This week, our country remembers the 400th anniversary of the first slave ships arriving on American shores. It’s a vital moment to confront our past – and how four centuries of inequality continue to shape our present.
The disparities faced by the Black community have also recently headlined local news, due to a proposed change in how often the Miami-Dade Economic Advocacy Trust is to produce a disparity study. In July, County Commissioners took an important step to change the reporting requirement from every 10 years to every two years – because a decade between reports is too long to wait.
But we don’t need studies to show us that history has left communities of color, especially the Black community, at a perilous disadvantage. We must move away from only reporting on the problem to taking bold, creative action.
Local government should play a key role by adopting prosperity strategies focused on ownership, collaboration, inclusion and innovation.
Supporting business and home ownership in communities that have traditionally been left behind is crucial to building wealth and reducing disparity.
My commission office invests in Black businesses through Accelerate South Dade, the county’s only government-funded small business incubator. More than 60% of graduates are Black- and women-owned businesses. We should replicate this program to empower entrepreneurs across our community. August is Black Business Month – a great reminder to support local Black-owned businesses.
A home is usually a family’s greatest source of wealth. Miami-Dade must do more to create pathways to homeownership in the Black community and to combat our affordability crisis, which disproportionately impacts families of color.
The County began allowing Community Land Trusts to compete for local affordable housing dollars, and we are exploring ways to expedite affordable housing permitting. In September, the board will also consider my proposal to expand the infill housing program.
We’ve also preserved existing affordable housing through Rebuilding Together, transforming the Leisure City area over three years. We can scale this effort to revitalize even more neighborhoods.
Collaborating with nonprofits on best practices to strengthen pathways to prosperity is key; for example, the County should continue partnering with organizations like Branches and United Way to provide free tax services and financial coaching.
The Prosperity Campaign at Catalyst (the nonprofit I founded dedicated to uplifting lower-wealth families) is another model: it’s a partnership between nonprofits and businesses including local banks to help people increase income and savings. The program empowers Miami-Dade families to bring in hundreds of millions in income tax credits and other dollars each year.
The County has many institutions to address disparities and expand Black participation in government, including MDEAT and the Black Affairs Advisory Board – but the County has systematically cut MDEAT’s funding. We must restore funds so MDEAT can amplify its voice and expand programming. We must also ensure that organizations like the NAACP, PULSE, fraternities and sororities, the Miami-Dade Chamber, and faith-based groups are at the policymaking table.
Lastly, policies aimed at systemic reform will help balance the scales. Commissioners Barbara Jordan, Jean Monestime and I passed an innovative rule requiring social equity impact statements for all ordinances presented to the County Commission. Impact statements are meant to provide in-depth analysis on how policies will improve or exacerbate racial, gender and economic disparities. Unfortunately, the County administration has not adequately funded this program. Other U.S. cities have dedicated resources toward similar efforts to combat systemic racism in government, and Miami-Dade must follow suit.
Government purchasing is another huge area of opportunity: we must bolster procurement programs, which reduce the inequality in contracts awarded to Black-owned businesses.
These measures provide a starting point, but many other proposals should be explored. The stakes are too high for us to wait on more studies. Let’s act together to confront systemic inequality and expand economic opportunity for all communities.