We are steamrolling toward April as the first quarter of 2016 closes. Where are you headed? What is the direction that you and those that you love are headed? How about the fates of those you kind of know…and even perhaps those that don’t know…or maybe even don’t like? Do you know? Are you sure?
So what’s going on? There is going to be another American president after Mr. Obama, one that is going to give less of a damn about you than he or Michelle does and we will no longer even have the glory of symbolic representation. Globalization, automation with robot construction and advanced artificial intelligence (AI) are going to lead to the effects of a huge young adult unemployment increase, runaway capitalism and hyper-gentrification.
As perilous as the road will be for those who are unprepared, there are incredible opportunities for sisters and brothers willing to learn STEM and deploy STEM solutions. Not just small side-hustle opportunities but real ones that can scale from local to global quickly. The truth is, Black folk are going to be impacted one way or another by STEM. There will be those that will master – or become victims – to STEM. Too many times, you have whites and other ethnic national entrepreneurs buying and reselling goods from our neighborhoods…then you see the Blacks in the warehouse boxing, shelving and shuffling…and that is where you and yours are going to be stuck if you will not get serious.
Too often, Black folk have been culturally conditioned to look for fame over fortune or wealth. Too many Black folk care more about seeing someone styling or flashing money before respecting them, or worse, want a white person to validate a Black person before they will acknowledge their presence. Culturally conditioned to see style over substance.
Far too often, a lot of our brothers and sisters that grew up and drew influences from the Civil Rights and the Black Power movements drew some conclusions that will no longer work well for a globalized, technology-driven society in the 2010s and beyond. It is problematic to wait or be looking for charismatic leaders to inspire and motivate you toward giant, auspicious goals.
With this Mo’pinion, I want to explore a few major ideas that I continue to say that we must pursue, because it is my belief that 2016 is a litmus test for Black people in America. This is the year where I assert that you better figure out where you are heading and want to be heading and commit to patterns, practices and cultures that will maximize your success…or you had better straighten up, get serious, and get it together. Play time has been over.
We must significantly lower homicides and shootings in poor Black-majority neighborhoods
We introduced this in a previous Mo'pinion. We are not directly dressing the issue of intra-community crime in a direct manner at all. What we are doing is a disorganized hodgepodge of half- and quarter-measures that may help in providing individual growth and develop possibilities for people, but are not substantive efforts that can lower Louisville’s, particularly the neighborhoods of West Louisville’s, crime and homicide rates in a rapid way.
We have youth programs for so-called at-risk preteens. We have a West Louisville boys’ elementary school. We have a mentoring program for early minor offenders. Lately, a more comprehensive violence deterrence program has come forth, built to lower the danger of violent retaliations. Do not get me wrong, all of these programs are useful and they will improve the lives and life-chances of those willing to take advantage of such interventions…but we are still not addressing, in any real way, the on-the-street violent crime—the open air drug selling, the drug robberies and home invasions and shootings and murders—that disproportionately occur in West Louisville neighborhoods. 2015 was a spike in homicides, numbers that we have not seen in 40 years. 75 percent of those crimes occurred in West Louisville neighborhoods, and these are tragedies that can no longer stand.
The problems of crime in majority Black communities are not as hard as we sometimes make it out to be. They can, with modern technology most of us have in our hands, are and should be preventable through preemptive action. A large factor in why crime is so rampant in our hoods are that police departments historically have not policed our neighborhoods in good faith and with too many people, both police and civilian, being slower to act and react to criminal activity as being “gang-related” or “drug-related.” Giving this all a harder look, perhaps Black communities across America should have sued local police departments across this nation for their callous dismissal of “gang-related” actions. It is ridiculous, given that the overwhelming majority of crime is relationship related—the perpetrator and the victim usually know or at least know of each other.
We can address this, but it demands tough decisions and it demands that Black communities are ready to address harmful criminal activity and the enablers that aid and abet such activity. More or less, we have to voluntarily self-impose martial law on our most afflicted neighborhoods and leverage Big Data and surveillance and techniques within the law to neutralize the criminal perpetrators in predominantly Black American neighborhoods. We do this by installing cameras that can be monitored that will allow people to record live feeds that they can turn in to the police anonymously. To prevent issues of localized terror and criminals attempting to make examples out of individuals, you set it up so that Black people in Philadelphia monitors the camera for people in Chicago and vice versa so that they can protect each other and people can have each other’s backs on a national (and international) scale as we should for each other.
Locally, we should have our own rapid-reporting news media that can send out bulletins on shootings and shots fired with more—a real-time community notification that will send alerts out to the community when a shooting happens. Not unlike weather alerts or school closings alerts that you can receive via text message. Overwhelmingly, we treat too many shooting situations as background noise when on college campuses, they get real-time texts when crimes occur and our communities must have the same sort of systems in place to alert a local community if firearm discharge or other gun violence happens to increase awareness.
Infrastructure are being built by Afrotechs in Atlanta and across this country that can build the crime mapping, facial recognition and data accumulation for the criminals in Chicago, or New Orleans or Houston…and even Louisville. Good brothers and sisters in Atlanta can monitor the activity in Jacksonville and react because a threat to any Black community is an existential threat to our people and the culture…and frankly, we should have long taken this position. What is done is done however, and we can be about the business of doing it better and doing it now.
Your concerns about the good faith and the reliability of American law enforcement and justice system are noted. The (tiny, rare bits of) good and (historically overwhelmingly) bad are noted. That said, we must be honest about the communities that we have that are hurting and in trouble, and we have to implement real solutions that can effectively neutralize homicides and place a laser-focus on removing the elements of the Black community that are showing no love or loyalty to us and the health, safety and peace of mind for the good people in our neighborhoods. It is more difficult to develop and build amidst criminal chaos. The status quo is unacceptable. These proposals are provided as part of the "both/and" (along with youth, teen, young adult, at-risk, first time nonviolent offender intervention programs, etc.) work that is being done to provide preventative solutions. Do not fall into the mental traps of "it's not really that bad," and dispose yourselves of hipster logic that does nothing to help or solve the real problems that happen in poor, predominantly African American communities. We also need practical on-the-ground remedies and applications, and we must pursue different ways to address these problems than we have.
Getting Agile: Creating Our Own Currency, Virtual or Complementary
In our last Mo’pinion, I brought up Agile (and I specifically referred to Agile activism) as a key means of organizing and developing community solutions. I want to further sketch out more of the “what” and “how” of this process. A key concept in Agile principles is collective ownership. Collective ownership shifts responsibility from an “anointed” individual (who can be picked off or marginalized) to both stakeholders and sources of talent and skill-sets to deliver results and functional solutions. Instead of a charismatic Black leader, Agile activism brings people of required skills and talents to work directly with people to understand a given community’s challenges and work together to develop and deliver solutions.
It is my hope, and I will do all on my part to make it so, that there will be grassroots people on the community level that will make Agile practices their organizational routine. To focus on collaborative ownership, iterative development and delivering reasonable value to their customers (the community, neighborhood by neighborhood, block by block) on a timely basis as opposed to giant promises with the rhetoric on big dreams and second-hand inspiration.
What Is Iterative Development? It is a process of continuous improvement through incremental cycles focused on delivery of solutions, small and up. The community is involved in the process of providing input and feedback, and the work is invested on delivering solutions that create value. To make this happen, it demands open communication and participation from the people.
We have a growing technical community of Africans of every stripe in the diaspora building that are building the infrastructure – have built it and are – based on Agile principles. All related links will be at the bottom of the article.
Let us discuss how an Agile solution can be structured. A Theme or an Epic is the primary goal and it is loosely defined by attributes and features that have to be established. Attributes or features are what is defined under the Theme/Epic. If the theme is Economic Empowerment, then a feature can be establishing a complementary currency that is local and community-based to keep local dollars recycled in Black communities.
To deliver the feature, the people are needed to create the user story. A user story is a statement of who you are and what you seek to achieve through the feature. Since we are talking about fiscal localism, a Black consumer can create the following user story:
“As a local consumer, I would like to have my currency in the form of bills in addition to a mobile wallet.”
So, something like this coming from a Black community stakeholder tells us that people still like holding money in their hand, so we create polymer currency notes in denominations that can be spent throughout our communities and be transferred and deposited into a mobile wallet at an exchange station (as opposed to the stillborn dreams that Black folk locally talk about in creating a credit union or bank but never get off the ground). User stories of the people, by the people allows the techs, the activists and the “jelly makers” know what they want and we collect continued input and feedback from the people to deliver expected results so that value and momentum are created. That is why I assert that Black folk focus more on self-organizing teams to fulfill multiple user stories. Collections of features lead to building up Themes where the people have a deeper investment through collective and collaborative ownership to deliver value and that builds stakeholder confidence and momentum, block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood, community by community.
In community conversations over the last 20 years, we have had a lot of talk, and a couple of half-hearted efforts, to have “Black banks.” We have to evolve from now outmoded ways of thinking. Check out this example with what happened to ShoreBank in Chicago…the whole idea, frankly, is overrated. Think about it — do we really have (or need?) a “Black bank” given that all banks are controlled and regulated by the government through the FDIC? The currency is green and the coins are silver, there’s no black attached to that! What the people need to have stronger control of is less about the dollars and more about the transactions. Understand the difference.
When we talk about “Black dollars” what we really are talking about are Black transactions between the brothers and the sisters in Black communities. After continued research and upon further review, parts of the rhetoric about “pooling our dollars together” is overrated. What we must do to better the economic health of our neighborhoods are the financial transactions that we make with each other and our businesses and organizations that create the economic activity.
How do we make these transactions? Through the creation of complementary currency that is similar to prepaid cards that is based on the US dollar and that can be freely spent around a local community to keep that money inside the local community. I say this is the best effective way to reliably track transactions throughout our community. We can achieve the Better Tomorrows through creating our own virtual currency like Bitcoin that is based on cryptology, focusing on trust and transactions using encryption and ACID transactions.
With crypto-currency tech, not only can Black folk have and take ownership over their transactions, you can create your own ledgers (records) to establish our own internal credit reporting and insurance agencies based upon this crypto-currency which is of course, based upon these U.S. dollars that we spend. Would you not be more likely to peer-to-peer lend to family or invest in an aspiring entrepreneur if you could check their blockchain (history and records of transactions), and when you can see the data with your own eyes that the other party spends most of their money within a Black community, it will go back into Black communities to circulate? Black brothers and sisters are building the infrastructure now, and it will soon be ready. Stay tuned.
The Dirty Lowdown — When it Comes Down To It
So what’s going on? There is going to be another American president after Mr. Obama, and we will no longer even have the glory of symbolic representation. Globalization, automation with robot building and advanced artificial intelligence (AI) are going to lead to the effects of a young adult unemployment increase, runaway capitalism and hyper-gentrification.
It is time, family. I am asking you to accept and develop your own stories and use Agile practices to build out your plans and dreams. If we are going to make a better Louisville and better West Louisville, we cannot have fake people engaged in games or idiot activity. How are you going to be real if you can’t see real? You cannot deliver real results to fake people.
I know that Black folk have been denied a lot. The Middle Passage. Centuries of forced free labor. Land theft and terrorism. Soul-crushing male emasculation and criminal molestations of women in the Jim Crow South, while in the north Black folks were used as pawns in union busting, denied union access for decades, denied freedom of movement in housing access by government policy until barely over 40 years ago, and illegal white covenant laws, and when that did not work, white terrorism when brave Black families attempted to move in better housing in out of inner cities and suburban areas…these pressures led many Black people to overcompensate by trying to flash things. Loud and outrageous living, big gold, big platinum, bringing, flossing.
Recognition by high society and so-called elites and the ownership of gobs of material stuff is not success, real success is the fulfillment you get by living your life and Your Story no matter how modest or major the project. Rather than fighting for status, pursue your story and find joys in the moments and effort that you put toward your dreams. In the places and spaces where you can share information and offer support to like-minded sisters and brothers pursuing their Stories.
It is not a zero-sum game about failure or success. Enjoy your moments, the planning and work that you put towards your success with determination, yet a spirit of contentment are the efforts that will help you live.