Dear Colin,

I want to say thank you. Thank you for your courage, thank you for your willingness to risk everything. I do need to say thank you to your parents as well. They raised a young man of courage, with self-esteem, and integrity.

I’m writing also to thank you for your amazing desire and willingness to help our community. Since Ferguson, I have read perhaps 80,000 articles (I speed read some) regarding the state of our community. What I learned crushed my spirit to the point of tears. I have also spoken out, and this has caused issues for me as well. But that’s okay.

justice-kaep

You have a desire to financially help our communities, and money is the resource to drive the vehicles of change. Historically, the vast majority of funds are given to HSBUs, which is a great. What I have seen, however, is this is no guarantee of success. Presently African Americans with degrees are twice as likely to be unemployed as White Americans with high school diplomas.

The challenges in our communities begin way before college. As a result, I would like to share some suggestions on how financial infusion might best help our communities:

  •  Provide technology and repairs to local schools – books, school supplies, computers, lab equipment
  •  Create grants (say $5,000-$50,000) to help our existing small businesses grow – the grant would be tied to some form of free mentorship program via SBA or S.C.O.R.E. The mentors must be not have the potential for financial gain or taking ideas/resources from the minority business – only guidance
  •  Create a small “Entrepreneur” center . This center would help with grants as listed above, but it’s function would be for those starting a small business
  •  Find (or create) organizations/training centers that work with juvenile or ex-offenders to get back on track and find gainful employment. Gainful employment would be jobs/career options which pay $20+ per hour, with benefits.
  •  Create a program to help the poor homeowners in our communities upgrade and keep their homes in good condition (Habitat for Humanity could provide guidance)

Another option is to look into assisting with affordable housing. Perhaps purchase an old rundown warehouse in Chicago. Help unemployed and/or gang members to learn construction such as electrical, plumbing, drywall etc.

They will help turn the warehouse into affordable housing units. Continue to purchase property after property to renovate and sell (perhaps rent to own, 1% loans etc) at reduced/under market costs to members of the community. This improves the community one property at a time.

Those purchasing will be required to attend:

  •  Financial Management courses – to teach budgeting so they do not lose the home
  •  A basic property management course teaching how to care for a home, inside/outside, small maintenance jobs, and how property taxes and local codes work

Hire a company to create a dispute resolution, mediation, and reconciliation program to help gang members to move from their cycles of violence.

Participation in the program also moves them into a job training/placement program (vocational/trade of some kind) which will help them train for/find $20+ an hour jobs with benefits. The program should also teach either mindfulness or yoga (or both) because these are tools which help promote calm, lower stress, teach coping skills etc.

These are just a few of the many suggestions I have. I know it might seem overwhelming. I would recommend reaching out to another established African American with entrepreneur experience and have them partner with you to create the opportunities above. Magic Johnson, Oprah Winfrey and Daymond John are a few who come to mind.

Most important, please find (and I am sure your parents can help) a law firm or trustee firm of some kind to administer the funds to make sure they are used properly. It should be a firm with a successful history, and funds provided in periodic payments to assure progress.

Thank you for listening, please keep being courageous.

Sincerely,  Terri Justice

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