Congressman Ellison holds economic summit

Two panels explored income disparities, possible solutions

Keith Ellison
Keith Ellison

As a response to U. S. Census Data and analysis of the data by the Star Tribune and the Minnesota Population Center, which showed a recent and significant drop in household income for Black Minnesotans as one of many statistics, Congressman Keith Ellison organized a community meeting to address related economic issues.

State Senator Bobby Joe Champion and State Representative Rena Moran were part of the summit that took place at the Franklin Middle School in North Minneapolis on November 10 from 5:30-7:30 pm with 100-plus in attendance.

The community gathering was billed as a “Summit on the Economic Reality for Black Minnesotans.” Two panels were assembled, the first to address the reality of the current conditions for Black Minnesotans, and the second to propose solutions.

Representative Moran made reference to a study done a few years ago that was presented to the Minnesota House and Senate. The study concluded that disparities exist because of structural racism, and that the policies that are being created by the Minnesota House and Senate are disproportionately impacting communities of color. Moran encouraged the audience to join her in doing something about the problems.

The announcement by Ellison that a judge dropped the charges against Nekima Levy-Pounds in the Black Lives Matter vs. the Mall of America and the city of Bloomington received a robust round of applause. Ironically, Levy Pounds was present to address the subject of disparities in the criminal justice system.

Before the first panel, Ellison outlined an idea that could positively impact the lives of many homeowners if the proposed legislation gets passed. Called the Common Sense Housing Investment Act, the proposed bill, which was presented earlier in 2015, has yet to come up for a vote. It is based on the current mortgage interest deduction law.

Ellison said that if his bill is adopted, it would change the mortgage interest deduction to a 50 percent mortgage interest credit, which uses the extra money to put into the National Housing Trust Fund. It maintains public housing, creates more Section-8 vouchers, and ultimately finances the low-income housing tax credits to create more affordable housing.

Panel at Economic Summit
Panel at Economic Summit

Dr. Samuel Myers, Jr., Roy Wilkins Professor of Human Relations and Social Justice at the University of Minnesota, was the first to speak. Joining him was Dr. Susan Brower, State of Minnesota demographer.

“Let’s talk about the truth,” said Myers in a fiery tone. “The congressman knows that I’m fearless when it comes to talking about inequality. The first thing I think we need to do is stop this narrative that there is something wrong with Black people,” he shouted loudly.

Myers made a case for dispelling the report in the Star Tribune that was based on the 2010 U.S. Census data, because he doesn’t believe the Census data to begin with. Myers stated that the report was misleading and he wanted to present the truth about the information. He said income comparisons between Minnesota and Mississippi were misleading and inaccurate.

He cautioned the audience about making policy based on the data because there are a lot of unanswered questions. “Before we develop any policy solutions, we need to be sure of what problems we are trying to solve,” said Myers, stating that the gaps between Black and White incomes in Minnesota compared with Mississippi are distorted.

The second panel proposed solutions for saving and wealth building; overcoming barriers to entrepreneurship; and combating incarceration, low wages and lack of benefits. It included speakers Anthony Newby (executive director of Neighborhoods Organizing for Change), Nekima Levy-Pounds (president of the Minneapolis NAACP), Tawana Black (executive director of the Northside Funders Group), Steve Belton (interim president of the Minneapolis Urban League) and David McGee (executive director of Build Wealth Minnesota).

McGee stated that we need to look at first getting educated about financial literacy and make it a priority to save at least 10 cents of every dollar we earn. He also encouraged everyone to avoid payday loans and any other money systems that can become financially binding. Belton said that Black people should increase the number of entrepreneurs in the community.

Ellison said there will be a follow-up meeting, but the date and time has not yet been determined.

 

For and update on the date and time of a follow up meeting, contact Congressman Keith Ellison’s office at 612-522-1212.

James L. Stroud, Jr. welcomes reader responses to jlswriter@gmail.com.