At The Color of Wealth Policy Summit

photo courtesy of www.theroot.com

The 2011 Color of Wealth Policy Summit sponsored by the Insight Center for Community Economic Development held in Washington, DC April 7, 2011 was attended by Dedrick Muhammad, the Senior Director of Economic Programs and Mjiba Frehiwot, the Director of Education and Training. The overarching theme for the summit was three-fold specifically focusing on a) the recession generation b) the racial wealth gap and c) restoring American prosperity. The NAACP co-sponsored the summit with organizations such as the National Council of La Raza, the National Congress of American Indians and Community Action Partnership.

The summit attendees were by all accounts experts in the field of economic racial justice. These experts and friends of the movement presented on “The wealth gap” and ways to move beyond the current recession for communities of color. The overwhelming sentiment from most panelists and speakers including Jared Bernstein, PhD, the Chief Economist and Economic Policy Advisor to Vice President Joseph Biden included the call for full employment for all communities in general and communities of color in particular. Algernon Austin, PhD representing the Economic Policy Institute introduced the need for a “Guaranteed Jobs Program” which the institute working with a few members of congress are working to make this policy recommendation a reality. This program would serve as a stepping stone for individuals who are recently unemployed, chronically unemployed, and underemployed and are new entrants into the job market. While the program details are not completely developed its design would enable participants to receive a wage or stipend and training to advance their career. The need for sustainable employment to increase the wealth of individuals, families and communities resounded throughout all the presentations at the summit.

In addition to calling for full employment the summit through experts endorsed “Universal Early Education” which would provide quality early childhood education for all children regardless of their ethnic background, geographic location, primary language and country of origin. This policy would enable single parents and non-custodial fathers to gain employment and contribute to the economy without having the burden of expensive childcare fees. Additionally, this policy will equip all children with a comprehensive education during the most influential and developmental years.

Much of the focus during the summit focused on wealth creation to produce stable environments for all sectors of the population. Certainly, the inclusion of respecting, advocating for and with and engaging elders was one of the primary messages. This was manifested through a call to “Keep Elders out of Poverty” through preserving Social Security and programs that target people of color and elders from these communities and throughout the country alike.

The summit and attendees reaffirmed a commitment to repealing cuts to social benefit programs and pledged to continue working to address this issue. Finally, Congressman Keith Ellison fired up attendees with his inspirational speech in which he called on all in attendance to stand up for a better society and continue to participate in the process for change.