From April 23 through April 25, 2018, the Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise was proud to co-host the Black Communities Conference: A Conference for Collaboration at the Carolina Theatre of Durham, N.C. The event was put on by the institute’s affiliated center, NCGrowth, the Institute for African-American Research, the Southern Historical Collection and the Center for the Study of the American South.
The multi-disciplinary conference brought together academic researchers and community members from across North America to collaborate on documenting, safeguarding and enhancing the life of historic black communities.
The gathering featured keynotes, panel discussions, workshops, oral presentations, working groups, films, performances, tours and more.
The sessions allowed a space for conversation surrounding some of the most crucial issues facing members of the black community. They covered a variety of topics including financial resources, community activism, black business as an investment opportunity, neighborhood-based commercial development and research in practice in local communities.
A panel titled “Financial Resources for the Underbanked and Underserved” featured a discussion with Sandy Wheat, executive director of strategic programs for the North Carolina Council on Economic Education; Donna Gallagher, executive director of the Collaborative of NC; and Creighton Blackwell, vice president of corporate affairs for the Coastal Federal Credit Union. The panelists shared their experiences and insights on the stunning statistics associated with the poor state of wealth in the black community.
Wheat stated that housing prices, which have not yet bounced back from the Great Recession of 2008, have contributed to the financial struggles among black community members. All three panelists expressed that home ownership is the single smartest asset a family can own. Gallagher shared that the Collaborative of NC is the North Carolina partner for the Asset and Opportunity Network. The organization has done research on black wealth and the racial wealth gap.
“With current public policies and if nothing changes, it will take black families 228 years to catch up to white families,” she explained.
The discussion highlighted the importance of educating black youth early on about financial responsibility and spreading that information within families.
Another session, “Reinforce Black Businesses as a Unique Asset Class & Investment Opportunity,” brought together local and national business leaders to discuss what it means to be black in the entrepreneurship space and how working in this sector is its own type of activism.
Panelist Dee McDougal, senior vice president of diversity and inclusion at Pacific Western Bank and co—founder of the Durham-based nonprofit Black Wall Street, expressed that there needs to be a shift in thinking regarding black-owned businesses.
“When people talk about black business they automatically think [these are simply businesses] serving the black population,” McDougal said, adding that black businesses serve diverse markets.
“There is vast market opportunity within the African-American community. We have a lot of money and we spend a lot of money, but there’s more money in enterprise and serving diverse communities. When we get people together, we are hoping they are building to expand various spectrums that are national or global in scale.”
The U.S. Federal Reserve Banks sponsored lunch and provided two presentations on Tuesday of the Black Communities Conference. The sessions, “Investing in America’s Workforce” and “Research and Practice in Local Communities,” featured staff members from across the Federal Reserve Bank system who explained the importance of utilizing the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). Mark Mullinix, chief operating officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, opened the presentation.
“It’s not news to this audience that many communities don’t have people who have the same access to educational and work opportunities,” Mullinix told the attendees in Fletcher Hall. “That matters not only for the well-being of the individuals that live in those communities, but also for the well-being of our society as a whole.”
Mullinix detailed the U.S. Federal Reserve Banks’ goal of fostering the stability, integrity and efficiency of the nation’s monetary, financial and payment systems in order to promote optimal macroeconomic performance. He said economists often connect long-term economic growth with productivity growth, and the key to achieving that is through the skills and knowledge the workforce collectively possesses.
“When some people are not able to reach their full potential simply because they don’t have the same opportunities as others it leads to, in essence, a throwing away of human capital,” Mullinix said. “That is a detriment to our economic growth and the living standards for all of us. As policymakers that is what I, and others, are ultimately concerned with. Our mission is to help advance a society in which people have the freedom and the opportunity to prosper.”
The Black Communities Conference: A Conference for Collaboration was made possible thanks to the support of a number of local, state and national sponsors. To learn more, visit the conference’s sponsorship page.
Learn more and register for upcoming events at Frank H. Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise.