Saturday, December 17, 2011

Plight of the Black Middle-Class - Reader Comments

Often times reader comments of HGP  are so profound and dead-on accurate that they need to be reposted in the body of the blog. In this case, this reader, responding to the post Plight of the Black Middle-Class, offers a perspective that is worthy of review and reflection.

Greetings Brother Ben:

I have marinated on your blog post “Plight of the Black Middle-Class” for a couple of weeks with the intent of posting a comment much sooner, however better late than never. At any rate, kudos to HGP for such a well written and timely article.

Your article touched on some of the major issues that have contributed to the demise of the Black Middle Class as it specifically relates to public sector employment.

How many times can we recall our parents saying to us “Son/Daughter just get a good government job and you’ll be set for life”. Well I got myself a good government job and found my set; Set with no raise in over five years and countless non-paid furlough days, all resulting in a $10,000 decrease in my net income over the past few years; ultimately being downsized from the government workforce, which lead me to the unemployment office. So now what Big Momma?

What our parents didn’t tell us was “Son/Daughter, Be sure not to put all of your eggs in one basket; Be sure that when you make it on your good government job you spend your money in your own community; Be sure you support the struggling Black owned convenience store on the corner; Be sure to develop an entrepreneurial spirit so that you can open up your own business one day and employ others from within your community just in case the good government jobs go away. What our parents didn’t say is that if you don’t stay and provide for the Black community, others will come in and take it over by offering what you should be providing such as Asian owned beauty supply shops that sell all black hair products; Asian owned soul food restaurants (how did they learn to cook soul food?); Asian/Arab owned convenience stores and gas stations).

In all fairness to our parents, who could have ever imagined that teachers, police officers, firefighters, postal workers and other similar careers would experience such a devastating loss of jobs and security. All of which have resulted in the staggering loss of our overall economic status as a Middle Class Community. We’ve lost our homes, automobiles, savings and retirement accounts along with other assets, but importantly, we seem to have lost our since of community that so existed prior to desegregation.

While I personally agree with both you and the Rev. Al Sharpton, our strategy cannot be one dimensional. It has to be multi-faceted from an organizational standpoint. You are absolutely correct, marching alone won’t resolve our crisis; however we need to continue marching for justice and equality just as we did during the Civil Rights Movement. So on that note, I favor organizing marches. However, in addition to marching, we must establish grass roots initiatives geared toward economic empowerment. I believe one reader stated that we should assemble/meet in our living rooms to discuss economic empowerment.

I am total agreement with this approach as well as the need to develop Black Owned Asset Holding Companies and any other common sense approaches that help to empower our community and secure our future.

With every day that passes and with each news report I hear that speaks to the rising number of people in need of government assistance (i.e. Food Stamps, Medicaid, Welfare, etc.), I am convinced now more than ever that our future and our children’s futures rests solely on our shoulders. It’s time we realize that no one is coming to the Black Community’s rescue. If we don’t save ourselves from poverty, no one else will.

Having said that, let’s continue the much needed dialogue on this issue, but let’s also take our community back so that we can provide employment to our own. Let’s establish a think tank and/or working group to develop some concrete strategies toward Black Economic Empowerment.

Continue the great work………

Gregory Allen, MBA, Owner/President
Xtreme Entertainment, Inc.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ben Chavis, Black Clergy and Civil Rights Leaders Join OWS

African American clergy and Civil Rights leaders officially join Occupy Wall Street movements Wednesday morning after they make an official announcement at the National Press Club.

Give me some of that old time religion

This was my initial reaction to reading the above press release. My second reaction was: It's about time for our much revered - and recently much maligned - church to become relevant again.

After enduring 12 months of hearing sordid details regarding Bishop Eddie Long and his mega church debacle, it's about time that our church leaders direct their leadership, energies, resources and congregations to a more righteous mission.

The greedy, avarice and corrupt shenanigans of the one percenters have wrecked havoc on the nation's middle-class and is decimating the black middle-class. For example, just read these three headlining stories of today:

Here's more of the featured story:

Occupy Wall Street has taken on the same political importance the Tea Party did soon after Barack Obama's election. The 99 percenters of the Occupy Movement are pro-employee. And even though the economy has antagonized the American workforce, President Obama may have found staunch supporters in the OWS protesters.

Occupy Wall Street is expanding its base and intensifying its effort by welcoming African American church clergy to join the movement to address income inequality and economic injustice. The new addition of the OWS movement will operate under the banner "Occupy the Dream."

Dr. Jamal Bryant, the new millennium minister known for his no-holds-barred, outspoken styleand Dr. Benjamin Chavis, a civil rights icon with the National Council of Churches will formerly announce "Occupy the Dream" and their roles in the protest on Wednesday at 10:00 a.m. Chavis and Bryant will join OWS representatives David DeGraw and Shamar Thomas.

With the addition of black church leaders, Occupy Wall Street gets an added boost from the African American church going Christian community---a largely conservative population in the overall demographics of African American voters. For a while now, media and critics have pondered the shortage of African American participation in the OWS movements. read entire story

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tim Tebow's Hail Marys by Gregory Gee

After engineering a string of impressive come from the behind fourth quarter victories, Tim Tebow supporters think he is on the road to NFL success.

His infant NFL career is currently succeeding, as reflected by his team turn around winning record(7-1 with him starting, 1-4 without), once he became the starting quarterback. Tebow’s current success has surprised and shocked most (I haven’t heard any say they expected this) NFL experts.


He is not your conventional pocket passing, accurate NFL quarterback. His footwork is flawed. His throws are consistently off-target. And he has trouble with the most basic of football plays - the center to quarterback snap - after spending most of his football career playing out of the shotgun.

As a starter, Tebow began 1-1 and unable to grasp the Broncos offense. Now, this erratic passer runs a college type spread option offense that would get most NFL quarterback killed. So, why did Denver’s head coach John Fox install a quarterback suicide offense for his quarterback? But the bigger question, how does Tebow continue to progress and succeed from week to week?

Denver Broncos head coach John Fox did not have a “eureka!” moment to start Tebow, but the circumstances and a boisturous fan base allowed for Tebow to start. Let’s go back to training camp. Fox had an open quarterback competition for a future quarterback because then starting quarterback Kyle Orton was on the trading block. The Broncos tried to trade Orton but negotiations with Miami broke down and Orton outright won the quarterback competition. Orton (no longer a Bronco) started the season 1-4 and Fox was forced to start fan favorite Tebow.

"We haven't gotten it done as a football team,” Fox said. “It's not one guy. It's not all Kyle Orton's fault. But we do have to make adjustments, we have to change and we have to do something to win football games."

Adjustments were made and Tebow is now 7-1 as a starter.

So, who gets the credit for the Tebow’s success? The team, of course, because football is a team sport: the defense has allowed only 16.7 points in Tebow’s victories and have forced game changing turnovers in six of seven Tebow’s victories. Not to be overlooked, Tebow has been Mr. Clutch in the fourth quarter (only Aaron Rogers has a higher fourth quarter rating). The Big D keeps it close while Tebow delivers the fourth quarter and overtime victories.

Next in line, coach (Fox), who is more committed than any other coach to the run, deserves credit as well. Fox admitted Tebow is screwed (his word) running a pro style offense so Fox and staff decided to implement a simplified offense that highlighted Tebow’s talents. The result is a “ho-hum” that does not make mistakes and does just enough to win (think Trent Dilfer during the Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl run).

Some have suggested that Denver’s defense and John Fox deserve the lion's share of the credit for the team’s current success. Maybe, but I’m not assigning the bulk of credit to any one component — only the teammates can do that. I do not believe the Bronco's formula (solid defense for 4 quarters and Tebow great for only fourth quarter) is sustainable for long term success. The current spread offense is seen as gimmick offense on the NFL level. Gimmicks are usually good for one season before coaches, via game film, figure ways to nuetralize them.

Currently, Tebow is good, not great. Great would be to score points almost at will and keep the opponent’s defense on it’s heels (ala Green Bay, New Orleans, and New England teams). Tebow, a work in progress, has temporary success and to get better, he will and has to learn how to be a NFL quarterback.

Finally, a huge factor in Tebow’s success is his faith. I do not believe there is divine intervention to tip the scales in Tebow’s favor but strong faith (and hard work) puts all us in positions of accomplishing great things. These are called blessings. And it is up to us on how we use them - Tebow has definitely used his.

Since his entrance into the NFL, Tebow’s future as a quarterback looked bleak: a sub par, dismal rookie season and he began the season as the third string quarterback. Add to the fact that some NFL experts suggested he change position before he even entered the league.

Tebow's faith didn’t waiver.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Frugal Duchess: Currency Exchange & Other Tricks to Save More Money

Currency exchange is a thrifty tool in my home. To save money, my daughter has swapped five single dollars for a five-dollar-bill and has traded up for even larger denominations. She uses the larger bills to preserve capital.

“When I see smaller bills, I think I have more money to spend,” my daughter said, adding that it’s tempting to buy treats with single dollars. “I’m not going to buy a chocolate bar with a $20 bill.”

It’s a numbers game that we all play with our budgets and wallets. In fact, banks, financial planners and marketing gurus have launched a variety of programs built on different savings techniques. Here are a few of my favorite money-saving tricks.

•Loose change: Bank of America has a “Keep the Change Program,” in which purchases made with a debit card are rounded up to the nearest dollar and the difference is transferred from the customer’s checking account into a savings account. My do-it-yourself version of that program is simple. Just toss your loose change into a jar every day and watch the coins accumulate. It’s a painless way to create additional savings.

•Dollar matching: While saving for a home, my brother created an unusual program. For every dollar he spent, he placed 20 percent of the purchase amount into a savings account. That system helped to create a nest egg for his first home. Other savers recover from frivolous purchases with a dollar-for-dollar transfer into a savings account. This dollar-matching strategy discourages careless expenditures and forces you to cut fat from the budget in order to fund the matching transfer.

Pause button: Whether shopping for clothes or cars, cooling-off periods can eliminate impulse purchases. Some families hit a 24-hour pause button when considering merchandise over a certain dollar amount. I’ve also met shoppers who use the checkout line to debate the necessity of smaller items in their cart.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Rise of Urban Aquaponics: Farm Fresh Fish in Wisconsin

This post was inspired by research done by HGP Sports Editor, Greg Gee. The subject is Urban Farming, in particular, Urban Aquaponics or fresh water fish farms. It provides instructional information of how one can have a mini recycling home eco-system that raises perch or tilapia fish.

In cities, such as Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago, Baltimore, Cleveland etc, there are miles and miles of urban blight, abandoned lots, unused and antiquated factory buildings that are untapped resources for the exploration of urban farming.

Consistent with the HGP philosophy of self-empowerment, I think this is opportunity that should be closely reviewed. So, check it out the story and videos:

Entrepreneurs in Milwaukee, Wisconsin are working to offset ecological disaster and build up a new model for food production all in one setting. Sweet Water Organics is an urban aquaponics company that raises fish (perch and tilapia) and leafy greens in an old factory. Perch was a staple for the Great Lakes region before an invasive species (zebra mussel) devastated their population. While still small, Sweet Water has already sold thousands of fish and is looking to make major expansions in the next two years. Their fledgling success suggests the potential for aquaponics technology to revolutionize underused industrial space and provide sustainable protein to urban centers. Long term health and ecological problems for the endeavor are still poorly understood, however. Check out a look at Sweet Water Organics from a local Milwaukee show in the videos after the break.

We see a lot of different technologies here at the Hub, but this is really rare – a factory that grows food! That’s essentially what the Sweet Water Organics venture into aquaponics has created. Water goes into the abandoned factory and fish and vegetables come out. Imagine replicating that system on a large scale. The industrialized world is full of unused or forsaken urban spaces that could be converted into agricultural spaces that could feed thousands or even millions of people. Sweet Water Organics is a model for how cities could move towards becoming sustainable places to live.

Founders Josh Fraundorf and James Godsil learned their craft in large part from Will Allen, the MacArthur Genius Fellow and leader of Growing Power. Their setup is pretty typical for aquaponics. There are three tiers in the system, two for plants and one for fish. Water pumped to the top makes it through the soil of the first tier of plants. Then it drains into the second tier of plants (greens like watercress), which grow directly in tanks of water. Then the H2O makes it way down to the fish at the bottom. Plant material and water-borne organisms serve to feed the fish. Effluence from the fish is collected, and along with plant material compost, is used to fertilize the plants. Worms process the compost to make it ready for the water based plants.

Aquaponics technology is cool because it’s fairly simple. The vegetables and animals live in symbiosis – fish waste fertilizes the plants and the plants clean the water for the fish. Except for small losses to evaporation, the water in the system is self-contained. It’s a very efficient setup – all your resources either stay in the warehouse or are carried out as plants and fish. You can see the entire operation in action in the following two clips from Wisconsin Foodie. Because it’s a local show, the host explores Sweet Water Organics at a relaxed pace. If you enjoy that great, if not, you won’t miss much if you skip around. source

For more information regarding urban farming, follow these links: