As February is Black History Month we celebrate the contributions and the sacrifices that African Americans have made that have impacted the lives to follow. The commitments of those who have gone on before us have created the world and the opportunities that we have now.

However, the reality of our current economic wealth gap is staggering. Many have fought for us to have the right to buy houses in communities all over the country. While African Americans have suffered from redlining, voter suppression and many forms of institutional racism, we are still fighting to raise up and thrive.

Our children compete on uneven playing fields. Yet, we are more than conquerors. We make the commitment to innovate and overcome. We continue to fight the fight of institutional racism that allows for health disparities and educational opportunities that often result in lower wages.

Yet, power concedes nothing without a fight, as stated by Frederick Douglass. We need to take advantage of every tool that we have access to for success. We know that the African-American culture brings a value of community and heritage. The actions and the gains that have been taken by our ancestors can be lost.

Using land as an example, in 1910, African Americans owned almost 20 million acres of land in the United States. In 2016, African Americans owned approximately 8 million acres. And the numbers continue to decline.

Land is an example of the resources that are lost when there is no strategy or commitment to long-term planning. The significant land lost has multiple reasons including the great migration in the pursuit of jobs, systematic discrimination in lending by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in addition to the lack of planning which created the opportunity for real estate developers and speculators forcible sale.

In retrospect, if there was the knowledge or the capacity to withstand the struggle required to maintain the land with the understanding of what that resource would bring, the circumstances would be very different now. Land ownership provides an economic resource that is unparalleled.

The willingness to sacrifice and strategize to build capacity for the generations to follow requires a fortitude that we can’t always anticipate. Legacy building is challenging. The first step is to recognize the tools that are at our disposal.

The Griffin Firm has committed to moving from simple estate planning to legacy building. We need to do more than the basics in creating a will that directs who will get our stuff when we die. We have created a teaching and collaborative model that incorporates partners to build together. We have adopted a model that instructs the family that includes fiduciary agents to understand what are the values that undergird the strategy for the long-term impact of the plan.

We can no longer afford to plan for the day. We must build a legacy. By building a legacy today we strengthen our family and community for tomorrow.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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