TULSA, Okla. — As the country continues to struggle with race relations, local organizations want to change the push being demanded in protests to creating progress with economic progress.
According to the latest Nielson Financial Report, the black dollar makes up for $1.2 trillion of money spent annually in the US economy despite only making up 14% of the country's total population. However, only 2% of that money is recirculated back into the black community.
Those disparities are what many local leaders within black communities across the country say adds to systemic unequal opportunities in the development of black communities.
The 100 Black Men of Tulsa organization works to challenge that by fostering a program to encourage black spending and entrepreneurship in Tulsa's youth. Facilitators of the program say this is the most important year yet for the program given the current social climate of the country.
The Summer Youth Entrepreneur Shadow Program (YES) pairs high school students with local black business owners for five weeks. During that time students learn all aspects of how to run a business; from marketing to new clients and drafting business proposals to balancing a budget and coordinating benefits for employees.
There are 20 students in the program this year. Ten young men and young women.
"For our young people, it's important for them to see areas of economic growth and opportunity within our communities because we want these students to come back to our communities and create the very things we are teaching them now," David Harris, the 100 Black Men of Tulsa President said. "It's so important to show them how the circulation the black dollar creates generational wealth and sustainability in our communities."
Harris says YES summer program is at a perfect time this year because it allows facilitators and business owners to show different ways to disrupt the status quo of equality issues.
"There are elements to protests and there are elements progress," Harris said. "Disrupting the streets to be heard is a way to protest but also we protest when we create opportunities for ourselves that we have been systemically denied by the government throughout history."
As program facilitators and business owners educate the youth about the value of circulating the dollar, they encourage them to understand they can be a part of a bigger solution by simply being successful themselves.
"What they will see is what they will be and when they come back and stimulate the black economy they help black communities because that money through improves housing and school districts," said Harris.
Harris said this year they are excited to provide a $1000 award for the student who writes the best business proposal to start their own business.
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