Month: February 2016

Month: February 2016


One common misconception I seem to constantly run into when discussing reparatory justice is the idea that there is only one way in which such justice can be delivered – through a lump sum given to the descendants of slaves. This is not the case. Our call for reparations is for this nation to invest in the Black community so that we may, in turn, invest in ourselves. This investment could come in the form of a federally funded scholarship fund, giving Blacks access to legitimate and ethical mortgages, or even supplying fair loan agreements to Black-owned businesses.

While reparatory justice is imperative, it is also necessary to equip those within our community with economic savvy. Earning wealth is one thing, but being financially literate enough to retain and multiply said wealth is another. While income growth for Blacks continues to rise, the wealth gap between Blacks and whites remains larger than ever. Much of this has to do with investing practices (or lack thereof) of those within our community.

It’s difficult to grow money into wealth when you are not sure how to go about doing so or do not trust many banking systems due to past discriminatory practices. Therefore, financial literacy programs (as outlined in the Black Youth Project 100’s Agenda to Build Black Futures) and integration of said programs into current community banking systems would be greatly beneficial.

In recent news, fifteen Black entrepreneurs opened accounts at Washington, D.C.’s oldest Black-owned bank, Industrial Bank, in an effort to encourage the Black community to invest in itself. By keeping the Black dollar within the community for an extended period of time, generating collective wealth has a greater possibility of becoming a reality.

In 2014 the NAACP reported that while the Black community had $1 trillion in buying power, the Black dollar only stayed in the community up to six hours. Those six hours in comparison to the Jewish communities where the Jewish dollar circulates for twenty days and in Asian communities where the Asian dollar circulates for approximately a month.

Once again, the discussion of learning sage investment practices is key, as I believe it also leads to greater knowledge about how to grow the Black dollar within its respective community. The Black community is consistently exploited by big business as we are constantly inundated with messaging conveying the idea that these corporations, mega-banks, and other white-owned establishments, deserve our dollar. I believe it’s time to lift up our own community by getting smart fiscally and supporting our own.

By recycling the dollar within our own communities we increase the profits earned by Black-owned businesses that, in turn, reinvest in the community in a variety of ways (e.g., living and paying taxes there, employing the population that lives there, etc.). This would cause the demand for Black-owned establishments to rise, and would ultimately complete the cycle of encouraging others to open new businesses to do the same.

However, the promised success of this plan is contingent upon the initial investment. Reparatory justice that addresses multiple forms of financial discrimination is paramount. Reparations should no longer be seen as a handout, but as a hand up to a level playing field where the Black community has a fair chance at winning.

[1] Desilver, Drew. “Black Incomes Are Up, but Wealth Isn’t”

[2] Fletcher, Michael A. “The Big Difference Between How Wealthy African-Americans and Whites Investors Treat Their Money”

[3] Stitt, Robert. “Fifteen Black Entrepreneurs Make a Big Deposit In a Black-Owned Bank”


Currently the D.C. Attorney General is prosecuting a case that represents the future for affordable housing in D.C. In Congress Heights, just 5 miles from the Capitol, tenants are battling slum-like conditions. Now, if the Attorney General is successful, these tenants could gain ownership of their homes, converting them into a tenant-owned housing development.

With a scenic river view of the Capitol, the Southeastern quadrant of D.C. represents the next frontier for gentrification. And here, in the majority Black neighborhood of Congress Heights, the disparities are brutally evident: a landlord (responsible for a year-long bedbug infestation and collapsed roof) is attempting to expel a community of longtime residents to make room for a new, richer clientele.

Many groups in D.C. identify tenant-owned housing as the most effective response to rising housing prices and displacement in D.C. Home ownership has been linked to higher educational outcomes for children, wealth accumulation for families, and lower demonstrated levels of stress. However, the speculative nature of the D.C. housing market makes it difficult for long-time renters to buy into the market and benefit from the growth.

These advantages are recognized in the Agenda to Build Black Futures, a recent report by Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100). This flagship document of the national Black youth movement highlights tenant-owned housing as a key factor in stabilizing and strengthening Black communities.

This is reinforced by the People’s Platform, a citywide campaign offering a comprehensive plane to secure affordable housing and quality jobs for longtime D.C. residents. They identify the tools already available to the City to enable longtime renters to transition into homeownership.

One tool is the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA), legislation intended to empower renters to purchase their homes. However, as recognized by council member Elissa Silverman at the Thursday night court hearing, this instrument is unwieldy and underutilized. Using available funds from the Housing Production Trust Fund, the City should facilitate the use of TOPA and enable tenants to buy their homes.

This hearing represents a pivotal moment for the city. Black homeownership rates in D.C. are dropping dramatically, currently at levels lower than that of 1990. And, speculation is driving up housing costs at astonishing rates creating even larger barriers to homeownership.

If the Attorney General is successful, this community can claim ownership of its home and participate in the growth and development of D.C. If not, this is another sad example of D.C. residents losing their homes and the City losing control of the housing market.