Is it true that “numbers don’t lie?” What is the significance of numbers anyway? Before I explain the series of numbers above, let me give a little background.
When Jim Clingman and I launched the movement to “Bring Back Black” in Cincinnati on December 9, 2006 few of the 125 self-determinists in attendance knew what to expect or whether to expect anything. Most had become accustomed to attending events that turned out to be long on rhetoric but short in substance. They were “feel good” sessions, the effects of which would generally wear off within a few weeks after the event had taken place and folks had gotten back to their routines on the home front. Little did they suspect that that event was destined to be different; Jim and I were determined to forge a nationwide movement to bring back the glory of the “Black and Proud” 1960s, out of which would evolve an umbrella organization the likes of which had not been seen since the days of the Garvey Movement in the 1920s. That organization would be named the NATIONALIST Black Leadership Coalition (NBLC), and it was given birth on October 13, 2007 in Kernersville, North Carolina.
In spite of our relative success in bringing our plan to fruition, we were disappointed to discover that even modest success would not assure stick-to-it-iveness; the rate of attrition among our activists escalated to the point that we were not even able to hold a well-deserved retrospective to celebrate the one-year anniversary of our gathering in Cincinnati. Nonetheless, we persevered and made a valiant effort to rebuild some degree of momentum. The result was that in order to sustain any movement at all, we found it necessary to keep lowering the bar of expectation. One of the most significant areas in which we had to lower our sights had to do with projected numbers of adherents we would attract to our BBB movement, and subsequently, how many members we would recruit into our new organization (NBLC).
Using numbers provided by Roger Madison, the “iZania Man,” I postulated that we should be able to recruit at least two million adherents, and that half of them would be “Responders.” By Responders I meant individuals who would respond to any call to action in service to the Cause of our people’s uplift and advancement, and/or to make contributions to any charitable entity identified by the organization’s leadership ranks. I was not surprised, but disappointed nonetheless, to discover how lacking “conscious” blacks turned out to be when it came to replacing our usual rhetoric, with definitive and targeted action. I authored a number of “Black Papers” on topics relevant to the needs and supposed wants of black people, and eventually made a series of video presentations which can now be found at iZania.com; Living In Black.com; Harambee Radio & TV; and on YouTube. They will soon be available on our web site: www.bringbackblack.org, and my own web page: www.amefikageuka.com. All of these productions were made in an effort to lend clarity to discussions about where our movement sought to have our people go, and why we should go there. We also set a target of at least twelve (12) NBLC chapters to be in operation by December, 2008.
We have been forced to minimize both the number of members to be recruited for the organization, and the number of chapters we would establish. This continual retreating is not exactly the way to build a nation, which is what the ultimate goal of our efforts was.
During the two years (2006 to 2008) that I spent traveling the country (and parts of the world) spreading the gospel of Bring Back Black, and urging support for the NBLC, the African-centered public charter school I had co-founded in 1999 fell on hard times and I found it necessary to cut back on my BBB/NBLC travels in order to try an save our school from going under. My good friend and Brother Roger “Thuso” Madison offered to help me by organizing a nation-wide fundraising campaign to solicit contributions from conscious Brothers and Sisters throughout the country, using the occasion of our 10th anniversary as a point of appeal. Surely, responsible, conscious blacks would rally to the support of an African-centered school that had proven its ability to survive against all odds for ten years in succession! During that time we had helped hundreds of black children whom the School District had relegated to the “human scrap heap,” a phrase coined by former U.S. Secretary of Labor Willard Wirtz, and cited often by the famous motivational speaker Les “The Motivator” Brown.
Buoyed by a series of weekly programs on Harambee Radio, and propelled by a six hour radio and telethon on LIBRadio co-hosted by Brothers Roger Madison and Keidi Obi Awadu, the fundraising campaign has thus far come far short of the $150,000 amount we sought to raise. However, we have raised $6,000.00 to date, and that is itself a precedent for conscious black folks who are not known for contributing financially to any cause or purpose. Both Keidi Awadu and Dalani Aamon at Harambee Radio/TV can attest to that fact. So the struggle continues to raise enough money to cover the revenue shortfall the school faced during the months December, 2008 through March, 2009. My wife and I have been obliged to once again make substantial loans to the school, which have been barely enough to enable us to meet payroll. Other operating costs have fallen behind as much as several months and we are constantly playing catch-up.
The most severe case of delinquent debt paying has been with rent for our building. At $18,000 per month it does not take long to run up a large deficit when the income stream just is not there. As this is written, we have just been served an eviction notice by our landlord, who wants his money ($149,000+) or us to evacuate his premises by March 18th or 31st whichever the law will allow. Efforts are underway to negotiate with the landlord to allow us to remain in his building at least through the end of this fiscal year (June 30, 2009). The only way he is likely to agree to do so is if we are able to make a substantial payment to show good faith and intent. The only way this is likely to happen is for the conscious black and other progressive communities to ratchet up the rate at which they are sending contributions. Now I will explain the series of numbers at the top of this paper.
Reportedly, there are approximately 40 million African-descended people in America. If we were a sovereign nation, that would rank us the 30th largest nation on Earth, behind Spain (43,064,000), and ahead of Argentina (38,747,000).
According to media reports Blacks in America ‘handled’ in excess of $800 Billion dollars in 2007. If we were a sovereign nation with that amount of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) we would rank #16 in the world, behind Australia ($821 Billion), and ahead of The Netherlands ($754 Billion).
It is noteworthy that Spain with a population comparable to our numbers in America; and Australia, with a GDP comparable to what Black Americans spend annually, both have hosted the International Olympic Competition. That required both countries to invest huge sums of money to accommodate such a large extravaganza.
Additionally, these four countries spend the following percentage of their GDP to educate their youth:
The Netherlands 5.1% (of $754 Billion) $38,454,000,000
Australia 4.9% (of $822 Billion) $40,278,000,000
Spain 4.5% (of $1.4 Trillion) $64,315,170,000
Argentina 4.0% (of $523 Billion) $20,926,760,000
The operative questions in light of the foregoing: 1) Could the 40,000,000 African-descended people in America muster the resources to sponsor an International Olympic Competition; and 2) How much of the $800 Billion handled by Blacks in America on an annual basis do WE invest in the education of OUR Black children?
Based upon information he gathered from a variety of reliable Internet sources, Roger Madison informs me that upwards of 20 million African-Americans regularly use the Internet. The largest black controlled site alone (Black Planet) boasts 17 million subscribers! Others range from as few as several thousand to 250,000. Either way one looks at it, this means that millions of Black Americans are communicating via the Internet, most of which is of the instant variety. The Great Honorable Marcus Garvey built an organization of 11 million Black people in America, 16 million world-wide back in the 1920s without benefit of radio, television, or the “information superhighway!” Why should we settle for so much less in this enlightened era, with all the means of instant mass communications available to us? What valid reason is there to assume that we cannot build an organization of two million members with a wide pool of 40 million to start with, and a more concentrated pool of 20 million within instant reach via the Internet? As Dr. Maulana Karenga would say: “Somebody rescue me if I’m wrong” in asserting that we should be able to DO this!
Alas, I must come back down to earth. Notwithstanding the absolute possibility of all that I have portrayed above, no one since Mr. Garvey has succeeded in getting the “conscious” black community to break out of our self-imposed doldrums and self-negation, and rise up to our full height as a people whose ancestors built the world’s first and greatest civilizations. We seem to fear the possibility of success more than certainty of failure. Therefore I concede, albeit temporarily, that it is not currently practical to expect black folks to respond to a call to service and support in the numbers that we truly need if we are to achieve our claimed objective of nationhood among Africans living in America. Therefore, I have lowered my expectations as to how many of our people I will seek to join Roger Madison and me in saving the Joseph Littles-NGUZO SABA Charter School form being closed or evicted from its current location. Thus far nearly 100 people have contributed to our fundraising campaign, and we sincerely appreciate them for their responsiveness and generosity. Donations have ranged from $5.00 to $1,000 with the average being just under $80.00.
I am hereby appealing to the conscious Black community and our compatriots in the larger progressive community, to rally to the support of the only African-Centered public school in the State of Florida, the Joseph Littles-NGUZO SABA Charter School (JL-NSCS). We need to raise $500,000, and we need to raise it sooner rather than later. Our creditors, including the landlord, are “chomping-at-the-bit” for their money, and we are just as anxious to get them paid. The stress of being under siege by creditors mitigates against our ability to effectually educate and develop our students and prepare them for success in the 21st century. To reach our $500,000.00 goal, we need only 10,000 responders to contribute an average of fifty dollars ($50.00) each to this worthy cause. I dare say that no one who comes in contact with this appeal could honestly say that he or she has been cursed to the extent that he/she cannot afford to donate $50.00!
We currently have approximately 120 students enrolled at JL-NSCS. All of them are of African descent, including African-Americans, Haitian-Americans, and Jamaican-Americans. Nearly 90 percent of our students are from single female-headed households, and qualify for free and reduced lunch, the federal standard for determining poverty. These 120 students represent approximately 80 families, because many of the families we serve have multiple siblings enrolled at our school, and it has been that way from the inception ten years ago. It is likely that our enrollment will continue to increase for the next few weeks as other children gravitate to us because they’ve made themselves unwelcome at their “home” schools. We may well end the year with 130 to 140 students in attendance, but we will only receive FTE for the 112 who were officially enrolled when the school district conducted its official survey (headcount) during the second week in February, 2009.
The irony of these statistics is that we projected that our enrollment would be 140 students this year, and received our FTE distribution based on that number for the first five months of the current school year. When only 84 students had enrolled by the October, 2008 FTE Survey, our monthly distribution was adjusted downward to reflect that under-enrollment. This caused our monthly FTE distribution for the months of December, 2008 through March, 2009 to be decreased substantially, thus creating the cash-flow shortfall that precipitated the need for the fundraising campaign organized on our behalf by Roger Madison and “iZania.com” that started last November. At the rate that our enrollment has increased during the course of this school year, it is quite possible that we could end this school year with the 140 students we originally projected. However, it will be for naught as far as revenue is concerned; the funding “die-is-cast” for the balance of this school year.
As stated above, we now need to raise $500,000.00 to completely pay the school’s outstanding debts and cover the operating costs for the balance of this fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2009. Nearly half of this amount is rent currently owed and will accrue to our landlord. The next largest amount is owed to persons who have loaned the school money to cover payroll and operating expenses to enable us to keep the school operating during our difficulties. The balance consists of ongoing operating costs we will incur during the balance of this fiscal year.
Out of 40 million Black folks in America, who spend $800 Billion annually; and 20 million of whom are accessible through the Internet, we seek a modest 10,000 folks who are serious enough about educating African-American children to come to the rescue of the students and families who desperately need our school. If there are not 10,000 Black people in the whole of America who are willing to step up to the plate and contribute a modest $50.00 to such as cause as this, what hope do our 120 children have that Black adults can or will muster the gumption needed to provide for and protect them from certain harm and danger? What are they to make of our claim that “It takes a whole village to raise a child?” If they cannot believe in us, what reason do they have to believe in themselves, because after all, we are setting the example of what they can expect to become.
When can we expect to receive your contribution? Where are you determined to be in that 10,000 number? In the front, the middle, or on the tail end?