by Byron Price – Your Black World
Dr. Boyce Watkins has asked me to contribute to the book Ryan Mack and he are authoring, which has largely spun out of Ryan’s effort to help the African American community achieve economic empowerment through financial literacy. I applaud what the two of them are proposing as well as Michele Alexander and her efforts to mitigate the impact mass incarceration is having on our community. They all are on the right track, but I am concerned that their efforts will be undermined by the continuous inability of our community to develop industries, which employ the ones they are trying to help.
I think Boyce and Ryan have provided the proper heuristic to help the formerly incarcerated successfully reintegrate. Furthermore, by connecting the incarceration problem to a lack of economic empowerment in our community; Ryan, I think has made the goal more achievable. However, I am concerned that the focus on financial literacy as well as the forthcoming book will not go far enough in respect to helping them achieve their mission of providing a road map to help the formerly incarcerated live an independent life post incarceration.
Entrepreneurship in my humble opinion is the only viable course of action for the “Never Going Back” effort. Here is why. Although Ryan correctly diagnoses our problem and prescribes financial literacy to address the problem, having a better understanding of finances will not bring about better employment prospects. In many respects they are being taught how to invest and spend their money in someone else’s community and with someone else’s business. I suggest that three regional business incubators with a national focus be developed and they serve as a conduit to foster economy entrepreneurship in our community. The incubators should be connected to a viable Historically Black College and University if possible and the primary goal of the incubators is to help the African American community develop viable businesses. Furthermore, the incubators should focus on creating manufacturing jobs in the short-term, which provide a livable wage and does not require a college education, but a viable skill. The “green economy” Van Jones and President Obama are high on is an industry which comes to mind in regards to a short-term solution which could address the employment crisis in our community.
Moreover, the incubators should pursue seed money under the Second Chance Act and a government loan from the funds provided to Solyndra, the energy company President Obama supported which went under and costs the taxpayers a half billion dollars as a result of filing bankruptcy. This essay is a starter essay and I will follow-up with more essays that are not as half-baked, but I wanted to attempt to frame this discussion so that entrepreneurship is foremost as we build on this discussion.