A common theme and a unifying thread that tied together almost a week of lectures, forums and workshops at the 10,000 Black Men’s Conference this month was the assertion that African Americans must do for self.
Regardless of the topic — whether it was business, education, finances or politics — lecturers, speakers and presenters such as Dr. Cornel West, Professor Griff, Dr. Tony Browder, D.C. attorney Malik Zulu Shabazz, Professor James Small and Ilayasah Shabazz, author, community activist and daughter of slain human rights activist Malcolm X, stressed the importance of nation building, independence and self-sufficiency.
African Americans are confronted with a mélange of issues, including the widespread killing of primarily unarmed Black men, women and children by law enforcement; the troubling rise of bigotry, White privilege and nativism; racial profiling; police brutality; an increasingly hostile president and administration; and self-destructive behavior that impedes or stunts Black people’s progress.’
These realities are what prompted organizers to create a vehicle for change.
Jauhar Abraham, one of the conference organizers, characterized the week’s activities a success, adding that the event allowed a diverse cross-section of D.C. residents, Pan Africanists, activists, professionals, people of African descent from abroad and other African Americans to come together, organize and mobilize under one umbrella.
“I think it went well,” said Jauhar, a community organizer and chair of the Ward 8 Business Advisory Committee. “It allowed people with different ideologies to come together and strategize. Black people coming together and working towards common goals is very difficult but very necessary. Some brothers came from South Africa. Everyone had different ideas and points of view. It was enlightening.”
Jauhar said African Americans have the power, tools and resources to transform and build the spaces in which they live.
“The power is in the people,” he said. “White people don’t hold the power but the trick is to [let you] think someone has power over you. We need to have forums to educate the community and we have to be responsible for the education of our children. Nowhere else in the world is the curriculum left to the oppressors to teach children of the oppressed.”
The conference and related activities have sought to replicate an idea first expressed by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who in 2015 called for “10,000 fearless Black men” to secure Black communities across America. A number of organizations and groups nationally have taken up Farrakhan’s clarion call.
One such organization is Black Lawyers for Justice founded and headed by Shabazz. On Oct. 5, he, West and other luminaries held a kickoff rally to announce the 10,000 Black Men’s Convention/March.
The conference took place at the historic Shiloh Baptist Church in D.C. from April 18-22.
“We must have a Black men’s movement,” said Shabazz, a Howard University grad and former chairman of the New Black Panther Party. “At a time when the president of the United Snakes of America, who has a long litany and train of abuses, out of his filthy and foul mouth steps up and calls Black men — our brothers, who are acting in a spirit of tradition and defiance and protest that we have had to engage in since we were first dragged to the hells of America — ‘sons of bitches,’ I say we must have a Black men’s movement.
“Those who are here love the Black man. This movement isn’t just for Black men but it’s focused on Black men … We need a movement that will rise up and crush the opponents of Black people’s rise.”
On Thursday night, a stellar group of economists and businessmen and businesswomen, including Watkins, Baltimore-based “Success Scholar” Haki Shakur Ammi, Greg Harris and David Anderson Sr., unveiled a Black National Economic Program.
Watkins, a respected economist, political analyst and social commentator, told the audience that money must be thought of at all times and not pushed off the table. He said African Americans have to change the way they think about money and adopt habits that will put them on the road to economic success.
“I probably [wouldn’t] tell my children to work for another person,” he said. “You have to be a boss. I tell my children how to be a boss. The way a tree grows is how we make money. You have to plan seed and give them time to grow. You can set the bar really low.”
Watkins — who has said on his Financial Juneteenth lectures that wealth-building is the new civil rights movement — encouraged listeners to invest $5 a day in the stock market or save $5 daily. Compound interest, he said, will multiple that investment to the tune of $102,000 after 20 years and $750,000 after 40 years. Investing $20 a day would yield a $1 million return.
“You must invest in your own future, not in fast food, not in rent, not in the hair salon and not in the White man’s future,” he said. “Everyone should save at least 10 percent of their income. Millions have no money saved and people are living paycheck to paycheck. When it comes to money, ‘get it, keep it, grow it.’”
Watkins said Americans historically are poor savers but said that’s no reason for African Americans to be a part of that trend. Blacks must become economic soldiers and planning is the key, he said.
He offered 10 ways for African Americans to become wealth creators. These include investing $5 a day in stocks; supporting Black businesses; ensuring that every child learns how to start a business by age 10; families studying the basics of real estate for 20 hours a week; and hold weekly family business meetings to brainstorm and discuss wealth building, business, money and developing an economic empire.
“Economic intelligence is critical for this economy,” he said. “And ownership is where the game is at. We don’t need more jobs from White people. What we need are economics in our community. We must develop markets for capital by investing in businesses, develop markets for contractors to trade labor and develop and share a customer base. I’m not just pulling things from the air. If you follow this plan, you will see success. The 40-for-40 plan will literally reverse the wealth gap.”
Watkins said adults in every African-American household need to have life insurance and a will, using the case of superstar musician Prince to drive home his point.
“Prince died without a will and now his life and body of work belongs to someone else,” he said. “Who benefits from his death? Attorneys and bankers who already have made more than $8 million and the Internal Revenue Service which will get half of Prince’s $200 million estate.
“They’re gonna keep on eating off his body like dead crows,” Watkins said. “He could have saved himself a lot of trouble if he had a will. Make sure you have a good life insurance policy and a good will. You can’t go through life acting as if you’re never gonna die.”