Made in America

To whom it may concern, 

My name is Lawrence Jackson and I am African-American, I am colored, but I am, in my own definition Black. Throughout my life, I have been shot at, I have friends who have killed people, friends who have been killed. Two times, I’ve been within 100 yards of a shooting, the most recent one, hit me hard. Not only was it around the corner from my office, not only did I hear the shots, not only because I saw my first dead body, but because it was Joshua Williams, a young football player who was killed.

 

As I stood and watched the cops tape off the crime scene, and look over his body and the surrounding evidence I thought about my life. I thought about all of the Black men who risk death every day at the hands of another black man. I thought about how my uncle has to support his wife, who’s son was killed senselessly on 4th of July two years ago. I thought about the moms and dads across our own community that bury kids everyday, from the hands of another young Black man. Right now, I think about the families of all the young men who recently have been killed by cops, I think about how White America is suddenly, self-admittedly realizing that Blacks have been the target of white officer brutality, this entire time. I think about all of the families who have had to quietly endure unexplained deaths by the hands of the police. I see the action that the country is taking. Vigils for both, the officers slain in Texas and the Black men who were slain. I see protest, I see #BlackLivesMatter everywhere, I see social media post from athletes, celebrities and social influencers. Most of them having to say something to be politically correct, to release a statement of sorts. But what all of this makes me think about is, What are we really doing? What are we fighting for? What are we focused on?

 

I can tell you that based on the numbers as a race, we have a lot of pressing needs within our community that require a lot of energy and man power. Namely, breaking the cycle of poverty. The cycle of poverty is at the root of most our issues as a race, the sociological conditions of poverty, leads to a series of events with predictable outcomes. Poor academic performance, high incarceration rates, high rates of single moms, high rates of pregnancy 25 and below, health issues. But the BLACK ON BLACK violence. These numbers are real and are numbers that speak to a war. A war that’s decimating our community. For Black Men ages 15-34, the number one cause of death is homicide.

 

 

From 2009-2012 an average of 4,472 Black men were killed by other Black men. During that same period, an average of 112 Black men were killed by cops justified or unjustified. In Chicago, from 2001-2015 there were 7,401+ deaths, during those same dates, throughout Operation Iraqi Freedom there were 4,815 deaths and throughout Operation Enduring Freedom, there were, 3,506 deaths. This is Chicago alone and does not include LA, DC, Atlanta, Florida, Texas or any other area heavily under duress of gang violence. Within our community the Black male is a critical piece in the development of our race. The homicide rates as well as the incarceration rates make Black males an endangered species. Being wiped out in enormous numbers.

 

There’s also the issue of health within our community. Heart Disease, Cancer and Stroke are our leading killers, in large part these are lifestyle diseases. Though these issues effect other communities, it’s critical in our community because of the lack of healthy food options we have, as well as the cost to eat well. The health issue is very wide and a separate piece but, between the black on black violence and the health issues, we are experiencing lower and lower life expectancy rates. We can make a difference in the life expectancy of many, through group effort across multiple fields. Providing access to knowledge and information as well as support systems. But there’s still the biggest problem of all. OPPORTUNITY. Or the lack thereof.

 

 

In Black America we suffer from what is called, ‘The Opportunity Gap’. Right now, it’s easier to aspire to be a rapper or an athlete, than to be an investment banker, an architect or a doctor. There are tons of youth sports leagues in inner city communities, tons of opportunities to participate in tons of different athletic activities…but what about learning centers? Where do I go if I am an eighth grader in LA and I want to be an entrepreneur? Where do I go if I want to be a doctor and nobody in my family has even gone to college? Where do I go if I want to learn to code? These lack of opportunities aren’t just regulated to kids.

 

As an adult, we all have dreams too. Many of us strive to bring an idea or a product to reality, to add something to society. Do you know how hard it is to get a loan these days? How about a loan for someone who doesn’t have over X amount in liquid assets, who happens to be Black and under 45? What about a single mother who works a job during the day but runs her own business during her off hours? What about the business owner paying $375 a month for a $3,000 loan? The metrics to qualify for a loan, put a majority of Blacks outside the approval range of a loan. In fact, I can’t even get my financial institution, Sun Trust to sit down with me to take out a business loan separate from our personal business.

 

I don’t know about you, but when I look at it, it saddens me because it sure sounds so DAMN hard to be Black in America. It’s so easy to understand from a sociological perspective, why a sense of hopelessness is so prevalent within the community. With so many obstacles and hurdles to go through to even have an opportunity, why even start? Why begin when the only thing you can see is failure? I say, because, there is hope. More importantly than hope is the real opportunity that we have, as a race to come together and support each other in our effort to grow.

 

Black America in 2019-2020, will have an estimated purchase power of $1.4 trillion dollars, this is a great number, it would be good for the 15th strongest economy in the world based off G.D.P., but only 2 cents on every dollar spent by a Black person goes to supporting a Black owned business. This is because only 7% of small businesses are owned by Black people, thus 93% of your purchase options are non-Black owned options. What this leads to is one of the lowest inner-community dollar circulation rates. Within the Asian community, the Asian dollar circulates for 21 days, within the White community it circulates for 17 days, for the Black community its circulates for 6 hours. How are we possibly going to advance as a race and culture, when we are giving away 98% of our money? From that money that we spend, what good is being done by those receiving it? How are they giving back to us? I mean after all, only 3% of advertising budgets goes to targeting the Black consumer yet we fork over 98% of our money. This is a great return for them, but a tremendous disadvantage for us. What we need to become, are creators and not merely enhancers to existing systems. Adding value to brands in the form of marketing deals, which gets more people to buy more products, but where does it stop? In a capitalistic society, it never does. There’s always a demand for cheap labor, there’s always a demand for a replaceable worker. The lack of resources within our community makes it a farm system of unskilled labor, in many instances there are 3 paths, the streets, entertainment or sports. Unfortunately, within our community, its easier to attain success on those routes than through learning a trade or a skill.

 

Looking at the top 12 wealthiest Black and White Americans there are interesting things to be seen as it relates to this conversation. The 12 wealthiest Black Americans are, from lowest to highest: Bill Cosby at $380 million, Tyler Perry, Beyonce, Magic Johnson, Mariah Carey, Jay Z, Robert Johnson, Tiger Woods, Diddy, Dr. Dre, Jordan and lastly Oprah at $3 billion. The top 12 White Americans are Rob Walton at $33 billion, Jim Walton, Sergey Brin, Larry Page, Michael Bloomberg, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Ellison, Charles Koch, David Koch, Jeff Bezzos, Warren Buffet and lastly Bill Gates at $87.4 billion. The youngest Black on the list is Beyonce at 34, worth $450 million, the youngest White on the list is Mark Zuckerberg at 31, worth $42.8 billion. The White American list also has two sets of brothers in the top 12. All 24 members are self-made but the relativity of self-made lies in the origin of the wealth. For Blacks, sports and entertainment lead the way, for wealth creation. For Whites, technology, retail and investments lead the way. The sum total of the 12 richest Blacks doesn’t even equal the total of Rob Walton by himself, who shares in the wealth with other family members, his brother sits at number 11 on the list with $34 billion.

 

 

These numbers suggest to me that we need to open up more opportunities to create, to develop more skills across more industries. Most people look at the disparities and get discouraged, but I see it as a great opportunity. Black culture is the engine of the American economy, driving both sports and entertainment, as well as driving the national discourse on social media.We have the wealth, influence and opportunity to build our own businesses, recirculate the Black purchase power back within our own community and using that money to address the many needs stemming from the root of the deeper systemic problem, POVERTY. Creating opportunities and fostering a sense of hope is the surest way to progress. For me, I am not protesting, I am not hash tagging BlackLivesMatter or posting personal statement tweets.

 

Instead, I am diligently working on doing something about it. I’m opening my first business in the heart of my hometown Inglewood Ca, looking to create jobs and support both a new age youth football league and a literacy through music and poetry program, I’m the CEO and majority shareholder of Homemade Harvey, a revolutionary fruit product, managing nationwide growth, as well as looking to use it as a vehicle to introduce a healthy product and convenient option to whole fruit, and candy within our community. I’m realizing that we don’t need to rise up, we need to RISE from within. We need to re-imagine individual success and excellence as a race and culture. Black Thrive should be the new Black Pride. No longer is it just good enough to be Black and Be Proud, don’t matter how loud you say it. We are fighting a different battle, it’s not one of equality, it’s one of opportunity. Opportunity that we can create within our own community. We need to band together from top to bottom and commit to breaking the cycle of poverty and creating opportunities within our own communities. We need to love each other and stop killing each other, we need to create and enforce new paradigms of thought, instead of reinforcing culturally inhibiting paradigms of thought. Let’s support each other as we mourn the loss of lives of our fellow loved ones, but lets redirect our energy to rebuilding the infrastructure of our own community. We need to THRIVE. We are all proud to be Black, we’ve already said it loud. It’s a new time. It’s time for #BlackThrive.

Sincerly Yours,

                                A young Black man wanting to see a change and willing to walk the walk on action. 

 

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