Reclaiming control of our future

Part 1 in a series

Jeffery Robinson said it all: “We are taking excuses off the table. This conference assembles a robust collection of resources that can guide any Black man into the wealth he seeks and deserves.” Robinson threw down the gauntlet, setting the tone for the Black Men’s Legacy Summit II, held last Saturday at the Regional Acceleration Center, 1256 Penn Avenue N., in Minneapolis.

Greg Cunningham provided one of the keys to wealth. With sophisticated fluidity navigating the language streams that separate and combine corporate linguistic world views, and vibrant soul speak, language from within that embodies our authentic lived experiences, the activist banker said,  “We say in the culture ‘let’s keep it 100’…Let’s change that to ‘‘let’s keep it 700… in credit score.”

“You change your credit score by 100 points and you change your life,” Cunningham said.

 Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer for U.S. Bank, Cunningham opened the historic Legacy Summit in conversation with David McGee, mastermind creator of Build Wealth MN, which hosted and produced the Summit.

Build Wealth MN seeks to get 9,000 Black families to become homeowners, and consequently, wealth builders through its groundbreaking 9,000 Equities initiative. Build Wealth MN says it seeks to close the wealth gap by helping Black families own a home. Build Wealth says it would take almost 60,000 new Black homeowners to close the wealth and ownership gap between Black and white Minnesota residents.

Of the 4,460,149 white Minnesotans who make up 1,887,866 households, 1,452,512, or almost 77% own their homes. Fewer than half a million are renters. By contrast, 382,621 Black residents in Minnesota make up about 115,654 households with 29,200 households being owner occupied (25.26%) while 86,445 or almost 75% are renters.

Cunningham joined US Bank in 2015 as Vice President of Customer Engagement. He says his mission is to make diversity, equity and inclusion a business imperative at US Bank and in the corporate world. He leads US Bank’s Access Commitment – a $100 million annual commitment to help close racial wealth disparities. In order to do this, he focuses on workplace culture, customer loyalty, supplier diversity, and community outreach.

Build Wealth CEO David McGee, laid responsibility for egregious wealth disparities at the doorstep of banks, businesses and public institutions that collaborated to deny access and opportunity to the descendants of enslaved Africans. He documented the historic and current reality of Minnesota being “home to some of the worst socio-economic disparities in the nation.”

McGee said the disparity in homeownership between Minnesota’s African American and white households is 52% – the widest it has been in over 50 years, since the Fair Housing Act.

He said Build Wealth MN is determined to reduce the gap by 15 percentage points in the next 5-7 years by financing close to 9,000 mortgages.

Throw Down

Jeff Robinson, Senior Program Manager at Build Wealth MN made it clear that progress for our people is not a question of finger pointing, decrying the conditions, policies and practices that seek to have us believe that systemic disparities and lack of opportunity are somehow the result of our own inadequacies.

“The Black Men’s Legacy Summit II is a resource network of our people, here to help our people build wealth….create the legacy that is a true reflection of our genius, our industriousness, our resilience, and our continuing emergence as the definition of what it means to be an American…what it means to be a human being,” Robinson said.

He said Build Wealth and it partners have a suite of resources that include financial education, credit repair and coaching, down payment assistance for home purchases, flexible loans, support for affordable housing developers and reliable realtors.

Minnesota’ Griot, the Honorable Dr. Mahmoud El-Kati, called the Summit to order via a moving video message which served to center the Summit in the tradition of courageous conversation, ancestor-guided divine speech that connected participants’ knowing at the heart, affirming the context of ancestor energy and continuity, recognizing the present moment as the gateway to futures we co-author that narrate our imminent and inevitable victory.

The evidence of our movement and success was highlighted in panel discussion with Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and Minnesota Senate President, Bobby Joe Champion.

Think about it,” panel moderator Alfred Babington Johnson said, “A young law student, Keith Ellison, who would show up at protests in a bandana, is now Minnesota’s Attorney General, one of the five most powerful people in state government. He lives in North Minneapolis, our community!’

He continued, “Think about it…. the North High student who was a member of the Leo Lewis Drum Corp, and part of Spike Moss’ youth development work at the Way, Incorporated in North Minneapolis, a native Minnesotan, Senator Bobby Joe Champion, now President of the Minnesota Senate and one of the five most powerful people in state government.”

“This is the evidence of the power of our journey,” he said.

Next week: The McAfee Maxim – See, Seek, Seize, Secure

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