It’s been 1,500 + Days and counting since the Forbes article https://www.forbes.com/sites/joelkotkin/2015/01/15/the-cities-where-african-americans-are-doing-the-best-economically/#20bc78fb164f dropped ranking Grand Rapids, MI as the 2nd worst city for African Americans economically based on self-employment, median income, and home ownership rates. The economic stats for African Americans in Grand Rapids are: Nearly 53% Unemployed in Neighborhoods of Focus, 43% at or below Poverty, current Median Income for Black households is approximately $25k and only received about 4% of all home mortgage approvals.
The vast majority of Black folks have been economically excluded, marginalized and oppressed from obtaining a share of the wealth and prosperity of this city. We have been denied loans to start, buy and/or grow businesses. We been denied upward mobility in the workplace, our wages has stagnated and declided and our wages stolen due to workplace discrimination and managerial racism. We have been redlined, received predatory loans and had our home values suppressed to the point we missed the greatest opportunity to own the houses in our neighborhoods and generate wealth from the houses we do own in our neighborhoods. The Black community is in a state of economic crisis.
a condition of instability or danger, as in social, economic, political, or international affairs, leading to a decisive change.
When the housing market in Grand Rapids began taking off and rents began sharply increasing and stories of the rise in people being evicted from their homes and families being forced to move out of the neighborhoods they called home for years. The City authorized studies on housing in Grand Rapids. When the data came back confirming what was taking place they declared that there is a housing crisis. The City created policies and established The Affordable Housing Community Fund. The City seeded the fund with nearly $1 million and will continue to contribute to that fund until it reached $10 million.
With the recent yet historic incidents of excessive force, over-policing, brutality and racial profiling between the Black community and Grand Rapids Police department. The City authorized studies, commissioned reports, held listening sessions to get a deeper understanding of the issues and for the community to weigh in on what should be done. When those studies, reports and feedback for community came back confirming what has been experienced and indigenously known for a very long time. The City determined there was a community policing crisis. The City then adopted policies brought forth by community organizations and residents and created a $5 million Community Policing fund.
There has been report after report, study after study, census data after census data, community convening after community convening that show that Black folks in Grand Rapids have been and still are in an economic crisis.
When will there be a crisis declared and policies adopted and a $1 million + fund established that addresses the perpetual economic crisis in the Black community?
Over the past several years there has been millages and a bond voted on and passed by residents (GR Parks Millage is estimated to capture $30million, GR Public Museum and Zoo Millage $90 million GR Streets Millage $135 million the GRPS School Bond $175 million). The public dollars estimated to be captured is nearly $450 million. What has the overall spend been with Black and Latinx businesses from these millages and bond?
Since 2003 there has been nearly $4 Billion in private investment in our city leveraged using public dollars. As a practice you typically incentivize, invest and reward the type of activities, behaviors and growth you want to see in your city/community. Can this explain why there hasn’t been any incentives created to jumpstart economic activities and investments for people residing in the highly Black populated neighborhoods in the 3rd Ward of Grand Rapids?
I don’t view budgets as just financial documents they’re also values documents. What is it that we value as a city versus what we say we value? Is racial equity and economic equity really valued in our community? I believe you invest in what is valuable and if the same is true for our community then there must be greater financial capital investments made to address the Black economic crisis in Our City.
It has now been 1,646 days and counting since the Forbes article came out ranking Grand Rapids, MI the 2nd worst place for African Americans economically.