Donald Trump, Meet My African American Gang Members

Dear Mr. Donald Trump, I’ve been told repeatedly by news media that you’re reaching out to African Americans and requesting that we give you a chance, because, well, as you put it, “what the hell do [we] have to lose?”

Perhaps you’re right. We have nothing to lose by having a conversation and getting to know you. I’m willing to give you a chance if you’re willing to come meet my gang. Don’t worry, none of them are as dangerous as Ben Carson.

Many of my gang members are located across the country. Some of them recently assembled in Washington DC to discuss ways in which we can build a 21st century Inclusive America. I was hopeful you might connect with some of my gang in Mississippi when you traveled to Jackson yesterday.


Jackson, Mississippi is a city with an 80 percent black population (although they only produce about 1.4 percent of the GDP). Terrible public schools, as you know. The new Midtown Public Charter School is trying to turn that situation around. Maybe you know someone willing to help them with funding? I heard you attended a $1,000 per plate dinner in Jackson. I know you need some cash for your plane and your expanding campaign headquarters, but those students are in serious need too. Maybe you’ll share some of your bounty?

A lack of adequate funding has long been the crux of the problem with schools serving high poverty communities. As a billionaire, maybe you have some ideas (or friends) that can address that problem? We’re listening.

Johnathan Holifield, Rhea Williams-Bishop and Mike Green at the SXSWedu Conference in Austin, TX following our panel presentation on Saving America’s Black Boys.

If you’re planning to reach out to African Americans to discuss your education policies in Mississippi, you should connect with my lead gang member there, Rhea Williams-Bishop. She’s extremely well-connected. Rhea was the Executive Director of the Mississippi Center for Education Innovation last year when she assembled a coalition of black and white, poor and wealthy, Democrats and Republicans, to introduce the state’s first TECHJXN Innovation Summit and Yes We Code Hackathon (huge success). Now, Rhea is a program director for the Kellogg Foundation covering the entire states of Mississippi and Louisiana.


Mr. Trump, you mentioned in your speech that African American students attend poor quality schools. I’m sure you know that white Americans designed that despicable separate and unequal system and reinforced it for generations until the Supreme Court said it was unconstitutional.

Then millions of white Americans in positions of power defiantly leveraged social influence, wealth and economic policies to sustain the Jim Crow status that has undermined our African American kids’ future to this very day. Yeah, our schools are still segregated as an article recently published in US World & News Report reveals.

The report shows that a school district border separates two school districts whose childhood poverty rates differ by 7 percentage points on average. But the difference between the 50 most segregated districts identified in the report ranges from 34 to 42 percentage points — more than five times the national mean.
In addition, the average homes in the wealthier districts are worth $131,000 more than those in bordering districts, the report found — an important detail since local education funding is derived from property taxes.
“The over reliance on locally raised property taxes to fund public schools gives wealthier communities the permission to keep their resources away from the neediest schools,” the authors write. “This creates a system of school district borders that trap low-income children in high concentrations of poverty, while more privileged peers live in better-resourced communities, often right next door.”
In fact, the report found that even though several of the highest poverty districts tax themselves at a higher rate than their wealthier neighbors, they still generate $4,500 less per student from local taxes.
“The schools in these districts face tremendous impediments to teaching and learning, and yet because of district borders, low-income students are further deprived of the benefits from the financial and cultural capital of better-off peers that they would encounter in an integrated school,” the authors write.

In your visit to Jackson, which played a notable role during the Civil Rights Movement, perhaps you heard mention of the Citizens Councils that sought to keep schools segregated in the aftermath of the 1954 Supreme Court decision? These problems of white American hostility toward African American children don’t just persist in Mississippi, but nationwide. I appreciate your highlighting of the ugly situation.

If you’re interested in really doing something about it, you’ll want to chat with Rhea. She knows what our kids need who are relegated to these terrible “high-poverty schools.” (Note: There are 17,000 of them. That’s quite a systemic institutional legacy that conservative economic policies and the private sector created for our children).


Mr. Trump, if you’re interested in talking economic policy and job-creation issues that impact African Americans, you absolutely have to meet my main man, Johnathan Holifield. You may have crossed paths with him while you were in Cleveland, Ohio recently. There isn’t another black man in America who knows more about economic solutions for African Americans than Johnathan. Tell your armed guards to stand down, though. He’s going to hit you hard with some history, facts and data that you’ve never heard. I don’t want the Secret Service getting too intimidated.

Pre-order copies of Johnathan Holifield’s new book here.

Johnathan’s an imposing black man, given that he’s a former NFL player. And he’s very competitive. In fact, he’s an attorney, civil rights advocate, tech-based economic development consultant, Architect of a national economic strategy of Inclusive Competitiveness®, and author of an upcoming book, The Future Economy and Inclusive Competitiveness (you can join a pre-order list here).

The Ohio Board of Regents unanimously adopted a 72-page policy report written by Johnathan, titled, Inclusive Competitiveness: Empowering Underrepresented Ohioans to Compete in the Innovation Economy. You should read it. But since you don’t have a lot of free time, have one of your staffers provide you with a synopsis.


If you’re serious about reaching out to African Americans to discuss your economic policies, I’d recommend you cancel the tour of Carson’s old neighborhood, leave the preachers in their pulpits, skip the barber shops and invest your time with Johnathan Holifield serving in the role of a National Economic Advisor and facilitating a series of IC workshops for your campaign leaders across the country.

Read report at the Ohio Higher Education website.

Johnathan’s a widely sought-after speaker who can help the Republican Party better understand the tech-innovation economy, and how to leverage CEDS plans to disrupt the stagnant economic distress that uniformly envelopes nearly all African American communities nationwide generation after generation.

(Note: If you’re not familiar with CEDS planning, we really have to talk. Every region in the nation has these Comprehensive Economic Development Strategies plans. Although, none include measurable outcomes for communities of color. Not sure how that happened, given many are 501(c)(3) organizations. I’ll let you take that up with my attorney. His name is Johnathan).


While you’re in New York for the historic Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) Commander in Chief Forum on Sept. 7, you should stop by and visit one of my OGs (original gangster), Derek Dingle. Derek is the Editor-in-Chief of Black Enterprise magazine.

Black Enterprise Magazine Editor-In-Chief is Derek Dingle

I’m sure you subscribe to BE, given your outreach to African Americans to discuss the economy and jobs. The entire RNC should read BE religiously.

Black Enterprise is the leading national media platform covering the landscape of black entrepreneurship, business productivity, job growth, wealth creation, investments and the economic competitiveness of African Americans in today’s innovation economy. No one can speak intelligently about the economic state of black America without including Black Enterprise magazine in the discussion. And Derek manages the content that reaches and influences millions of African Americans.

Earlier this month, Derek participated in the launch of Inclusive America in Washington, DC at the combined conventions of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) and National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ). Nearly 4,000 media professionals of color attended. I heard you were invited (twice) but were unable to attend. That’s too bad. You missed an opportunity to see a stellar lineup of many of my gang. You would’ve loved it. Don’t worry, though. We can produce a great program in any city. Just contact us at and we’ll be happy to discuss.

Here’s a brief recap.

Inclusive America: Forging a New 21st Century Economic Narrative

Shawn Dove, CEO, Campaign for Black Male Achievement

Shawn Dove kicked it off with the opening keynote. Shawn is the CEO of the Campaign for Black Male Achievement. He provides needed resources to more than 2,700 on-the-ground organizations across the country that are dealing daily with the economic distress and hostile conditions inherent in communities deprived of needed resources to thrive. If you’re interested in gaining a better understanding of the lives of black men and boys, and investing in their upward mobility, Shawn is the man you need to see.

CBMA brought a great panel of leaders that include Gina Belafonte. If the name Belafonte sounds familiar, it should. Gina’s father is Harry Belafonte, an iconic celebrity entertainer whose role in the Civil Rights Movement is legendary.

Gina Belafonte’s father, Harry Belafonte, founded the organization, Sankofa, which she directs today. His mentor, Paul Robeson said, “Artists are the gatekeepers of truth; we are civilization’s radical voice.”

If you’re free on Oct. 1 and 2, you should invite a few of your friends in Atlanta to attend the Many Rivers to Cross Social Justice Music Festival that Gina’s organization, Sankofa, is producing. It will be a star-studded event, so you won’t be the only recognizable face in the crowd. Stars like John Legend, Chris Rock, Jessie Williams, Common, Carlos Santana, Dave Matthews, Danny Glover and more will be there.

Mr. Trump, if you really want to reach African Americans, this event should be on your calendar. There will likely be more African Americans at the music festival than those in attendance at all of your rallies combined. Get tickets to the “Many Rivers to Cross Social Justice Music Festivalhere.


Anthony Smith followed Shawn and his crew. Anthony is the executive director of Cities United, an organization of 80+ mayors around the country who are committed to cutting violence in half in their cities by 2020. That’s a tremendous goal.

And since you either speak directly to violence or elude to it in your references to African Americans, Mr. Trump, I would urge you to invite Anthony and his gang of mayors to a rally you hold in one of their cities, like Louisville or Birmingham. There are a number from which to choose.

Chat with Anthony at Cities United. He has some great reading material on the efforts being made to curb violence and address systemic root causes. Sadly, I know many Republicans who absolve themselves of any responsibility for the chaos they see from afar in African American communities, choosing to blame the dissolution of the black family as the prime culprit. That attitude washes one’s hands of the problems, which ironically, is part of the problem.

Learn more about Cities United.

But, I urge you to not stand back with arms folded or finger wagging. Take a deeper look and learn. You might be surprised at the many ways in which you and your supporters can change the status quo. Check with Anthony and meet his mayors. Good things can happen.


Soffiyah Elijah offered compelling insight into the lives of inmates and former inmates. As you know, Mr. Trump, more than 600,000 inmates are released each year into already economically distraught communities. They are saddled with the burden of finding jobs where there are none, acclimating to a new society that is demonstrably different than the one they left years ago, and learning to survive in a hostile environment after emerging from a hostile environment.

Soffiyah is the founder of The Alliance of Families for Justice. She advocates on behalf of many returning citizens and treats them as people, not branded felons, criminals and other life-long monikers we tattoo onto the lives of people who have paid their debts to society and seek opportunities for redemption and revitalization.

Soffiyah gave us insight into their lives and the lives of their families, who suffer tremendous loss when a member is incarcerated. Accompanying Soffiyah was Antonio Yarbough, who was released after serving more than 20 years in prison for crimes the state later discovered he didn’t commit.


Our program shifted after lunch from a focus on addressing the deep challenges facing African American communities to the focus on solutions, which highlighted the life-changing economic impact of entrepreneurship.

Screenshot from the film. Cheryl Houser, co-director of the new film, Generation Startup, presented a screening at NABJNAHJ16 on Aug. 3, 2016.

We started the second-half of the day with a screening of the upcoming film, Generation Startup, and a presentation by its co-director, Cheryl Houser. You might be surprised to know that PwC is helping support this film. I’m sure you’re familiar with PwC.


Our main presentation was Johnathan Holifield, who provided an energetic, ovation-worthy insight into what Inclusive Competitiveness is and why it is a national economic imperative. I’m seriously surprised that Ohio Governor John Kasich never mentioned Inclusive Competitiveness even once in his campaign run, despite that Johnathan lives in Cleveland and Ohio has been benefiting from his leadership for years.

Johnathan Holifield is the Architect of Inclusive Competitiveness, a national economic strategy to develop community systems that empower underrepresented Americans to compete in a global tech-innovation economy.

I’m equally surprised that no media have introduced the questions that must be asked when speaking of job-creation and the economy. Who will create the jobs of tomorrow is as fundamental a question as how.

When we ask who will create the jobs of tomorrow, the answer becomes abundantly clear: white males can no longer control all of the business productivity and job growth in a 21st century Inclusive America.

That means today there must be new strategies, new plans, new investments and new infrastructure that intentionally empower underrepresented Americans to compete in a global innovation economy. We cannot pour new wine into old flasks. America’s past 20th century progress relied upon a now-obsolete system of economic exclusion and oppression that targeted African Americans directly and indirectly. At this transition point in American history, we must choose to be an inclusive nation that cultivates and values the innovative and entrepreneurial talent and skills of all our citizenry.

The idea of African Americans actually creating jobs, versus solely seeking them, may seem anathema to those framing the national discourse around the economy and jobs. Thankfully, The Case Foundation is dedicated to supporting Inclusive Entrepreneurship and Impact Investing in communities of color to cultivate the hidden talent that exists there, but remains trapped in poor quality schools absent of access to resources needed.

The Case Foundation sponsored Kathryn Finney, CEO of Digital Undivided, and Alejandra Castillo, National Director of the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) for an illuminating interview session on minority women in business.

The Case Foundation invited two highly influential and inspiring women, Kathryn Finney, CEO of Digital Undivided and Alejandra Castillo, National Director of the Minority Business Development Agency. Sheila Herrling, Senior VP for Social Innovation at Case, interviewed these two women, one private sector and the other public sector.

They offered extraordinary insights into the phenomenal growth of women entrepreneurs, led by black women (whose entrepreneurial growth of 322 percent since 1997 is mind-boggling).

Yet, while representing 60 percent of the total 2.6 million black-owned businesses, the challenges of business productivity and job growth for black women entrepreneurs remain.

Today, all black-owned business in the nation produce less than 1 percent GDP and zero percent job growth. That’s not for lack of trying. Systemic institutional biases inherent in an economic system built upon a foundation of white supremacy and privilege for generations are sustained today by widespread ignorance and ambivalence.

Moreover, a stalwart resistance to evolving obsolete economic infrastructure and embracing the demographic shifts occurring across our multicultural society, further exacerbates a longstanding problem that inhibits economic growth through inclusion and competitiveness of others. These are economic issues I’d like to see in a national media spotlight week after week.

Laura Weidman Powers is Founder and CEO of CODE 2040

The Case Foundation also presented an extraordinary panel of leaders that included Derek Dingle of Black Enterprise magazine, Laura Weidman Powers, CEO of Code 2040, Judith Brown Dianis, Executive Director of the Advancement Project and Lilibeth Gangas, Chief Technology Community Officer at the Kapor Center for Social Impact.

The discussion, led by Sarah Koch, VP of Social Innovation at Case, was filled with nuggets of key insights and wisdom. This is the kind of panel presentation I’d like to expose to politically conservative audiences on a regular basis.


At the end of the day, Mr. Trump, if you are truly serious about reaching African American voters, you must know that a drive-by of a blighted urban region, meeting with pastors of churches, conducting a tour of stereotypical sites and diminishing the outcry of desperate and hurting people protesting in the streets is not sufficient for change to occur, and won’t win many hearts and minds (or votes) in African American communities.


After losing the 2012 election, the Republican Party came to a crossroads. It was angry and hurting. But it realized that without minority engagement in the party, it may not win another presidential election. The result of that realization manifested as a grand plan to reach out and talk to minority voters across the country. And while that was a good first step, unfortunately, that’s where it ended. Apparently, there wasn’t at that time a strong willingness in the Republican Party to put forth a good faith sincere effort toward becoming an inclusive political organization.

By 2014, the GOP had received feedback from its listening tour. And the recommendations strongly pointed toward moving beyond mere talk to intentional, sustained and committed engagement. Looking back, we now know that did not happen. As a result, the polls today show a puny 1 percent of African American support for Donald Trump.

Mr. Trump, if the Republican Party, of which you are now the head, is interested in fulfilling the promises of the Growth and Opportunity Project, it must commit to investing far more than a paltry $10 million into a failed strategy of temporary talk. Any effort must be genuinely focused in moving large-scale education and economic needles that have been stagnant for generations. Here’s an excerpt from the summary prepared by the committee convened by RNC Chair Reince Priebus:

On the voter engagement front, we discussed the need to make investments, including hiring national and state-based staff, to communicate directly with African Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Pacific Americans. The party “has to stop talking to itself,” we noted, and we urged Republicans to engage with voters who don’t always identify with Republicans. Here, the RNC has heeded the advice, hiring political and communications professionals in both the national office and in the field. Chairman Priebus has made this a year-round, long-term commitment. and the RNC has made similar commitments in reaching out to women voters and young voters.

Although the statement above sounds like the GOP followed through, the reality is that it was mere window dressing to appease the core Republican electorate. Any genuine GOP effort must be invested in actually changing people’s lives (not just changing their minds to get their votes) by changing systems that were built on a foundation of 20th century white supremacists ideals and are sustained by white privilege today. And there must be measurable results. Today’s poll numbers among African Americans serve as empirical data for GOP analysts. Whatever the Republican Party did, failed. Now what?

If you, Mr. Trump, are personally serious, then there must be investments made in research, data-gathering, analytics, direct communications and engagement with African American communities on a consistent basis, with a committed intent to find root cause solutions to generational problems for which much of white America (in particular much of the private sector business landscape) owns a large portion of responsibility for creating and sustaining. And you will need an experienced bilingual guide steeped in the dual economic languages of 20th century obsolescence and the 21st century knowledge-based, tech-driven globally competitive innovation economy. Below is a data-based dive into the economic issues that your team may wish to study.

If there is a serious interest in pursuing a path of committed collaboration, that may lead toward tearing down the walls of exclusionary policies and practices to build a new 21st century Inclusive America.

If you’re serious, I am too. Let’s talk immediately, if not sooner.

There’s a lot more of my gang around the country who I’d like to introduce. But, well, to be perfectly honest, you’re not doing so well in the polls with African Americans. So, here’s a question for you regarding connecting with me:

What the hell do you have to lose?

Come meet my gang and listen to what we have to say. I know you’re traveling constantly. That’s okay. I have gang members all over the country. Have your people get in touch with my people to schedule a connection.

Oh. Wait. I have no people. Well, just email or call me directly. You might be surprised to learn we want to solve the problems you see on the media-framed surface of African American communities by developing market-driven solutions to root causes.

And by the way, in case you’re reading this, Secretary Hillary Clinton, my gang is nonpartisan. We’re wide open to helping you and your campaign also gain a better understanding of the economic policy needs of African Americans.

We’re very aware that the needle of business productivity among African Americans has never been more than 1 percent of GDP, since we became Americans in 1868 with the 14th amendment.

So, let’s have a frank discussion about how we might move that needle of GDP contribution from 1 to 2 percent. Then we can work together to figure out how to scale up from there.

This is how we will build a more Inclusive America that lives up to its potential to empower us all to cultivate our talent, pursue our dreams, improve our lives and contribute to the overall global competitiveness of our great nation.

I look forward to hearing from you soon, Mr. Trump, and you as well, Secretary Clinton.