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The Removal of Black Male Leadership & Its Staggering Impact on Our Collective Progress

Last month, our front page featured a picture of Cliffard Whitby, local businessman and philanthropist. Without prejudice, he is notably one of the most recognizable African-American male faces of leadership in the Middle Georgia area. However, lately his face and the faces of other male African-American leaders has taken a different turn. We won't go into detail on his legal matters or the legal matters of others but as a community we must ask ourselves: WHY NOW? HOW NOW? AND how do we as a community begin to truly differentiate between what is "reported", what is #FakeNews, and how do we process this sudden reality of missing voices? We promised you more information on the TRUTH about local news/issues impacting our community. We can't begin a journey to share the TRUTH until we talk about our community's past, present, and future with Black Leadership.

Since the ending of President Barack Obama's two terms as this nation's first African-American president, the idea of a "post-racial America" has completely died. It is dead, buried, and not scheduled for resurrection. The election of Donald J. Trump, the silent protest of NFL Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the Black Lives Matter movement, the White Supremacist march in Charlottesville, VA, and the renaissance of the #BuyBlack movement have caused an awakening/reawakening of our consciousness about race relations in America. Calls to action for moral authority, economic equality, gender equality, and "wokeness" have ushered in a robust curiosity about the predicament and the future of the black community.

One month ago, the Brookings Institution, a nationally renowned nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, DC, whose mission is to conduct in-depth research that leads to new ideas for solving problems facing society at the local, national and global level published an article on economic investment in majority black communities. Macon-Bibb even with consolidation remains a majority black city but its progress and leadership don't always reflect that demographic reality. Consolidation not only represented a reduction in the size of government and elected leadership but a noticeable reduction in leadership by race and gender as well. Leadership not only accounts for elected positions but board positions as well as minority-owned businesses and minority owned businesses doing business with government and the private sector. The absence of black voices in leadership spaces impacts the progress of an entire community not just a segment of it.

Journalist and educator, Andre M. Perry, penned an article entitled, "Black incomes out pace the national average in 124 majority-black cities: So, where's the investment?". Macon-Bibb is not featured in the article; however, the writer explores the much-needed investment in majority-black communities and how any investment improves not only the black community but the community as a whole. Perry asserts, "When we think of wealth, prosperity and opportunity, black families don't come to mind. We've all consumed a historical narrative that black people, and by extension their communities, are deficits. The manifestation of deficit thinking can be found in notions that small black municipalities need to be annexed or merged with larger less black cities to prosper. Developers, business owners, and other stakeholders subsequently don’t invest in cities that would otherwise grow." At one time, this could be said about Macon- Bibb, however, progressive work at the Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority (MBCIA in the past eight years proved differently. Although the departure of Brown & Williamson, Boeing, and others caused a huge jobs plummet, the MBCIA boasted a $1.6 billion capital investment from 10+ projects which yielded 2500+ new/retained jobs in the past eight years.

Perry further states, "Simply put, building upon assets in majority-black cities is an approach that we have yet to significantly try. There are valuable assets in black communities that developers, economists, and urbanists genuinely don't consider." Was Macon-Bibb on the cusp of proving Perry's Theory? It’s possible. However, even with the vast success of the Industrial Authority's efforts to create jobs, community partnerships, and even a Pilot Payment Program to further reinvest in the community's economic development for the long-term, the poverty rate in Macon-Bibb still ranges between 23.5%-33.4% with much of African-American citizens impacted most. One cannot ignore declining graduation numbers, crime, unemployment at one of the highest rates in Middle Georgia, blighted neighborhoods, a very shaky tax structure under a newly consolidated Macon-Bibb and the deliberate absence of black leadership.

Perry's belief about majority black communities runs parallel to some of the much-needed work in Macon-Bibb as he states, "Diversity, affordability and the presence of a solid middle-class factor in where families and companies consider establishing residences. A thriving black middle-class, a pool of potential workers, and quality educational institutions help form a foundation for population and economic growth. Economic prosperity and opportunity for growth exist in many small cities that happen to be majority-black. Some of these cities have elements that should draw families considering new places to live and business owners looking to relocate or set up shop." If this isn't the vision for Macon-Bibb, what is? Conversations about erasure are occurring across the nation. WE will look at different models driving the deliberate absence of black males specifically black male leadership. We’re taking a stronger look at local trends as we begin to assemble the pieces of a broader story for the community. There are always three sides to most stories: popular view, unpopular view, and the TRUTH. We are grateful for the blessing of being a community voice without bias. We only get a chance once a month to provide you with insight, TRUTH, and accuracy and we are grateful.

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