Over the past weeks, I have read several statements from businesses and institutions expressing their commitments to racial justice and solidarity in support of the Black community. Issuing statements is only a starting point. Please, don’t stop there.
Here are five ways businesses and institutions can go beyond issuing statements to actionable investments:
Commit to Economic Justice. Support existing Black-owned businesses. Also, consider utilizing your platforms to create opportunities for prospective Black business owners to receive coaching and investment tools to launch their own businesses to generate wealth.
Invest in Redlined, Distressed Communities. If you own franchises of restaurants, stores, health clinics, hospitals and grocery markets, consider locating a property in a redlined, distressed community. Invest in quality, affordable housing. This would provide residents within these communities the opportunity to gain employment, secure a living wage and access healthcare. These investments could support economic development and improve the residents’ overall quality of life.
Elevate the Lived Experiences of Black Men. According to research by the Vera Institute of Justice, “one in three black men born today can expect to be incarcerated in his lifetime, compared to one in six Latino men and one in 17 white men.” Black men also face disparate outcomes with housing, employment and shortened life expectancy.
I believe the people mostly harmed by systems are the ones closer to the solutions. More black male representation is needed in business, education, nonprofits, policy development, philanthropy, etc. For far too long, Black men have not been granted access to spaces where decisions are being made about them - without them. Therefore, Black men have to be included and even leading these movements to authentically transform systems.
Commit to Education Justice. In Black communities, many of our children are relegated to receive a sub-par education with lowered achievement expectancy. Education justice has to be achieved by creating equitable spending formulas, recruiting teachers who desire to teach Black children, redesigning school discipline policies and meeting the holistic needs of students and families. School environments have to be culturally-centered to give children a real sense of belonging. This includes designing curriculum capturing the contributions of African Americans. Curriculum including law, policy, entrepreneurship, financial literacy and social justice are other subjects to consider adopting to spark students’ career interests.
Invest in Coalitions. For Black activists leading grassroots organizing and coalitions, more investment is needed for capacity building to sustain the work. These leaders do the heavy lifting of building collaboration across institutions, advocating for systems-change and building innovative solutions to complex issues. They commit to ensuring justice and equity is lived out across communities each and every day.
I hope you consider adopting one of these recommendations as a step towards racial justice and healing during this dire moment in history. Thanks for your consideration.
Tamara Vaughn-Walker is St. Clair County Juvenile Justice Council coordinator and a board member with the Deaconess Foundation.