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It goes without saying, if Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today, he would be happy and proud to see President Obama as leader of the United States of America. And while a Black family in the White House may encourage us all to take well-earned satisfaction in just how far we’ve come, there is still clearly so much further we can and must go.

Must Read: It’s Time To Talk Money With Your Man

A few months ago, I was approached by Tyler New Media to participate in an upcoming documentary, Generation One. The filmmakers, Lamar & Ronnie Tyler, are known for creating films which uplift African-American families through discussions around relationships, parenting and manhood, but this time wanted to stretch themselves to answer the question, “Why do Black families have to start building wealth from scratch with each new generation?” In essence, what happened to leaving legacies and passing on wealth to our children’s children? During the pre-interview, I was asked a question about what Dr. King would say about the state of Black personal finance today.

Quite frankly, I believe that Dr. King would be appalled by the current economic conditions of not just African-Americans, but all Americans today. At the time of his assassination, he and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) were in the midst of the Poor People’s Campaign, a 1968 effort to gain economic justice for poor people in the United States. In their planning efforts, they created an “Economic Fact Sheet” with statistics justifying the need for not just reform, but what they considered a revolution.

John Hope Bryant, founder of Operation HOPE, a global economic empowerment initiative who provides free financial literacy courses for low to moderate income families is often quoted as saying that he sees his work at the non-profit organization as “an extension of the Poor People’s Campaign” and acknowledges that the shift has gone from civil rights to silver rights. Clearly, this is not a new idea considering the late Dr. King’s efforts, but one that needs to be exercised now more than ever.

If we were to consider a “new” Economic Fact Sheet focused solely on African Americans, it may look something like this:

  • The buying power of African-American consumers is projected to reach $.1.1 trillion by 2015. – Nielsen Media Research, “The State of the African American Consumer”
  • In 2009, the typical white household had a net worth of $113,149 compared with $5,677 for blacks. A 20-to-1 ratio according to a Pew Research Center Study.
  • From 2004 to 2010, black families’ median net worth fell by more than a third compared with a drop of 20 percent for white families, according to the Federal Reserve’s analysis.
  • African-Americans in higher income brackets, spend 300% more in higher-end retail grocers, more than any other high income household according to Scarborough Data, Atlanta DMA, Feb 11 – Jan 12.

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