Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Your Freedom will not be brought to you by Comcast, Sprite or Google...

We are delighted that an idea and initiative we suggested has begun to get traction, as evidenced by an effort launched in July called “Venture DC 2015”. Sponsored by Comcast and supported by DC’s Department of Small and Local Business Development (DSLBD), the well funded Venture DC initiative claims to seek to “empower emerging entrepreneurs who are addressing and solving some of DC's most pressing challenges related to health care, education, housing, economic security and access to financial services, specifically in Wards 7 and 8.”

Perhaps a little background is in order. On January 19, 2015, Martin Luther King's Birthday, we convened several DC-based Black Tech firms, policy analysts and others at a meeting in Washington, DC to discuss social innovation and technology. For more, see: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/martin-marion-tech-william-michael-cunningham-am-mba

“We focused on the role technology might play in addressing Black Male safety and security issues. The meeting resulted in a discussion about developing an app/apps to address Black Male Health Issues, specifically including the problem of elevated homicide.”As we noted at the time, this is extraordinarily difficult. But we also asked “what is the point of having tech skills if you cannot use them to improve lives, ALL lives, including the Black ones?”

(Besides, there's already an app that is being used to complain to police about Black and homeless people and to report non-crimes. We doubt this came up at the Comcast event.)

Venture DC 2015 probably did not address these issues. This is one reason having a truly diverse (race, gender, income) group discussing these issues, as we did on 1/19/15, matters. The picture below shows attendees at our meeting in contrast to one photo from the Venture DC 2015 meeting.

Left, Jan 2015. Right, Aug 2015


The Comcast event also follows my March 12, 2015 testimony to the DC City Council Government Oversight Committee on the lack of performance with respect to health care for DC residents, Black contracting. The video can be viewed at https://youtu.be/rlr_DomOais and the details of the testimony can be found at "DC's revealed Black Economic Development "Plan"" https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/dcs-real-development-plan-william-michael-cunningham-am-mba

Unfortunately, if you are an African American male actually from Wards 7 or 8, the City’s revealed economic “development plan” for you is to offer limited low wage employment (I know..I know...better than nothing) while devoting millions of dollars in funding to non-minority companies. 

For example, the D.C. Council gave nearly $33 million in tax breaks to Living Social and "gave" several valuable public properties to a firm called Fundrise. See: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/dc-wire/post/dc-council-approves-livingsocial-tax-breaks/2012/06/26/gJQAQAvv4V_blog.html  and http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/fundrises_plans_for_the_r.l._christian_library_on_h_street/9772

As we have noted before, our economic research reveals the following: there is not a single city in the United States of America where the majority of Black people resident before gentrification have been better off post-gentrification. Not one. See:  http://twisri.blogspot.com/2015/04/gentrification-and-black-people-in-dc.html

Clearly, the issues we raised in January and March remain unresolved, even after we outlined (for the Chair of the DC City Council and the head of DC's Economic Development Department) two entirely new socially responsible financial instruments to help with these problems, 

Unfortunately, issues of honest inclusion limit the ability of the Comcast-funded effort to legitimately serve the needs of the African American portions of the Ward 7 and 8 community. This is, of course, not surprising. Your freedom will not be brought to you by Comcast, Sprite, or Google.