Monday, October 19, 2009

Reparations all Americans will support - guaranteed!

Most reparation proposals call for a one-time payment ranging from $40,000 - $50,000 per person. That's about $700 a year over a person's lifetime (70 years). My unique proposal, that is guaranteed to be supported by all Americans, will generate $3,000 - $6,000 a year or $210,000 - $420,000 over a person's lifetime, eliminate poverty/homelessness and strengthen the black community.


This single post will take about 30 minutes to read and I assure you that it is well worth it. But, if you want to get right to the basic elements of my proposal, then scroll down to the section on the legacy and reparations which will take about 5 minutes to read. However, if you have the time and want the full impact, including solving poverty, education and healthcare, then start from the very beginning.

Help me spread the word!! After reading this blog, I am confident that you will find that this is a much better proposal than your typical reparations plan. So, after reading this discussion, if you agree, I ask you to do two things to help me spread this message. Please send my blog to as many of your friends that you can. Also, visit my complete profile to the right, click on my web page and preview videos featuring some bold and progressive ambient-funk music.

Introduction I have just one goal for this conversation. That is, to get Black America talking to one another and consider a creative way to get the reparations it says it is owed and use it’s resources (finances and experience/knowledge) to solve its problems.

Before I begin this conversation, I would like to first say thanks to my parents, Mabel Hutton and Samuel Stevenson for all of their love, support and guidance over the years. Both of you have been tremendous parents and mentors. I love and appreciate you very much.

Elise Buik, Maria Weist, Joe Haggerty. You have been tremendous leaders of United Way. Thanks so much for allowing me to be a member of your team. Elise, Maria and Catherine Suitor, thanks for your fairness/support during the summer of 2008 – one of my most challenging experiences.

To the Combined Federal Campaign LFCC and cabinet, all of you folks are very special. Kathrene Hansen, Glen Banks, Patricia Kirk-McAlpine, Sakae Hawley, Eric Richardson, Carol Harris, Tom Reid, Patricia Morris, Mia Triplett, Brian Cahill and many, many others. It has been a tremendous pleasure supporting you these past 10 years.

To a fabulous group of guys known as the Motivated Men – I admire your dedication in support of Dorsey High School.

My dear friends: Rod Amos, Robin Frederick, Marcia Salvary, Gabriel Argumaniz, Jeff Janis and Yogi Delaney. Each of you are special to me in your own way. Thanks so much for your personal and professional partnership. You all are valued friends.

To my readers, thanks for taking time to read my thoughts on obtaining reparations and improving the collective lives of Black Americans.

As I begin, I would like to share that I chose to write this as if I was having a personal conversation with you. Why? Because I found this was the most comfortable way for me to share and discuss my ideas – in just plain and simple language.

As I am making my illustrations, even though I will be referring to the Los Angeles community frequently, please keep in mind, this could be any metropolitan city in America.

But, before officially getting started, please understand, I am not representing United Way, The Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) or any other person or organization. These are my personal thoughts, and mine only.

Secondly, I am not specifically advocating the strategies mentioned to solve homelessness or poverty. You may think that they are crazy and wacky. Even out of this world. Guess what. They are!! But my only point is to illustrate what could be accomplished with some creative, out of the box thinking.

Finally, this conversation is not about criticizing any organization or any past or current program or service. I am just putting forth some new ideas on how we might address these issues in the future and to get folks talking to one another.


Over my 20+ year career with United Way, I have been involved with raising money to address and solve some of our country’s most pressing issues. During this time, I have had the opportunity to read and analyze a number of reports about the overall health of the black community. And while there has been tremendous, individual gains in numerous areas such as business, science, medicine, education, finance, athletics, entertainment, politics and government, there are still way too many individuals who live in poverty, drop out of high school, are homeless, in prison or growing up without two parents.

With this conversation, my main goal is to show Black America, if it works together in a creative way, it can obtain reparations and solve most of it’s pressing issues.

I will briefly talk about these issues in new ways and offer some innovated thinking on how they may be addressed. As I shared before, I’m not challenging any programs that have been put into place in the past, but I will offer a different perspective and attempt to spark some new ideas on how to move forward.

It is my hope that this new way of looking at ourselves and our issues, these ideas will spark conversations between blacks at all levels throughout America and be considered by those who have the power and influence to make sure that a serious attempt is made to address them. Whether you are a current or future public or business leader, a current or future religious figure, politician or community organizer, this conversation will illustrate the power of a common purpose, building an empire and tackling one issue at a time. Yes, you heard right! I said something about building an empire, I will explain later.

So, where am I going from here? First I will tell you about myself and how my background has shaped my current thinking about the key issues facing the black community. I will then talk about the history and benefits of empires, historic and current, and discuss how they may benefit Black America in getting reparations. I will then illustrate how wealthy Black Americans really are, and how with this wealth, along with some out of the box, wacky thinking, our major problems could be solved. To illustrate my overall point, I will specifically show how the homeless problem could be solved in less than 5 years. Yes, with a wacky idea.

Finally, I will share some thoughts, again maybe some crazy ideas, on how the issues of poverty, education, gangs and healthcare might be addressed and end with talking about how an established empire might be useful in solving our key issues. Don’t worry, it’s not what you think, but bear with me. I’ll get to that. So, if you are ready, let’s continue.

Demetrius Stevenson Currently I am the Director of the Combined Federal Campaign of SoCal for United Way of Greater Los Angeles. I joined United Way in 1989 and have developed, implemented and managed fundraising strategies for 22, multi-million dollar corporate and employee (private & public) fundraising campaigns, raising over $110 million for local, national and international charities. I have managed 6 professional fundraisers and recruited, organized and managed over 6,000 fundraising volunteers.

After graduating from the University of Phoenix with my Masters Degree in Business Administration in 1988, I served as a part-time adjunct professor with the University Of Phoenix (1988-1999). I taught courses in the study of management techniques, basic mathematics and provided instruction in Skills for Lifelong Learning, providing core competencies for adult learners. I successfully achieved curriculum objectives and student outcomes with over 1,200 classroom hours.

From 1994 - 1997 I served as a volunteer math tutor at Bunch Middle School in Los Angeles and was an active participant, as a math and reading tutor, for the Adopt-A-School program at Hobart Elementary School. I also conducted “Economics of Staying in School” seminars for Jr. Achievement at local Jr. high and middle schools in the Greater Los Angeles area and developed and conducted "Math Enrichment" seminars, at Watts Willowbrook middle school, to prepare 30 students for the California Achievement Examination.

On a more personal note, I enjoy various forms of music including classical, funk, jazz and blues. Swimming, rollerskating and hiking are some of my favorite activities and I received numerous medals and trophies for competitive swimming activities during elementary, Jr. High, high school and with the United States Masters Swimming organization. And I have created some cool, perhaps strange experimental music. You can find me on Facebook & You Tube (bluecosmosmusic).

So basically, you can say I am a fundraiser and educator by profession – maybe even a community organizer since I have been heavily involved with recruiting and organizing volunteers. I am not a high-powered business executive, nor am I a social worker or urban/community planner. Therefore, in this conversation, I will not be offering concrete details on any specific programs or systems to solve any of the issues I discuss. This is not my area of expertise.

What I do feel that I am pretty good at is looking at a problem (community issue) in its most basic form, offering new and innovative thinking (wacky ideas), possible solutions and presenting them in a manner that is clear and seems possible. Now, sometimes I may make the solutions seem too simple, but this is because it is my personal belief that in general, while the solution may be easy enough, as humans with all of our insecurities, egos, lack of self respect and competitive nature, we make solving problems much harder than we need to. Ok, enough of me for now. Let’s continue and I’ll share some more information about me during the conversation.

But, before moving on, let me share this right here. We all know that we (blacks) have a significant number of experts in business/finance, law, education, technology, child/youth development, psychology, mental health, social work, law enforcement, community organizing, etc. It is my firm belief that, collectively, these experts can design, development, implement and effectively manage systems, programs and services to solve our issues.

The insights that I will share may not necessarily be the best idea or thought. In fact, as I mentioned, you may find them crazy and wacky. But, that is not my point or goal. My only point is to illustrate that if we utilize our collective resources (knowledge/experience & finances), in a creative way, we can get reparations and make a significant improvement in the lives of not only Black America, but America in general.

The Issues Alright, let’s talk briefly about the state of Black America. I will not get into all of the specifics, because with technology and daily news reports, we all know what the issues are. High poverty rate, low education achievement and graduation rates, too many prisoners, to much crime, relative poor health, way too many homeless, etc. But if you must have specific figures you can always use the internet and type in Black America, state of Black America, blacks in America, etc and find all of the information. In fact, each year the National Urban League publishes a report called the State of Black America that it prepares for the President of the United States. And, if you look at the number of reports available, you will see that while individual gains have been significant, collectively, blacks are no better off than the day that King died.

Since my 20+ year career has been spent in Los Angeles, let me talk about this community for a second, where the following information is quoted from the State of Black Los Angeles report (July 2005), prepared by The Los Angeles Urban League and United Way of Greater Los Angeles.

There are approximately 1.0 million blacks in Los Angeles county where they make up 10% of the overall population. 24% of blacks in Los Angeles live in poverty ($11,000 for 1 person, or $22,000 for a family of 4) and the median household income for blacks is $32,000. 14% is unemployed and 13% receive public assistance.

Of the nearly 80,000 homeless individuals every night in Los Angeles county, 30% or about 24,000 are black.

When it comes to education, 47% attend some college, but only 18% of blacks in Los Angeles have a college degree. 56% of black high school students graduate with their class in 4 years and 32% take college preparation courses.

Crime! 13% of black men, age 18-40 in California are incarcerated. Nearly 25% of school dropouts are incarcerated. I don’t think anything else needs to be said here.

There is so much more information in this report, but I think you get the picture. In fact, you already knew the picture. I just wanted to briefly cover some information that will be used later in this conversation.

As you can see, there are a lot of issues to be addressed here. Compared to other metropolitan cities, blacks in Los Angeles county make up a smaller percentage of the population. In New York, blacks make up 25% of the population, Washington DC, they are 26% of the population. In Chicago, 18%, in Atlanta, 29%, in Detroit, 23% and Philadelphia, 20%.

What does this mean? Well I’m not sure if it really means anything specifically, because if you look at the state of blacks in other metropolitan areas, they are facing the same issues, probably somewhat to the same degree as in Los Angeles.

I bring this up because again, this could be any metropolitan city in America and eventually, I will talk briefly about how we might begin considering a national effort to address these issues.

Empires Throughout world history, when various groups of people wanted to look after each other, protect themselves, maintain their culture and advance economically, they would create an empire. Yes, there is that word again. By the way, I would encourage you to go to the internet, type in empires and research the history of this concept.

So, what exactly is an empire? Well traditionally, an empire was defined as a government that exercised political and/or military control over other people who were different from them, either in culture or race/ethnicity. Now there is some debate here, but generally, empires were not just about acquiring more land. They were more about spreading a government over new territory so that the “empire” could grow, advance and flourish. Basically so that the people within the empire could get richer and have an even better life. Check it out on the internet.

While history records numerous empires, the 3 largest in history were the Persian, Roman and Mongolian.

Under Darius and Xeres the Great, the Persian empire was the largest in the ancient world (AD). Based out of what we know today to be Iran, it covered most of the middle east and ended with the wars with Alexander the Great.

During its heyday, the Roman empire controlled most of Europe and large territories around the Mediterranean and accepted and tolerated most religions. It made Latin the official language and life was centered around the city of Rome and the famous 7 hills. The empire grew so large that it seemed too difficult to manage, so eventually it was divided into a Western and Eastern Roman Empire. The empires were eventually divided even more then reunited where Christianity was legalized and military men became the official rulers. Now, Greek was the adopted language and Latin influence decreased.

The Roman empire contributed the calendar, Christian institutions, extensive road system and modern astrology.

When I was in the 5th & 6th grades, whenever there was a bully who destroyed our toys, or just wanted to control everything, we used to say “quit acting like Genghis Khan”. Of course, we had no idea what we were really saying or where this phrase came from. But in 1996 it came to me.

My subscription with National Geographic brought me the December 1996 issue that discussed the Mongols and its leader Genghis Khan. Of all empires, the Mongolian empire was the largest geographical empire the world as ever seen. It went from eastern Europe and spread all across Asia, covering about 1/5 of the entire land and approximately 100 million people. In fact, it is the only empire to be considered a world empire. Under Genghis Khan, it was twice the size of the Roman empire and he was the first non-Chinese to control China. This empire was tolerant of most religions and valued commercial and trade agreements with its neighbors.

Of all empires, it was considered to have caused the most destruction. Historians estimate that 40 million people were killed during wars with the Mongolians and Persia went from a population of 2.5 million to about 250,000. The empire is said to have brought self-respect, dignity and pride to the Mongolian people.

Now, some people say that there is a fourth empire, but there is no agreement on this topic. Some people believe that America is the fourth and current empire. Those who agree talk about the US military bases in nearly 40 countries and the promotion of democracy throughout the world.

Those who disagree say that the US is not seeking world domination, but does use it resources (money & military), to protect its interests and way of life.

So, what does this have to do with our conversation? We’ll see in the next section.

A Black Empire!!
I’m the type of person to get right to the point, so what does the previous conversation have to do with Black America? What I am about to say is that there are some elements to the concept of an empire that I feel would be beneficial to Black America. Now you and I both know that I am not about to suggest that Black America take up arms and attempt to control anything or anybody.

As I shared before, go to the internet and read up on empires. While you will learn about war, murder, intrigue, scandals, you will also learn about clear goals, a common purpose and controlling your destiny. Elements that I feel that Black America could benefit from.

As I shared before, one of my goals is to get Black America to look at itself a little differently. So, check this out. How rich do you think Black America really is? Well, it is estimated that each year, a total of $600 - $800 billion passes through the hands of Black Americans. $600 billion in spending power. That’s $600,000,000,000. Ok, so what am I saying? Well look at it this way. If Blacks were to form their own “country”, say Black USA, it would be the 10th richest economy/country in the world as compared to the following list of top world economies:

Country ............. EconomyUSA ....................... $10,210,000,000,000 ( $10.2 trillion)
Japan .................... $ 4,159,000,000,000 ($ 4.1 trillion)
Germany .............. $ 1,900,000,000,000 ($ 1.9 trillion)
United Kingdom .. $ 1,400,000,000,000 ($ 1.4 trillion)
France .................. $ 1,300,000,000,000 ($ 1.3 trillion)
China ..................... $ 1,200,000,000,000 ($ 1.2 trillion)
Italy ...................... $ 1,100,000,000,000 ($ 1.1 trillion)
Canada .................. $ 700,000,000,000 ($ 700 billion)
Mexico .................. $ 620,000,000,000 ($ 620 billion)
Black USA ....... $ 600,000,000,000 ($ 600 billion)Spain ..................... $ 590,000,000,000 ($ 590 billion)
Brazil ..................... $ 500,000,000,000 ($ 500 billion)
India ...................... $ 490,000,000,000 ($ 490 billion)
Korea ..................... $ 420,000,000,000 ($ 420 billion)

source: 11/2/09

Now, if was sitting in front of you, I would say, think about that for a moment. So, think about that for a moment. The 10th richest nation in the world! That’s how rich Black America really is. Think about that!!

Now, I’m not going to suggest that black people think about uprooting from where they are currently living and move to the same state, but I will be asking that Black America consider what a major financial institution might mean to black people, reparations and this great country. Let’s look at something.

There are approximately 40 million (40,000,000) blacks in America. If next year, on average, every Black American invests $250 in a financial institution, say CFBA (Central Foundation of Black America), this institution would be worth $10,000,000,000 ($10 billion). Now following, I have shown a similar investment over time. If for the next 50 years, on average every Black American invests $250 (I know we can do more) each year, here is what we would have:

Year ............................... Size of foundation
1 ...................................... $ 10,000,000,000 ($ 10 billion)
5 ...................................... $ 50,000,000,000 ($ 50 billion)
10 .................................... $ 100,000,000,000 ($100 billion)
50 .................................... $ 500,000,000,000 ($500 billion)
100 ................................. $1,000,000,000,000 ($ 1 trillion)

Look at year 100. If this type of investment was conducted over a 100 year period (the same length of time the Urban League has been in business), the foundation would be worth at least $1 trillion ($1,000,000,000,000). Now, I say at least $1 trillion because I have not accounted for any interest earned on investments whatsoever.

If the annual investments earn 6% interest a year, the initial investment of $10 billion would add another $10 billion in 10-12 years. In 20 years, it would add at least another $40 billion. After 100 years, at least another $5 - $8 trillion would be added. Since I am a conservative individual, I’ll be real conservative and project the foundation to be worth $3 trillion. Being ultra, ultra conservative, accounting for no interest whatsoever, it would be $1 trillion.

Now, you might be saying ok, this sounds cool, but so what? Well, let me return to Los Angeles at this point and describe a similar campaign. Hear that word campaign? That’s the fundraiser in me. Remember, this could be any metropolitan city in America!

At 10% of the population in Los Angeles, there are approximately 1,000,000 (1 million) blacks in Los Angeles County. Here is what a similar campaign in Los Angeles would look like (keep in mind, this could be any city in America). If for the next 50 years, on average every Black American, in Los Angeles county, invest $1,000 (I'll be for real this time - we can do it) each year here is what we would have:

Year ............................ Size of foundation
1 .................................. $ 1,000,000,000 ($ 1 billion)
5 .................................. $ 5,000,000,000 ($ 5 billion)
10 ............................... $ 10,000,000,000 ($ 10 billion)
50 ............................... $ 50,000,000,000 ($ 50 billion)
100 ............................. $100,000,000,000 ($100 billion)

Again, I have not accounted for any interest earned on investments. If interest is accounted for, after 100 years, the fund could be worth at least $700,000,000,000 ($700 billion). This is Los Angeles county only!! Just think if we invested $2,000 as I know that we can.

So, what would this mean to the black community? Well let’s start looking at that with the next section.

The Foundation
By the way, let me briefly mention something about foundations. Basically, foundations are nonprofit companies that can be established to help the entire community, or address a specific issue. As you can have a foundation to save the environment, cure AIDS, cancer or diabetes, we can establish a foundation to solve homelessness or eliminate poverty or obtain reparations! Remember the campaign that could have a national foundation worth at least $50 billion in 5 years? Or a local foundation worth at least $5 billion in 5 years?

Well, here is a current list of the largest foundations in America.

Name ....................................................................SizeBill & Melinda Gates Foundation ............................$39.0 billion
The Ford Foundation .............................................$11.0 billion
J. Paul Getty Trust ................................................ $10.8 billion
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation .................$10.7 billion
W. K. Kellogg Foundation ...................................... $ 8.0 billion
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fundation ... $ 7.0 billion
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation ..................... $ 6.5 billion
Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation .................. $ 6.4 billion
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation .......... $ 6.3 billion
Lilly Endowment Inc. ........................................... $ 5.7 billion
The California Foundation ................................... $ 4.6 billion
The David and Lucile Packard Foundation ........... $ 4.6 billion
The Rockefeller Foundation .................................. $ 4.6 billion

source: 6/25/09

Yes folks! In five years, we could have one of the largest foundations in America. I’ll just let you think about that!!

Homelessness To begin illustrating what this type of financial campaign and institution might mean, let me start by making good on my promise to show you how the homeless problem could be solved with some out of the box thinking. You’ll probably say my thinking is way, way out of the box. That’s ok. It is!!

During the 1980’s, my uncle, living at the time in Hollywood, took in a homeless man whose name was Greg. After a period of time, my parents took responsibility for Greg in Riverside. While living with my 2 brothers in a second home owned by my parents, Greg became a part of our family in Riverside. While Greg did not work, having him around was not a problem. He basically just sat around all day, ate, slept, talked about how the man and the world was out to get him and called himself Jesus. One of my brothers would tease him and spray the driveway with water and say “Greg, if you are Jesus, walk across this water without leaving footprints”. Greg would just respond, “get thee behind me”. Being part of the family, my 2 brothers and parents looked after Greg until he died from a stroke.

Ok, back to the topic at hand. I chose to illustrate my thoughts with the homeless issue because this is one issue I saw addressed first hand while growing up. Also, because it is so visible in LA County, with 80,000 homeless each night, any significant progress would be seen immediately.

Let me first throw something out here, and talk to our churches, since this is the work that they really should be taking the lead on, feeding and housing the poor. I know of four large churches in the LA area that have a combined membership exceeding 40,000. Let’s say the leaders of these churches decided that they were going to end homelessness. Here is one of those out of the box, “wacky” ideas they might consider. The congregations would be divided into groups of 10, where each group of 10 would be responsible for 1 homeless person. With groups of 10, there would be 4,000 groups, with each group collectively responsible for helping one homeless person find housing, food, clothes and obtain basic services, etc.

So as you can see, with these four churches alone, the homeless population could be reduced by 4,000. Ok, so you are asking where will the money come from to support the homeless person? While it could come from tithe (in fact the Scriptures say that every 3 years, tithe should go to fatherless, widows, orphans- basically those who need assistance), I will show you another avenue in a moment.

Now let’s say all churches, temples, synagogues, mosques, halls, cathedrals, etc (all groups, not just blacks) got involved and let’s say that just 8% of the 10 million population in Los Angeles county, attend religious services. That would mean, membership would be about 800,000. Now we all know that membership in our churches, temples, halls, synagogues, mosques, etc. is much higher, but I’m playing it extremely safe. So, an 800,000 membership, divided into groups of 10 would mean 80,000 groups. Just enough groups to care for every single homeless person in Los Angeles county. Now I know that out of the 80,000 homeless individuals in Los Angeles county, some will just flat out refuse any type of assistance and a significant number of others will need much more critical and acute service than the average person or group of people could provide. But even if these “religious” groups could adequately service 20% - 50% of the homeless population. That would be significant. Don’t worry, I’m going to tell you where the money will come from.

First, let me take a moment to remind you of something I said early. I shared that I am not qualified to offer specific detailed program, services, systems, etc. to solve our issues. I’m not an expert social worker, or community/urban planner. What I can do is offer a fresh and innovative way of looking at an issue and come up with a possible, out of the box, solution. Remember, it is my wish that Black America starts looking at itself in a different manner and consider some creative ways to solve the problems that just don’t seem to be getting any better. I would like Black America to start talking to each other, and as a group, consider some new ways to make a difference. Much like the groups did throughout history when their empires were formed.

Speaking of an empire, what about that financial campaign just discussed? Well let’s see what that might be able to do about the homeless problem.

The Los Angeles Times on Thursday, October 29, 2009, reported that homelessness in Los Angeles county has dropped by 38% since 2007 to 42,694.

Since the previous State of Black Los Angeles report stated that 30% of the homeless population in Los Angeles county is black, I estimate there are currently about 13,000 homeless blacks. Now remember, after a 5 year campaign, CFBA, in Los Angeles county is now worth $5,000,000,000 ($5 billion). If the fund earned 10% interest each year, this would result in $500,000,000 available to address the homeless issue on an annual basis. This interest alone would mean that $38,000 is available for each homeless black individual. If running the program costs about 15%, then each homeless individual would be allocated over $32,000. Remember those “religious” groups of 10? Basically, from this campaign, each group would have about $32,000 to work with. Now, based on each individual case, some groups would need more than $32,000, others would need less. Please note, if the campaign was conducted for 10 years (or $2,000 was invested for 5 years), the total amount available, on average to each group would double to almost $60,000. I think a group of 10 people would be able to care for a homeless person with this amount of money available. What do you think? Someone in the group could provide/find housing, someone else, who might not be currently working, could look in on the homeless individual – and be paid, of course. Others could buy & deliver food and run other errands as necessary. Each group decides how best to provide service.

By the way, after a 10 year campaign, the fund would be worth about $10 billion, generating annual interest of $1 billion. Check this out. If you wanted to help 100% of the entire homeless population in LA (40,000), the $1 billion in interest would make $25,000 available for each of the 40,000 individuals on an annual basis. After expenses, each person, on average, could be allocated $21,000. People, we can solve the homeless problem if we really want to!! We just have to combine our resources and think outside the box.

Let me just say again, I leave the design and implementation of the systems, programs and services to the experts. Obviously the experts are more qualified than I am to design and implement an appropriate program – which is not my goal!! All I wanted to do is show what could be accomplished with some innovative, yes – somewhat wacky, out of the box thinking. The resources are available to solve this issue, if we as a people just decide it is something we want to do! So what do you think? Does it seem like I was able to show that the resources could be available if we set our minds to it? I certainly think so.


Eliminating Poverty
One day I was sitting in a meeting where the staff from United Way’s community investment department was giving a presentation on poverty. They shared that 24% of all blacks in Los Angeles live in poverty. That’s a single person living off of $11,000 a year, or a family of 4 living off of $22,000 a year. At the end of the presentation, I said somewhat jokingly, if families had 1 less child, the poverty rate would be cut in half. I really was joking, but at the same time, somewhat serious.

I am convinced that if the poverty issue could be solved, over 90% of the issues facing Black America would be solved. Based on study after study, there is a clear link between poverty and poor education, high crime rate & gang membership, teenage pregnancy and the high number of kids that drop out of high school.

With 1 million blacks in LA County where there is an average of 3.2 people per family, there are approximately 300,000 households. If 24% of the population lives in poverty, that means there are about 72,000 poor households.

Going back to our campaign, let’s look at the numbers a little more realistically. After 5 years, not accounting for any interest, the fund, in Los Angeles, would be worth $5 billion. If the fund earns 10% interest each year, the initial investment of $1 billion would add, at the very least, $100 million each year. The grand total after 5 years would be $5,500,000,000 ($5.5 billion). Please remember! Even though I am specifically talking about Los Angeles, this could be any metropolitan city in America!

So, what could this do about poverty? Well, after 5 years, the annual interest generated by this fund would be $550 million or nearly $7,500 for each poor family. If the campaign had run for 10 years, each poor family could receive nearly $15,000. Or, if on average, each black individual invests $2,000 for just 5 years, each poor family could receive nearly $15,000 a year from interest earned by the fund. That’s $15,000 a year for the rest of their lives. Did I hear someone say reparations?

So what does this mean? Basically it means that, in 5 years, if each poor family would receive an additional $15,000 in cash assistance, poverty, as currently defined, would be virtually eliminated. That’s right. No more poor families!!

Now we all know, you can’t just hand out money to folks. The way it works in this country, the best way to reduce or eliminate poverty is to create jobs and put people to work. Where there are gaps, you should then rely on charitable contributions.

With this effort, I am suggesting a combination of both. While the foundation itself will not create a significant number of jobs, the benefiting families should be required to earn the cash assistance and thus move out of poverty.

The reason you can’t just hand out this money is that, in general, if people knew that they could get paid for doing nothing, then everything stops. Nobody will want to work and we would not enjoy the things that we have. Cars, jewelry, music, cell phones, iPods, tithe, etc. And yes, no taxes would be available to pay for the current welfare programs we have today.

So, how will this cash assistance be earned? Well, it won’t be in the “traditional” manner. The goal here is to get people to make better decisions and take concrete steps to improve their lives, because they can’t receive this assistance forever – other families will come along. Again, there has been tremendous and significant individuals gains, but overall, the collective black community is still where it was over 40 years ago. So, things are just not working the way that we would like for them to. So perhaps it’s time for some new, out of the box thinking. We need to reduce the number of single parents, gang members and increase educational achievements and the high school graduation rate. Again, I’m not the expert. And, I am not advocating for these specific strategies. I merely want to illustrate what could be accomplished and get folks thinking and talking.

Consider this. To encourage a high achieving student or outstanding athlete to attend a certain school, we offer college scholarships. In order to encourage more positive behavior, better decision making and to help poor families get out of poverty, what if we offered “Positive Life” scholarships.

These scholarships (cash assistance), would basically serve as incentives, or additional tools that parents would have to help provide for the proper education of their children. For the at risk kids, the scholarships would serve as awards or incentives for making good decisions.

For the younger parent, the "scholarships" could be earned by ensuring their young kids are performing well in school. As long as the young kids earn good grades, the family receives assistance. They, the parents, could also earn the assistance by increasing their involvement at their kids’ school, cleaning up the community, by helping care for a homeless individual (I just thought I’d throw that in here), civic engagement, by increasing their educational accomplishments, etc.

As the at risk kids get older, they could earn assistance by earning good grades, joining positive youth groups instead of gangs, postponing pregnancy, community involvement, helping care for a homeless individual, etc.

Now, let me stop here. I know there are those who will say that it is not a good idea to “bribe” or pay someone for doing something that they should be doing anyways. In response I would say, I understand where you are coming from, but again, what we are currently doing is not working to well. Besides, we reward children for good behavior all the time with allowances, nice clothes, shoes, expensive toys, etc. It may not be actual cash payments, but it is not unheard of to “reward” good behavior. This is just some new thinking about ways to educate our youth and encourage more positive behavior and decision making.

Again, I’m not saying this is the best or only answer, I just wanted to show that we have the resources to eliminate poverty, if we could just come up with the right mix of programs and services. I know I’m sounding crazy, but hey!

During the height of discrimination, we established numerous Historic Black Colleges & Universities. Another idea might be to establish Positive Life Academies, through which young parents will learn effective parenting skills and at risk youth will learn how to make good decisions. Cash assistance can be earned by enrolling in and completing the program. We have the expertise to create these academies or any other effective program/service and the resources to make it work!

As I have illustrated, after 5 years, we can virtually eliminate poverty. Realistically, not all families would participate. But, if 50% of families would participate, there could be nearly $30,000, per year per family in cash assistance. This could only mean several things. A significant increase in educational achievements, a significant reduction in gang and criminal activity and at least a 50% reduction in poverty.

Before we move on, let’s dream for a second. If this campaign was conducted over a 100 year period (the same length of time the National Urban League has been in business), it would be worth nearly $700 billion in Los Angeles alone (remember, this could be any city). But, let’s be safe and say it is worth only half of that at $350 billion. Interest alone would generate $35 billion annually. With this amount of money, all black families in Los Angeles county (rich or poor) could be receiving nearly $100,000 per year. Did I hear someone say reparations again? This is money that will just roll in from interest earned on the US economy (supported by all Americans). More on that later.

As I keep saying, we have the resources to solve our problems. This money would not just be given away. Again, families would have to earn it by working in the community, helping at their school, looking after a homeless individual, civic engagement, etc.

We just have to combine our resources and think outside the box.

Healthcare Hope you don’t mind, but I just want to say a few words about healthcare. While there has been a lot of talk about health reform, this might be the easiest issue to tackle. News reports are saying that the cost of insuring those that don’t have health insurance would cost nearly $1.4 trillion (all Americans – not just black). Check this out!

Let’s be honest. The most effective health reform would be a change in our life style and diets. We all know that we smoke and drink too much, eat too much red meat, eat too little fruits and vegetables and get very little exercise and water.

It is estimated that we spend nearly $8,000 a year per citizen on healthcare. The most expensive medical conditions, costing $1.3 trillion a year, include: heart disease, cancer, hypertension and diabetes (all Americans). The main causes of these conditions are: too much smoking, meat, salt, too little fruit, vegetables, exercise and water.

Now we all know that not every black person is going to give up smoking, meat, salt, etc. But, what if either half did or on average we cut our consumption in half and increased our intake of fruit, vegetables, water and exercised more. We could cut our yearly healthcare expenses to about $4,000 per person. $4,000 times 40 million people equals a total savings of $160 billion. This is extra money that could be re-invested in our communities.

If all Americans (300 million) were to adopt a better life style and decrease their healthcare expense by $4,000, a total of $1.2 trillion would be saved. That’s just about the amount that experts are saying is needed to provide health insurance to all Americans.

From the community investment campaign, families and individuals could receive “scholarships” by enrolling in and completing healthful living courses and achieving certain health goals. These funds could also help pay for health club memberships or vouchers for healthy food.

People, we can solve this issue too, if we really want to!! Got to get out that box.

Look, my point is, even of you provided healthcare for everyone, if we continue with our current life style, all we will be doing is paying for people to go to the doctor, only to have the doctor tell them to eat less meat, quit smoking, drinking too much and eat more vegetables, eat more fruit, drink more water and get more exercise. Well, for the most part. (National Coalition on Health Care)

The Legacy & Reparations The empire that I see is not one that conquers land or people. I see one where people, through a common purpose, and some out of the box use of it’s resources (experience/knowledge & finances) conquers community problems.

Look. It’s been a struggle, and it certainly isn’t perfect, but America has given Blacks much in the areas of civil rights, integration, public assistance, affirmative action, etc. In return, Blacks have made tremendous gains and given this country so much in the areas of sports, music, medicine, business, science and government. Blacks have also given this country many inventions in areas such as food, communication, safety, transportation, and the list goes on and on. And let’s not forget our Historic Black Colleges & Universities, all started before the civil rights era!!

Now, I believe it is time to form a financial empire (bank or foundation) that could be used to help solve the community issues discussed in this conversation and obtain the reparations that blacks say is due them. Not only do we have the financial resources, we have the knowledge and expertise to effectively create and manage this enterprise. We have plenty of CEO’s and executives in banking, finance, investments and foundations. To plan, develop, deliver and manage the necessary programs and services, we have countless legal, community, educational and mental health experts available.

Just like there are virtual educational institutions, this could be a virtual community where the Central Bank/Foundation has offices throughout the country and community members, use technology to record and report the progress being made in their area.

Throughout this conversation I often referred to the interest that this enterprise would earn on its investments. This economic empire would have the resources to be a significant investor in American and international companies. It could be a major investor in other key economies such as Europe, Japan, China. And it could be a major player in helping other economies, such as Africa, come up to speed.

So what would this legacy mean? To the black community, it would mean a better educated and more prosperous and secure population. For the country at large, it would mean safer communities, less drain on public resources, which should also mean lower taxes. America would really love us then.

Now, I know people will say that it won’t work because of fraud, waste and less earnings on investments than projected. Well, I would say there is fraud and waste everywhere. You don’t get rid of your government because there is fraud and waste. You just work hard to minimize it as much as possible. Plus we can’t afford not to do anything. If you disagree with the ideas shared in this conversation, that’s ok. Again, I’m not the expert. But I would ask that you not only disagree, but offer some other solutions that could be considered.

And if the investments don’t earn the 10% as shared in this discussion ( I know it's aggressive), but earn say half at 5%, I would say that decreasing the number of people living in poverty or on the streets, by 50%, is still a worthwhile investment.

So, one more time. On a national basis, if this investment was made over 100 years (that same length of time that the National Urban League has been in business), this economic empire would be worth between $20 - $32 trillion. But, being conservative, let’s say that it is worth $12 trillion. Annual interest earned on investments would be about $1.2 trillion.

This means that every single black person in America, whether rich or poor, could be receiving additional income of $30,000 per year. This would definitely eliminate poverty.

So Demetrius, you said you would show how to get reparations. Well, I just did (all throughout this conversation)!! Read the previous paragraph again. Yes, each black person, whether rich or poor could be receiving additional income of $30,000 per year. But Demetrius, this is our money that we invested.

Yes, that’s true, but this is better than the reparations you probably had in mind. You were probably thinking about receiving a payment from the Federal government. Let’s be honest, that is not likely to happen. Even if it did, it would most likely be a one-time payment and would probably come with restrictions on how it could be used. It might be in the form of a tax break, reduced tuition for college (you would definitely have to go to college then), a voucher to receive a discount on a major purchase such as a car or home (if you qualified).

With this economic empire, the money would not be a one-time payment. It would be a payment that is made every year until you died. Then passed on. Additionally, no strings have to be attached.

Demetrius, this is not really reparations. Well, maybe not in the traditional sense, but it is a creative way to take advantage of the number one economy in the world and reap the greatest benefits. Plus, we had a saying at United Way that all money is good money. So, if other non-black individuals would like to contribute to your reparations, they can invest in this economic empire as well, resulting in increased benefits to the recipients. The money will just roll in from the investments. No specific work required.

Look at this. Let’s say about 10% of the US population (not including blacks) teamed up with the 40 million blacks and invested on average $2,000 a year for 10 years. These 60 million investors would create a financial empire worth $1.2 trillion.

So, here is the final reparations case. With all of these investors, after just 10 years, a national, economic empire, would be worth nearly $1.2 trillion. Annual interest earned would be in the neighborhood of $120 billion. This would mean, after just 10 years, every single black in America, whether rich or poor, could receive annual cash assistance of $3,000. That’s $210,000 over a lifetime (70 years) – 5 times more than what other reparation proposals advocate for, which on average is about $50,000 per person or $700 a year (over your lifetime).

With my proposal, a family of 4 (rich or poor) would receive approximately $12,000 per year. Now, this is not a lot of money. But, let’s be honest, not every single black needs this assistance. So, let’s say we would like to assist 50% of blacks, then each black would receive additional cash assistance of around $6,000 per year (that’s $420,000 over a life time – 10 times the amount you would receive from a government reparations program). Remember the poor families? If each member received an additional $6,000 per year and there are say, 4 members in each family, then each family would receive an additional $24,000 each year – forever (basically). Poverty eliminated!!

And check this out. Remember that all money is good money. So, with this empire, corporations can contribute to your reparations as well. Hoovers, an institution that tracks businesses, has a database of approximately 3.5 million American businesses.

The funds that businesses and other individuals contribute will just serve to sweeten the pot and would make for a solid reparations program that is supported by all Americans!!

People, I believe this is far better than any reparations that would be received from the government. Here you are receiving reparations from the world’s largest economy (all Americans are participating), forever (no one time payment). So basically, I am saying that with this type of investment, the reparations are earned from interest on the US economy (and other economies that the empire invests in), supported by those who believe in your cause. No formal strings attached, and the experts would have the freedom to develop the most appropriate and effective programs and services.

Again, this should not just be a handout. The legal, community, educational, financial and mental health experts would design the most appropriate systems, programs and services. Certainly the programs would result in cash payments in appropriate cases. In other cases, innovative “scholarships” could be earned and awarded for appropriate individual and collective behavior that results in a decrease in areas such as gang membership and the number of children born to young mothers or improvements in areas such as better grades and high school graduation rates. Innovative “scholarships” could be awarded to people and families who take concrete steps and make good, solid decisions.

Ok, so you are saying this sounds all good, but how do we get started? Well, collectively we have the expertise. What is needed is for an individual or institution to take the lead and get the word out. Basically we need a champion. We know how to promote and sell basketball shoes, music, videos, sports, etc. This would be just the same. Perhaps the NAACP, National Urban League or other appropriate institution could step up and take the lead.

Black America!! The resources are here if we can get out of the box.

Well. That's it. I truly hope you found this discussion beneficial. If you appreciate this discussion, please do 2 things for me. Please send this blog to as many of your friends as you can. And, check out streams of my cool, Soul-Ambient music tracks on Rhapsody, Napster or iTunes. Search for: Demetrius Stevenson, Sketches of Space & Rhythms of Space. Feel free to make a purchase or two.

Again, thanks for reading and for your support!! Demetrius B. Stevenson. Become my friend on Facebook.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Want Reparations? Blacks need an Empire!!

Black Economic Reparations!
A proposal all Americans Will Support - Guaranteed!!
by Demetrius B. Stevenson

Most reparation proposals call for a one-time payment ranging from $40,000 - $50,000 per person. That's about $700 a year over a person's life-time (70 years).

My unique proposal, that is guaranteed to be supported by all Americans, will generate $3,000 - $6,000 a year or $210,000 - $420,000 over a person's lifetime, eliminate poverty/homelessness and strengthen the black community.

Check it out. Look forward to hearing what you think.