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Wall St. and Business Wednesday: The BlackElectorate.com “Business and Building” Black-Owned Bank and Investment Club Initiative


We are pleased to announce that the BlackEelectorate.com “Building and Business” Community has selected for its Initiative - in the area of Business and Investment - a national campaign to endorse a Black-owned bank in the United States of America, and to help promote an Investment Club comprised of BlackElectorate.com viewers.

This national campaign and investment club are open to all BlackElectorate.com viewers, whether you attended our “Building and Business” Weekend October 28th and 29th in 2006 or not.

For years, we have been hearing about ‘getting money,’ ‘building wealth,’ and ‘economic development.’ Toward that objective many of us have tried a variety of approaches that have worked to varying degrees, but the result, at best, has been an increase to our personal fortunes and maybe a few of our friends and family members. The latest foray of wealth creation courtesy of a booming housing market is a case study in how easy it is for many of us to attract financial wealth for ourselves and a few others, but not in a way that results in real community development, economic development, and economic growth on a mass level, and certainly not in a way that is sufficiently independent of the latest trends in U.S, monetary, fiscal, and trade policy. I’m sorry, a nice shout out to Dunkin Donuts, Starbuck’s, and Sony Theatres, but creating commercial strips where non-Black owned businesses get favorable leases, tax treatment and accounting allowances in Black-owned neighborhoods may certainly mean a few more jobs but it does not meet our definition of indigenous ‘economic development.’

Many will debate that point. Fine. We could go back and forth, point and counter-point using various economic metrics and statistics. But I am growing increasingly tired of such intellectual exercises that result in no change for the people that are being argued over. In 2007, the challenge of the intellectual, scientist, economist, activist, politician, and spiritual leader is now the same: translating analysis, insight, popularity, influence and power into programs, initiatives, organizations, and policies that satisfy the basic needs and wants of people, transform human lives and unleash and develop human potential.

And that is why we established the “Business and Building” Community in order to attract a critical mass of individuals who wanted to take the lead in doing the hard work and heavy lifting in presenting initiatives that could attract the support and participation of a larger number of individuals.

While it was our intention to be able to announce four initiatives at this time, the interest, sentiment, level of participation, and activism of our “Business and Building” community made it clear that the area of business and investment was one that a critical number of members would support, first. I hope that our Initiative Review Board will iron out remaining details on a pending announcement in the area of International Affairs (there are two promising proposals related to Africa on the table).

The work of proposing and approving initiatives in the area of Political Action and Community Development will have to remain for new “Building and Business” community members, and a foundation core of current members, willing to do the difficult work of getting things off of the ground. It should be the first item of business at our next gathering, which is likely to occur in October of this year, probably again in Washington, D.C.

Now, for a brief description of our Business and Investment Initiative.

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The BlackElectorate.com Black-Owned Bank Campaign.

Many of you will remember that in 2003 I wrote that although the Black community had around $700 billion in annual spending power, it only parked $3 billion of that in the form of deposits in the 25 largest Black-owned banks, according to statistics. If anyone ever wanted a reason as to why so little ‘development’ has occurred in the Black community, this is a good place to start. It is a fact that the Black community in America has uniquely struggled with the problem of access to capital. The way in which it has lagged behind others – especially ethnic immigrant communities –in pooling capital, formally and informally, is a major reason why. But at the root of the problem is that when we discuss the concept of ‘access to capital,’ it seems too many Blacks have access to capital in the hands of White Americans in mind. Do you really have an access to capital problem when you have so much of it running through your own hands?

The problem is not only access to capital, but the pooling, aggregation and intermediation of capital, at an indigenous level.

The commercial bank is not the most revolutionary of institutions, by nature. And today, they are just too conservative (although studies do show that Black-owned banks are willing to take more risks in lending to their own), and are not the friend of the entrepreneur like other sources. However, when viewed as an institution of capital pooling, aggregation and intermediation, the Black-owned commercial lending institution can become the springboard for an economic revolution, when working as part of a larger mass movement.

Imagine at least an initial group of 500 of us, in unity, opening accounts – online and in person - placing an average of $500 (some would put in more and some would put in less, whatever they could afford) into individual savings and checking accounts, and then each of us getting at least 5 other people to open a savings account and keep a minimum balance of $100 in it. Then that group takes the lead in promoting this particular institution to the broader community, asking them to open accounts for the next 12 months. The initial act would result in a group of 1000 people representing $500,000 in one institution. This does not include those who would join as a result of that campaign.

In exchange for that amount, the bank, perhaps, agrees to financial literacy and education for all account holders; participating in regular conference calls and scheduled BlackElectorate.com forums in the community where the bank is headquartered; and meetings to discuss what opportunities exist for members of the campaign to review the bank’s portfolio of loans and investments and, perhaps, take some of them off of their hands in an exercise in community and economic development.

The leverage is not solely in the initial amount of money that we would like to deposit in the bank, but rather in what the unity of our numbers could produce and our focus and concern in how the bank distributes the resources it is entrusted with. Political leaders, spiritual leaders, cultural leaders, and opinion leaders can all be part of our effort, in an effort to support and hold the bank and all of us in the campaign accountable.

The money would in no way go to BlackElectorate.com or myself.

This campaign is about finding a way to get a large enough people to agree to do a small act in unison, in order to increase power and leverage it toward a specific goal.

The Investment Club

Due to Securities and Exchange Commission and financial regulations, it is not very likely that we can legally use this platform to officially establish an investment club. We can however, help to support the independent effort of a group of us – SEC requirements suggest that this could be done with a group of no more than 99 people – to establish an Investment Club that can share the objectives and spirit of this Initiative.

Just imagine 99 of us contributing $50, $75, $100, or $150 – whatever we agree we can afford - each month into an investment club set up with the best legal and financial advisers we can find inside of the Black community. There are already some financial heavyweights – inside and outside the Black community who have personally expressed their interest, support, and willingness to help us in anyway they can. We let the money stack and bubble up, and compound for say, 6 months, before we make a move or consider investment opportunities. But the possibilities are endless, the money can go into stocks and bonds, real estate, gold and commodities, the ideas of first-time entrepreneurs, existing small businesses, lucrative commercial development projects or alternative and guerrilla-like investment strategies and tactics.

By following the structure, best practices, and legal and financial safeguards of the best Investment Clubs in the world, we can replicate the success of others as well as make investment clubs more relevant to the community and a formal alternative or bridge between commercial and investment banks, and private equity and venture capital firms. We can make the investment club a new arsenal in Black economic and community development while becoming personally and collectively wealthy.


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If you are interested in either or both of these efforts, please fill out the sign up form at:

http://www.blackelectorate.com/bank.asp

For the next 45 days, we will be collecting and compiling this information, and a leadership team of members of our Business and Building Community will be contacting you personally to hear your concerns, ideas, suggestions, and level of interest.

We will begin to support the independent legal establishment of the Investment Club and communicate next steps to those who have signed up.

As for the Bank Initiative during this 45 days, we also will be profiling and prospecting Black-owned banks across the country and putting out feelers to see who among them is interested in discussing, negotiating, and competing for our dollars.

Once we have hopefully stacked up an impressive amount of sign-ups, we would like to come up with a list of five banks that we think can offer us the most. The leadership team and those on the ground, living closest to these banks will then formally approach and negotiate with these five banks.

Isn’t something like this long overdue?

Sincerely,

Cedric Muhammad
BlackElectorate.com



P.S. A personal note. This is not a game to me, or an exercise in vanity. This is revolutionary. As I said to all of those present on October 28th and 29th I have already suffered much and am willing to suffer even more and to give my life for what this Initiative represents for our people. I had to stop before I could explain how much this means to me because my eyes were starting to tear up. But it is sufficient to say that in doing this I don’t want flattery, kind or empty words, and promises that aren’t kept. I want reliable and consistent action that grows out of your own suffering and recognition of the time and what must be done. I want a real partnership and real unity. Many of us have eyes and mouths that our stomachs can’t support. Our rhetoric surpasses our endurance, patience, stamina and our love for our people (which is why our marches, rallies, and conferences are so full and energetic but our follow-up and follow through is so weak and anemic). Therefore we make a commitment and then when our presence is requested or depended upon we are not to be found. And at the first sign of disappointment, or irritation, you see our countenance fall and our confidence and faith diminish. Some of us claim to believe in Black people, righteous principles and even a Supreme Being (and those who represent that Being) but when you press them, you find that they don’t even believe in themselves.

That, to me, is the main reason why so many of us are increasingly frustrated, depressed, and going insane over our apparent ineffectiveness, lack of purpose and meaning, and lack of productivity at our jobs, in our organizations and on behalf of the masses of our people. You have to be crazy (smile) and in personal conflict and turmoil, if you repeatedly espouse revolutionary rhetoric when commenting on the condition of our people, and then, as if held captive, spend so much time, labor and capital in a commute to a job, putting in nine to ten hours a day, or more, of hard work. When do you have time and when will you make time for 'revolution?' One can't if they are too lazy, fearful or tired to lift a finger when asked to ‘do for self.’ Think about this the next time you adamantly suggest what 'we need to do' as a people. I think some of us are waiting on permission from President Bush (or President Clinton and White Democrats), or our employer(s) to do something for ourselves. Human nature and time and circumstance have already demanded this of us.

What signal are we waiting for? And from whom?

While this initiative is open to all, I am asking folks who are not serious and not willing to struggle to do something that has not been done before to not participate. We don’t need anyone’s hard-earned pennies, nickels, and dimes if their heart and soul are not coming with it. The “Building and Business” Initiative is serious business. And we did not build credibility and trust at BlackElectorate.com to waste it on just any effort. If this works it can give so much hope and be a catalyst for so much change.

However, if you are dissatisfied with the way things are, like our approach, are willing to spare (or just redistribute) a few dollars (that are going to institution that can be held accountable), know what this effort represents, and are looking for new and innovative ways to uplift our people that compliment and challenge traditional political and community approaches already underway, then I am especially honored to stand shoulder to shoulder with you and even to serve you, as one greater than myself.

This really is not that hard to execute, but it can’t happen without belief in one’s self and unity with others...


Cedric Muhammad

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

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