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Building Black Wealth Through Financial, Physical, and Social Capital

The leaders and solutions on the ground building Black wealth through ownership, access, and community are benefiting the economy as a whole.

Authors: Kassandra Mayhew

What do you think of when you think of wealth building? Maybe the accumulation of money and opportunities to do so come to mind. In the context of creating a more inclusive and equitable economy, “wealth building” represents the levers we need to pull to close the wealth gaps that persist in our economy; gaps that make it difficult for people to afford everything from day-to-day life to purchasing a home to forming a business.

In our work with local economy leaders, it looks like prioritizing reparative solutions that address long-held oppressive systems to create Black wealth. Black wealth building includes supporting more opportunities for ownership, power, and control.

Some of the ways Black leaders are building Black wealth include creating solutions that build physical, financial, and social capital. These leaders’ solutions demonstrate how the places we inhabit, the money we access, and the networks we engage are all vital spaces for healing and reimagining better futures. Here are some leaders part of the Common Future network guiding the solutions to create Black wealth in their communities and beyond.

Financial Capital as a Reparative Bridge

Jessica Norwood is the founder of RUNWAY, a national financial innovation firm committed to dismantling systemic barriers and reimagining financial policies and practices to close the racial wealth gap. RUNWAY is a collective of Black and Brown women providing friends and family style capital with no collateral, relationship-based underwriting, and holistic business support. Access to support encourages more Black and Brown entrepreneurs to launch businesses they otherwise would not have the support to do, as their white peers are more often afforded.

Currently, RUNWAY is offering no-strings-attached $1,000 monthly stipends to their business owner clients in response to COVID-19 to lessen the dire effects of the racial wealth gap for business owners. Jessica is a leader in pulling the financial lever to build Black wealth. Based on her knowledge and experience as a Black entrepreneur, Jessica has built her organization around knowing firmly:

“It’s not a pilot problem, it’s a runway problem” (for Black entrepreneurs to gather the “friends and family” capital needed to start a business).

Image provided by RUNWAY

With data from a 2016 Center for Global Policy Solutions report showing that “women of color generally are overrepresented among business owners” and are historically under-resourced, it is clear that the work of leaders like Jessica Norwood is needed to benefit our economy as a whole.

Land Ownership to Repair and Rebuild

Dr. Jennie L. Stephens is CEO of the Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation, a Charleston, South Carolina-based organization that promotes the sustainable use of land to provide increased economic benefit to historically underserved landowners. Jennie is using land to help build generational wealth for Black communities in the South. “Sixteen years ago, a number of us in the philanthropic and social justice communities around Charleston, South Carolina, decided we should no longer accept the further loss of African American Family land,” said Dr. Stephens.

“Not only was land loss severing the connections of families to their land-based heritage and culture, it was draining away the economic potential of Black communities, both rural and urban.”

The Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation addresses the issue of Black land preservation by providing clients with legal services needed to resolve heirs’ property issues, which include title searches, preparing documents, scheduling land surveys, requesting hearings, and providing representation in court; and a team of foresters to sustainably utilize and protect the land of their clients. By addressing Black land loss — the consequence of racist policies and practices throughout the history of the U.S. — the Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation is helping to give back to Black families what was taken from them, thus building physical capital for them to sustain present and future generations with.

Image provided by the Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation

Building Power Through Social Capital

Tim Lampkin is CEO of Higher Purpose Co., a Mississippi-based economic justice nonprofit. He is building Black wealth through supporting the ownership of financial, cultural, and political power by providing a peer-supported space for current and future Black community leaders in the Mississippi Delta.

Higher Purpose Co. works with over 200 Black entrepreneurs, farmers, and artists who are part of their business membership program, which provides a hub for their professional and personal growth. A majority of Higher Purpose Co. members identify as Black women who have started their businesses to increase their income, often as working mothers. Recently, Higher Purpose Co. has provided support to their community through their Business Fellowship Program and Black Business Relief Fund (in response to the impacts of COVID-19).

In a recent Forbes feature, Tim Lampkin shared how and why running a hub for Black wealth building in Mississippi matters: “Black residents are 40% of the population, making Mississippi one of the Blackest states in the country. There is progress yet to be made to close the gender and racial wealth gaps resulting from institutional racism and under-investment in our communities.” He closes with a hope for the future in the feature:

“I hope that disparities around the racial wealth gap will have shifted and that we will see an uptick in Black wealth, with many more people and families able to buy land, buy homes, invest in their children’s education, and reinvest back into the community.”

Image provided by Higher Purpose Co.

Through the leaders who work tirelessly to support the solutions already here to build Black wealth, we know that the levers to build Black wealth have been identified, need more support, and are taking off in communities throughout the country. We hope to see them scale up to address the gaps that persist in our economy.

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