Graphic by Morgan Elise Johnson
* Julian Wright is a student of life and an informed, pragmatic observer/activist. Here’s his take on why we need to build generational wealth in the Black community.

The numbers game is not just a modern topic du jour for Black people in Chicago or any other city, for that matter. If what we know to be Darwinism actually holds true, running the numbers should be ingrained in our DNA by now. Black people have been so historically poor in this country. Who would know numbers better than us? For so long, we’ve done so much with so little.

Situated in a hot point of contention, between a few of Chicago’s rival street gangs, I tend to overhear a lot of numbers on any given day.

“You got change for a $5?”

“Loose squares, 2 for $1!”

“I got 2 for the $10!”

Once, while walking down Homan Avenue on the Westside, I overheard a Black gentleman rattling off numbers so quickly and accurately during a telephone conversation that it easily felt like I was eavesdropping on a Jewish guy selling stocks on Wall Street. If only this gentleman and others like him, who are obviously mathematically-inclined, would apply their numbers game to finance, the trajectory of our community would change. Think back to the initial activism and Black empowerment work of street gangs like the Conservative Vice Lords in the 1960s.

All that to say – it’s time we as a people use the numbers game to reverse the trends. After their bout with genocide, oppression and slavery, the Jews realized that if they are to thrive, they must have some sort of financial fortitude as a means of self defense.

I’m not blaming Black people for all of our woes. But, part of the reason why it’s so easy for the system to murder, disproportionately incarcerate and oppress us is because we have no financial power. That’s the way America works as a far-right, extremist and capitalist society. If you have money, you have certain irrevocable privileges that the poor doesn’t have.

With that said, all’s not lost for us. To truly pull ourselves out of this cycle of incarceration, poverty and violence, we have to do it by the numbers. We must forego our white Jesus complex, which is our community sitting around, praying for a white savior to swoop in with plentiful jobs and opportunities to bring us out of poverty. We, Black people, need to create our own economies.

It starts with opening a compound-interest account at a financial institution such as Prudential, and investing as little as $5 a day. Compound interest is essentially interest accrued on interest – or, the interest paid on the initial account balance and the amount of accumulating interest over time.

I wish I understood this method of growing money exponentially at an earlier age. Having grown up in Chicago Heights, and attending Lake Forest Academy, I lived in two totally different worlds – one marked by a seemingly inescapable poverty and the other by generational wealth. I wore the same clothes, which my mother worked hard to provide, over and over again while my white peers effortlessly exuded luxury as a birthright. I read Marx and the like, but I was too young to truly grasp income inequality and the racist policies that brought Black people down this unending rabbit hole.

Now, as an adult, I’m dedicated to changing our community through teaching the importance of building generational wealth. But I can’t do this alone. We have to come together as a community to build up one another and the Black dollar for our children.

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