The Black Church: Key To Black Economic Empowerment.

While the Black Church has long functioned as the central religious, social and political institution in the African American community, it has also functioned as the economic institution as well. Most economic studies of the Black community tend to ignore the contributions of their religious background to black economic mobility.

The early history of economic development in the Black community involves the productive interaction between Black churches, mutual aid societies and fraternal lodges, all of which concerned themselves with the material as well as moral well-being of the community.

Black churches and their allied institutions like the mutual aid societies, the quasi-religious fraternal lodges and the benevolent and burial associations, which often met in churches helped to create the first major black financial institutions: the black owned banks and the black life insurance companies.

The Black Church is central to the economic development of the African American community for a number of reasons:

  • It is the politically most influential institution in the African American community.
  • It is nationally and internationally organized; it is the most independent of Black institutions, being supported mainly by the Black community itself.
  • It is the largest socioeconomic institution in the Black community.
  • It is the largest repository of Black monetary wealth, conservatively the annual income of the institutional Black church is over $2 Billion

The Black church has a revolutionary potential it possesses for transforming the African American community and America as a whole.

Not All African-American churches involved in economic redevelopment are located in major cities. A growing number of rural churches are launching businesses providing job opportunities for their members, many of whom are poor people with few skills.

The judicious and creative use of funds provided by the institutional Black church along with other Black institutions and organizations, corporations and businesses as well as personal and family accounts placed in Black owned, controlled or influenced financial institutions could provide billions of dollars for the take over by Black community of its own wholesale and retail markets.

The Black church “as nation” could construct a nationwide economic wholesale-retail network which could in turn form a distribution and market network which would then become the foundation of a Black owned and controlled manufacturing and import export system.

Through national organizations and linkups, chains of stores and franchises could be established. In certain locales both large department stores could be established and administered by professional, impartial managements.

Churches and church associations through their pledges and financial commitments may aid in the founding and development of new banks, financial instruments and arrangements which can help to revitalize the community. Other approaches can be developed which can have a more visible, palpable and immediate impact on transforming the ecology, opportunity structure, social welfare and behavior and consciousness of the community.

Despite their relatively large collections and famous ability to raise money for various causes to which they may commit themselves , Black churches as a whole possess very little in the way of invested wealth.

However the Black American community has the potential of playing a much more powerful role in the American economy and political system through institutional investments in America’s capital market.

To look at other ethnic groups in America as “nations-within-a-nation” is instructive. Virtually every ethnic economic enclave, whether White, Asian or Hispanic maintains a nation-state, i.e a foreign trade relationship with the African American community.

None of these groups has permitted Black businesses and services to penetrate their market to any significant degree. With exception of some Hispanic subcultural groups, none are even residentially intergrated with the Black community. Generally, they are socially and psychologically distant from Black community and perceive it and its individual members in ways similar to the negative, stereotypic and racist ways manifested by racist Whites. Yet these same hostile ethnic groups have deeply penetrated African American consumer markets and exploit with a single-minded, competitive passion.

By penetrating the African market; earning large sums of “hard currency” there, “repatriating” these earnings i.e returning the money earned there to their own communities, by refusing to buy items sold or produced by Black owned businesses; by spending and buying as much as possible within their own communities, other ethnic group enhance their savings rates and their accumulation of capital relative to the Black American community.

The accumulation of capital achieved by other groups through their producing for and selling in the African American consumer market and by their refusal to buy from or trade with Black merchants and business people, is utilized in good part by these groups to invest in their own community institutions and economies as well as to further fund their ability to more deeply penetrate and economically exploit the Black consumer and general.

The penetration of the economy and markets of the Black community by alien business leads not only to the exploitation of that community by taking approximately 95% of its income back to their own communities, but by hiring relatively few Blacks to work in their establishments and by not paying even those few a living wage, they help to maintain its impoverished conditions.

This permits alien communities to increase the employment of their own members at the expense of the host Black community, i.e permits them to create jobs for their members and to generally expand their job market and economy relative to those of the African American community.

In some instances the Black consumer inadvertently and foolishly allies him/herself with non-Black consumers in boycotting Black businesses as well. “The Black Consumer has run the longest, most successful boycott in history-the boycott against their own Black businesses.”

A careful examination of the economic character and configuration of the African American community in terms of its “ national economic growth rate, “ indicates as noted above, that stimulating African American consumers to reduce the spending with such businesses thereby increasing their savings and using those savings to invest in already existing Black owned businesses and to invest in new ones; to increase their spending with Black owned businesses and to invest in income and wealth-producing instruments both inside and outside the community, would markedly increase the wealth of the community as well as the number of jobs available to its members.

In the next Article we will now attempt to provide a motivational stimulus package for activating Black consumer behavior in the interest of Black economic development and betterment in America.

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Adapted from the book:Blue Print For Black Power by Amos N Wilson

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