(NNPA)—The economic problems we face are right in our own backyards. Unfortunately, until our problems reach crisis level we are content to engage in spirited conversations and philosophical diatribes about the likes of Tiger Woods, a billionaire who could not care less about the economic plight of Black people. We live vicariously through super rich entertainers, many of whom would not even stop to shake hands with us if we met them on the street. We get lost in the euphoria of having a Black president, arguing about his issues and his battles in D.C., rather than dealing with our own in hometown USA.

With Black unemployment hovering between 35 percent and 50 percent in our neighborhoods, with what many are calling “economic apartheid” when it comes to inclusion policies that simply exclude Black businesses and employees from construction projects, and with the myriad of other economic issues facing our families on a daily basis, we must change!

I don’t know about you but I am not too concerned about the economic situation of millionaires and billionaires, much less their social lives. I am not concerned about whether Oprah stays on TV or leaves; I am not worried about million-dollar athletes being traded from one team to another; I am not anxious about which woman Ray J chooses, who the Kardashians are marrying or sleeping with for the moment, Michael Vick, T.O., Tiny, or the litany of millionaire housewives of L.A. and Atlanta.

Lil Wayne going to jail and having to get eight root canals before doing so is of minor importance. It is economically irrelevant to Black people that week after week, night after night, BET gives out awards like they are penny candy. Worrying about the Congressional Black Caucus selling us out is fruitless, especially since it has been doing so for years. What’s the point of circular discussions, desperation, and angst about Washington politicians, when your house is on fire?

Pretending everything will be all right because we have a Black man in the White House is, as Mike Tyson would say, “ludicrous.” Other than a warm and fuzzy feeling, what have Black folks gotten out of it? These and similar issues that capture our attention are nothing but diversions—but maybe that’s what some of us need to keep from having to deal with the terrible reality of our own lives.

My last column on Sarah Palin was more satire than anything else. If she becomes president, so be it. We lived with Dubya; we can live with her—that is, if we get our act together on a local level by standing up against injustice, speaking out against discrimination, responding appropriately to “economic exclusion,” and by working together, collectively, on a local level to take care of ourselves and our children.

Banks, drug companies, and health insurers are raking us over the coals these days. Exorbitant fees and excess charges are the order of the day, and corporate greed is running rampant. Medical prescriptions are out of reach for those who need them most, and health insurance companies are raising their rates by 39 percent, cutting back on payouts to doctors, and denying life-saving treatments to toddlers. All of this in the face of huge profits, outlandish bonuses, and ridiculously high annual salaries for the very persons who received billions of dollars from the government.

Where is the local help? How do we profit from the TARP funds, the Stimulus money? How can we reduce usury interest rates, sky-high credit card fees like $60 for not using your card? What do we do about banks, insurance companies, and drug companies that are ripping off customers and making it doubly hard on the “little guy?”

If there ever was a time for local Collective Banking Groups, that time is now. If ever we needed local cooperative purchasing programs, the time is right now. If we ever needed to build strong, unwavering, and resolute coalitions among our organizations, we sure need to now.

So what’s it going to be, folks? Fight or flight? Stand up and be counted, or lie down and be counted out? Put up or give up? We must make a decision NOW. And that decision must be executed locally at first. If we get our local act together by showing that we are serious about our future, by refusing to be mistreated by banks and other business entities, public and private, we will be well on our way to being able to make an impact on what happens nationally.

At a time when we cannot afford the price of a ticket to see our athletic heroes and our beloved entertainers, we scrape together our dollars and support them anyway. Time was when aristocrats sat in the stands and watched the poor people engage in contests. Now we have poor people in the stands watching the rich play. While national politics will affect us sooner or later, local politics and surely local economics affect us everyday. Taking mental excursions to celebrity never-never land every now and then is all right, but it must be balanced by the reality of our own situation. Change will not occur simply because it ought to; it will only come when we make it so. Our actions on the local level, or the lack thereof, will determine our overall economic destiny.

Pray for President Obama to do what is right and for misguided celebrities to use some of their wealth to enrich the lives of others. And, work to improve your own life locally—bloom where you were planted. At the end of the day, that’s what matters, because economics, like politics, is local.


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