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LEADERSHIP—From left: Bernadette Turner, Rev. Rodrecus Johnson, Nicole Narvaez Manns, Erica Upshaw, Terence Young, Ronell Guy, Melvin Pollard and Darcel Madkins. (Photos by J.L. Martello)


 An April report released by the Urban Institute found that while Black buying-power is increasing, Black wealth remains stagnant. According to the report, the average wealth of Black families is $98,000, compared to $632,000 for White families.

The wealth gap between Blacks and Whites was exacerbated by the recent recession as Blacks lost 23 percent of their wealth and Whites lost only one percent. According to the report, wealth is measured as total assets minus total liabilities and debt.

Growing Black wealth was a major theme at the 5th Annual African American Leadership Summit earlier this month. The event, hosted by the African-American Leadership Association, emphasized how issues in the Black community could be improved if African-Americans focus on economic empowerment.

“There’s so many disparities in health and education and one of the ways we can change that is by building wealth. Wealth is power,” said Bernadette Turner, AALA co-founder. “There’s still a lot of inequity.”

In line with this theme, the event’s keynote speaker was Clyde Anderson, a CNN financial contributor and founder of the fundaMENTAL W.E.A.L.T.H Movement.

“I’m looking at all the people in this room and I’m thinking we could start a multi-million dollar business today if we came together,” Anderson said. “We’re the change we’ve been waiting for.”

Anderson was an entrepreneur at the early age of 7 years old when he began selling candy at the apartment building where he lived. By the age of 24, he said he was making a more than six-figure salary, but still managed to get into financial trouble with credit cards because he’d never been taught about personal finance.






“We were thrown into a system we didn’t understand,” Anderson said. “We want things and we want the look of wealth, but we have to do the work to get the wealth.”

A breakout session on wealth development broke down Anderson’s broad comments on building wealth into actionable steps with lessons on creating a budget and investing. While some believed many in the community don’t have enough income to invest, others argued there are ways to reevaluate what money is being spent on.  

“We make excuses that we don’t have money, but you go in every neighborhood and the kids have cell phones,” said Darnell Ramsey, who provides life enrichment coaching through his company IVR, LLC. “We like the flash. Our priorities are messed up.”

Another discussion examined how systems and employers in Pittsburgh prohibit African-Americans from accumulating wealth.  While many agreed Blacks needed to start their own businesses and patronize Black-owned businesses, some pointed out the financial literacy was key to achieving those goals.

“The real conversation about finances is not being had. That’s why we’re going back to basics so when a person goes to start a business they know what they’re doing,” said Darcel Madkins, AALA co-founder.

AALA was founded in 2009 to provide African-Americans with exposure, enrichment, opportunities and access to leadership positions. The organization offers programming in the areas of leadership, politics and economic empowerment.



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