade, Bloomberg wants to help one million new black Americans become homeowners and to open 100,000 new black-owned businesses.
The third goal is to help black families triple their wealth. As part of this initiative, Bloomberg plans invest $70 billion to the country’s 100 most disadvantaged neighborhoods.
“Today the typical black family in America owns one-tenth the wealth of the typical white family,” Bloomberg said in his speech.
It’s a disgrace, he said, adding that its due to the exploitation of slavery, sharecropping, Jim Crow, segregation and redlining. The system has allowed for white Americans to profit from black Americans causing the loss of wealth for generations, Bloomberg said.
“That [The Greenwood Initiative] will reduce but not eliminate the wealth gap between black and white families,” Bloomberg said. “But it will build the momentum we need to close entirely someday.”
Bloomberg said that the goals of the initiative are achievable that as president he can and will get done.
After the video, former-mayor Freeman-Wilson took to the stand. Freeman-Wilson said that Bloomberg is the only candidate to acknowledge specific turning points in African American history and then offer policies and solutions to help fix the damage.
She said that when people ask her if she’s supporting Bloomberg, she responds without hesitation that she is. Freeman-Wilson explained that she knew Bloomberg should run and not simply because of his beliefs and policies.
He chose to invest in neighborhoods like Gary, Tulsa and Detroit, she said.
“He understood that the only way to remove economic and racial disparities is to make a meaningful investment,” she said.
As of right now, the plan is to invest $70 billion to disadvantaged communities. Freeman-Wilson said Bloomberg plans to look at cities that need it the most. The list could potentially include Milwaukee but will also examine cities in the historic south.
That investment would be like an additional part of what agencies such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development already utilize for certain communities, she said.
The Bloomberg campaign wants to focus and coordinate its investments, she said. Freeman-Wilson said that when Bloomberg came to Gary, Indiana he invested in the art program but also in the other efforts such as the city’s block club initiative.
His strength is that he builds upon existing programs to allow them to continue to grow. Some of these programs may already receive federal and state dollars, but his investment helps them leverage their capabilities.
“All of this isn’t going to happen through federal investment alone, you’re going to need the private investments,” she said.
Freeman-Wilson added that even if Bloomberg doesn’t agree with someone or something, he’s always willing to listen and that he acknowledges his mistakes.
“The soul of this nation is at stake because we need someone who understands the importance of bringing people together,” Freeman-Wilson said.