Leaders in Racial Wealth Equity Convene to Discuss Bold Solutions

Coinciding with Black History Month and the commemoration of 400 years of African American History, Prosperity Now’s Racial Wealth Divide Initiative (RWDI) hosted an event celebrating the launch of six African American-led African American Financial Capability Initiative (AAFCI) pilot projects tackling racial economic inequality and the release of the African American Financial Capability Initiative: An Implementation Blueprint. The blueprint highlights emerging promising practices related to Black-led, Black-serving organizations working for economic liberation and is structured to provide insights to funders, field practitioners and community members.

Despite 50 years of civil rights legislation, Prosperity Now reports that the racial wealth gap has grown three-fold over the last 25 years. The gap is the result of historic and contemporary factors that create barriers to capital, assets and intergenerational wealth for African Americans. This divide is so stark that it would take median Latino and Black families a respective 94 and 242 years to catch up to the wealth that median White households own today.

The AAFCI was created in partnership with the Northwest Area Foundation to focus on asset building and family stabilization within six Black-led, Black-serving communities of practice in the American Northwest. Communities in Iowa, Minnesota, Oregon and Washington participated. The goal of this unprecedented initiative was to provide an opportunity for organizations to co-create economic mobility pilots grounded in the needs and strengths of local African American communities.

RWDI’s approach to technical assistance for this cornerstone project followed these guiding principles:

  • Structural economic inequality, not individual deficiency, is the cause and consequence of racial income and wealth disparity.
  • Disinvestment exists at all levels: individual, organizational and institutional—impacting entire communities.
  • Life outcomes are predictable by race and class.

The implementation blueprint provides a holistic analysis of the racial wealth divide, details the project’s funding strategy and design components, describes emerging promising practices and showcases the innovations created by Black-led nonprofits in their efforts to address African American racial wealth inequalities.

During the blueprint launch event, the expert panels shared insights, challenges, and success while discussing opportunities for engagement and allyship.

Panel 1—Grasstops Strategies: Policies + Policies to Close the Racial Wealth Divide

This panel, which included Dr. Kilolo Kijakazi from the Urban Institute, Dr. Darrick Hamilton from the Kirwan Institute and Mr. Gary Cunningham from the Metropolitan Economic Development Association, offered a platform for experts to discuss the relevance of racial wealth equity and the groundwork that has been laid out. Key takeaways include:

  • The disparity in wealth is not naturally occurring, rather it is predicated on policy and legacies of other inequality.
  • There needs to be a focus directly on the racial wealth gap rather than just inequality in general.
  • Rather than being seen as a problem in policymaking, race should be framed as a pillar upon which viable policies and programs are built.
  • It’s important to bring more organizations of color into the asset building field and push for these organizations to be at decision-making tables.
  • Funders need to be willing to work on the racial wealth gap; foundations cannot just talk about racial equity, they must fund it.

Panel 2—Grassroots Strategies: Presenting Innovative Programmatic Solutions

This panel, which included three AAFCI community of practice members: Leon Garnett (Seattle), Ambreasha Frazier (Minneapolis) and Deidre DeJear (Des Moines) showcased learnings about the pilot projects and allowed three powerful leaders from the communities of practice to discuss the development of their AAFCI innovations. Key takeaways include:

  • Pilots that continuously generate positive results do so because they center the needs and strengths of the communities served.
  • Establishing communities of practice helped develop trust and foster relationships.
  • Pilot projects address problems such as loss of land ownership and place, and exclusion from new development, social networks and political and economic power.
  • Outcomes of the pilot projects include six innovative economic mobility models, including a Black Empowerment Center, AfricaTown Community Land Trust toolkit, strengthened collaboration and service alignment.

The blueprint launch event was only the beginning of the conversation. Organizations need to secure funding to scale initiatives and prove concepts in addition to leveraging their programs into policy and advocacy efforts for overall systems change.

The full blueprint, along with livestream footage from the release event and additional information, can be found here.

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