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My Sons Keeper

By Ron Busby, Sr.
NNPA Columnist

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I must admit, being a single father
of two Black boys isn’t easy,
especially since my wife passed
away 12 years ago. From breaking
up fights, to discussing college and
career choices, I’ve learned that
being a good father means more
than just “being there.” Decisions
are made, things happen, but
despite the inevitable bumps
in the road of parenthood, I am
always proud to see how my two
sons have grown into bright young
men. Recently, you have heard lots
about President Obama’s laudable
effort to ensure bright futures for
America’s young men of color. We
agree it makes sense to use his bully
pulpit to highlight the challenges
faced by Black and Latino males
and to galvanize solution providers
around a common work plan.
What makes a lot less sense
to us is how – in the face of
dwindling contract awards to
Black-owned businesses – we are
to remain hopeful that equitable
opportunity is within the grasp
of Black businesses. For sure,
there is lots of happy talk in the
president’s proposed budget
about commitments to SBA loan
guarantees, certified development
companies (CDCs), small
business investment companies
(SBICs), millions to infrastructure
rehab and surface transportation
projects, millions to the Minority
Business Development Agency
for technical assistance and
money for expansion of Promise
Zones designed to focus federal
resources in targeted areas, both
urban and rural.
Against the backdrop of these
huge outlays across education,
healthcare/social services,
infrastructure and transportation,
let’s suppose that the targeted
young Black and Latino males
successfully scale all the hurdles
facing them – that they graduate
from high school, matriculate to
a community college, four-year
institution or trade school and
set out to pursue their career
aspirations. What awaits them?
Shrinking federal contract awards
to Black and Hispanic-owned
businesses seem to preclude
any opportunity at supplying their
goods/services to government
agencies. Kauffman Foundation
researcher Alicia Robb, said in
her study of SBA lending that
minority borrowers are “turning to
mainstream lenders less because
they have a fear of denial, which is
warranted.” So, it appears that even
commitments of loan guarantees
won’t be enough to open access
to capital. Tuition costs are
skyrocketing while low-income
students face cuts in the availability
of tuition assistance. Therefore,
repayment without improved
employment/entrepreneurial
prospects will exacerbate the
challenge.
To compound
matters, within
minutes of
President Obama’s
announcement, his
political opponents
cranked up their
“ a n t i – a n y t h i n g -
Obama” screed and
pronounced “My
Brother’s Keeper”
not only socialist,
but racist, as well.
While the program
is decidedly neither,
it may serve to
distract from more
immediate, short term fixes.
Growing businesses need
employees. Black (and Brown)
businesses, given access to
the tools that fuel expansion,
are far more likely to extend job
opportunities to young minority
males. Hence, it makes at least
as much sense to expend effort to
ensure that federal, state and local
contracts are awarded fairly. And,
as always, we will contend that
healthy, growing, vibrant Blackowned
businesses are the best
cure for Black unemployment.
Among the more hopeful signs of
support for “My Brother’s Keeper”
is the announcement from The
Opportunity Finance Network
(OFN). OFN, which represents more
than 225 community development
financial institutions, will pledge
$1 billion to expand financing
for organizations and initiatives
working to help young minority
men. While Opportunity Finance
Network CEO Mark Pinsky has
yet to define how his organization
will allocate dollars raised from
network members, we will engage
his organization to encourage
more business lending rather than
program development.
There absolutely is room in the
national marketplace for a program
such as “My Brother’s Keeper.”
The challenges faced by young,
ethnic minority males are well
documented. The futures of these
young men – nd the future wellbeing
of the nation – deserve the
kind of focused solution-searching
described in the blueprint for the
effort.
In the meantime, Black business
owners – males and females –
the daunting task of building and
sustaining enterprises without the
safety net implicit in “My Brother’s
Keeper.” If we, as a nation,
continue to fall short of fostering the
healthy economic environment that
we know is essential to long-term
prosperity for all Americans, then
the work of “My Brother’s Keeper”
shall be in vain. Let’s put our
actions – and dollars – where our
economic futures are, for James
1:22 (KJV) says, “But be ye doers
of the word, and not hearers only,
deceiving your own selves.”


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