Natural Investments hosted a webinar called “Black Economic Self-Determination: To Move Forward We Must Understand The Past” with Ed Whitfield of Seed Commons. Reconstruction, the period that followed the Civil War, was a time when attempts were made to repair our country and our economy from slavery. Reconstruction failed, and set us up for what we are experiencing now–a political, social and economic system based in white supremacy and white nationalist violence. The increasing racial wealth divide exacerbated by COVID, killings of Black people, flagrant racism under Trump, modern day red lining and the January 6th insurrection are all ways that we see and feel the vestiges of failed Reconstruction.
Posts Tagged ‘racial justice’
Crisis and opportunity have an interesting partnership. They don’t always go together, but when they do, they can catalyze powerful change in individuals, countries, and human civilization. Many forces converged in 2020 to create such a dynamic—a global pandemic, heightened attention to racism, extreme weather events and accompanying natural disasters, the disruption of democratic norms by a white supremacist authoritarian president, the proliferation of misinformation and conspiracy theories, and, finally, a historic election.
The year 2020 demanded resilience, and while we surely felt tested on many levels and tried to hold onto our center, many of us found ourselves reflecting on the meaning of life and then acting to change our own lives and work harder to build a just, equitable, and sustainable society.
Natural Investments as a firm has been on its own path of social justice since it began. It’s the core of our mission. And yet in the area of racial equity, we know there is much more that we can and want to accomplish.
Our natural focus is external, in that we are always looking for ways to help clients invest in systems change. But for the past few years, our firm’s rapid growth and circumstances in the bigger world have called on us to look inward—particularly when it comes to racial and gender equity.
RUNWAY was founded in 2017 by leaders in the women of color entrepreneurship ecosystem to help provide “friends and family”- style capital, expertise, and mentorship to Black businesses who are vitally important to the communities they serve yet continue to face many barriers to building their businesses.
Since launching its first pilot program in partnership with Self Help Federal Credit Union in Oakland, Calif., with a modest $500,000, RUNWAY has since expanded nationally and now directs several million dollars to support Black businesses on both coasts. As a 100% Black and Brown-women led financial innovation firm, RUNWAY is a great example of an innovative impact investment group
2020 will go down in history as a year of profound disruption. One crisis after another exposed the mortal consequences of racial inequities––beginning with a pandemic in which people of color were far more likely to die than white Americans and a series of brutal police killings of unarmed Black civilians. These painful events spurred a national uprising, led by the Movement for Black Lives and supported by thousands of allied groups across the country, that has since been characterized by scholars as the largest mass movement in US history.
“These are tumultuous times.” It sounds like a cliché, but one could argue that it’s an apt description of life on planet Earth right now. As the world continues its struggle with mitigating the devastating effects of the novel coronavirus, the world has witnessed, yet again, horrific scenes of police violence and brutality against Black Americans. As socially responsible investors, we are well aware of the economic and racial disparities that exist across the world and, most especially, in the US—one of the wealthiest nations on the planet. Moments like these, however, bring those disparities into stark relief, reminding us that if ever there was a time to invest in shifting the paradigm of wealth inequality and institutionalized racism, the time is now.
The Ujima Fund launched in Boston in 2017 as an outgrowth of years of organizing for racial and economic justice. Ujima, the first community-controlled loan fund in the US, has raised $1.7 million to date. Ujima is a Swahili word meaning “collective work and responsibility”. The membership of Ujima is comprised of more than 250 working-class people of color living in Boston. As members, they vote on community business standards, neighborhood investment plans, and top community needs. Each member, no matter their level of investment, has one vote. Together, members decide which black-owned cooperatives and social enterprises to invest in, as well as those owned by people of color.
This article is the second of a two-part series by Tiffany Brown exploring the racial wealth divide across the Deep South.
The Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama tells the story of stolen people, enslavement for free labor, the premature withdrawal of federal troops after Emancipation, and the lack of enforcement of the Civil Rights Act of 1866. Back then, Black Codes legalized the arrest and punishment of Black people who didn’t have proof of employment, which led to convict leasing. In 1898, 73 percent of Alabama state revenue came from convict leasing to the lumber mills and for road maintenance. A full 35 years after Emancipation, Blacks were still being forced into free labor throughout the South.
In the museum, I learned of several laws that sought to block access by Black people to economic and political systems—on top of school segregation (which didn’t end until 1954) and the prohibition on Black voting until 1965. There was Shelley v. Kraemer (1948),
I have learned firsthand from my participation in social justice movements that privileged people in isolation cannot end wealth inequality or the close the racial wealth divide. As a wealthy white person in this country, however, that wasn’t what I was taught. When I was a student at Princeton University, I was told that poverty and climate change were problems that we, as intelligent individuals, could solve with technical innovation and social entrepreneurship. What I learned outside the classroom is that poor people are the experts on poverty; black activists are the experts on anti-black racism; and any attempt to solve a social problem must be shaped and guided by those who are most impacted.
When I first met Tiffany Brown in 2013, she was working with Resource Generation, an organization that organizes wealthy young people to become leaders in the movement for a more equitable distribution of wealth, land, and power.