It’s the Economy, Christian

Chris Caldwell, pastor of Broadway Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., moderates a panel discussion empowering the city’s predominantly black west side. (BNG photo/Bob Allen)
Chris Caldwell, pastor of Broadway Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., moderates a panel discussion empowering the city’s predominantly black west side. (BNG photo/Bob Allen)

A new coalition supports creating black-owned businesses so that dollars recirculate in African-American communities, and urges whites to support those businesses in the same way that African-Americans support suburban malls.

Four million black people were fired in 1865, when President Lincoln and the federal government abolished slavery, a pastor told a packed house at the first summit meeting of a new coalition of churches in Louisville, Ky., formed to empower to predominantly African-American West Louisville.

“They were not freed,” Kevin Cosby, senior pastor of St. Stephen Church, told a nearly packed house of white and black faces at the Empower West Louisville faith-based summit held Sept. 23 at the church he has led since 1979, “They were fired … with no skills, no property and no wealth.”

With laws in place to prevent slaves from accumulating wealth, Cosby said, in 1865 four million people possessed one half-percent of the wealth in the United States. The share for their descendants today has increased to just 2 percent, he said, with 400 billionaires owning as much wealth as the entire African-American population of the U.S., over 41 million people.

“The question is why,” Cosby said, offering three possibilities. One is “because God ordained it so,” a view formerly backed up by theological views.

“In fact, the Southern Baptist Convention was established in 1845 on the premise that God had ordained that Africans would be the hewers of wood and drawers of water,” Cosby said.

Another possibility, he said, is that “Africans are innately inferior.” A third way to explain the wealth gap “is social engineering,” using the analogy of the way society was organized with the playing of a Monopoly game.

“Certain players were given three thousand dollars, Board Walk and Park Place, all the hotels and the get-out-of-jail-free cards,” he said. “And then people of darker colors were given nothing.”

“Then they said ‘let’s play,’ which means that when the darker people played, if they landed on someone’s property without a get-out-of-jail free card, without the resources to take care of the situation, that they would always be behind.”

Cosby, who also serves as president of Simmons College of Kentucky, which was recently designated a Historically Black College and University, and leaders of the Kentucky Baptist Fellowship began a conversation that led to the formation of Empower Louisville.

It began with weekly meetings of clergy from the college and churches including Broadway Baptist Church, Crescent Hill Baptist Church and Highland Baptist Church, all affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

The group, which also includes pastors of St. Matthews Episcopal, Peewee Valley and Westwood Presbyterian and Christ’s Church for Our Community, read and discussed books, starting with Black Power, the revolutionary book about civil rights written in 1967 by Stokely Carmichael.

“It is not about anger,” Joe Phelps, pastor of Highland Baptist Church, said about the book. “It’s not about being anti-white. It’s not about being isolationist, but rather it’s about recognizing the need for power — emotional power, spiritual power and financial power.”

Phelps said someone in the coalition suggested the name “Stokely’s List” for an idea to pull together a “Yellow Pages” or “Angie’s Lists” type resource listing of black-owned businesses for distribution not only in West Louisville but citywide.

Cosby said one reason he suggested the book by Carmichael is because his message is often misunderstood. While “painted as a separatist,” Cosby said, “the fact of the matter is that he is a realist; we are already separated.”

Cosby described an “American dilemma,” which started in the 1940s when white Americans in large numbers began to grasp the evils of racism and segregation.

“The remedy proved to be worse than the problem,” he said. “We went from segregation to desegregation to integration to disintegration of the black community.” Cosby referred specifically to the disappearance of vital institutions that once served the black community.

“The purpose of integration, as it was implemented, was to alleviate white guilt,” Cosby said. By and large “it did not correct black suffering,” because the only African-Americans who benefited from “integration as implemented” were the black professional class. Those people were “co-opted out of the black community,” he said, leaving “the masses of African-Americans without leaders and resources.

Cosby said because of the “tipping point” — a rule that says any time a minority population exceeds 7 percent in a community there tends to be a “realignment” or “white flight” — in theory there will always be a black community.

“The question only is will it be a healthy, viable black community with businesses and amenities that other communities take for granted?” Cosby said, noting that while the combined income of African-Americans is larger than that of many countries, blacks spend 98 percent of their disposable income outside of the black community.

“If your blood does not circulate in your body, you will die,” Cosby said. “If dollars do not circulate eight to 10 times in the black community, the black community dies.”

“That is the root of the problem,” he said. “That is why we encourage black people to set up their own businesses, fall in love with each other and support each other.”

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SOURCE: Baptist News Global
Bob Allen

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