Monthly Archives: August 2012

African America’s Film Industry Should Look To Our Brethren In Nigeria

By William A. Foster, IV

I do not expect white media to create positive black (male) images. – Huey P. Newton

At the beginning of 2012 the release of a certain movie (remake) loosely based on historical facts created a civil war of sorts within African America. It had an all African American cast and African American director but was owned ultimately by a European American named George Lucas, net worth of $3.2 billion and creator of Star Wars franchise, and even more importantly distributed by an European American owned company that we all love to hate News Corp. (owners of Fox News). I’m sure Rupert Murdoch is thanking all of you who went out and supported the film as he can now pay Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly to stay on the air for a few more years. How many of our minds did that cross? African American supporters of the film drastically outnumbered the dissenters but most arguments in support were superficial much like measuring progress by the ability to sit at the front of the bus (instead of owning the bus company) or my favorite sign of progress African American athletes making millions (only 1 of the 92 major sports owners is African American meanwhile over 60% is African American labor). To succeed in capitalism you don’t need hard work or a lot of talent quiet as it’s kept. You need to understand two concepts and those are ownership and domination of as much of the economic food chain as possible. That is to say you need to be as close to a monopoly as legally allowed or that you can lobby to politicians to look a blind eye to. The monopoly can also be a certain Diaspora controlling the majority of an industry. An example would be the way Koreans have come to dominate the African American hair care industry. Apparently, according to many of us though you have to fight to sit at the front of the bus before you can think of owning the bus company. Imagine that.

As for Hollywood, every institution has a purpose. Every institution is owned and/or controlled by a certain Diaspora. Hollywood is an institution. Let me say again – Hollywood IS an European American institution. What is Hollywood’s purpose? Have you ever wondered why so many around the world want to come to America? Where do 60% of Hollywood’s profits come from? It comes from non-US markets. European America is “exporting” an image of paradise, its values, its idea of democrazy, and opportunity despite as we see in “America Builds an Aristrocracy”  that America is just as much an aristocracy as many other countries we claim to be anti-democratic and anti-opportunity. The social capital entertainment and movies generate make as Kanye said in his song All Falls Down “cause they make us hate our-self and love they wealth” makes many non-Americans desire for the perceived windfall of American opportunity and riches instead of staying and building up their country and its institutions. America benefits by ciphering some of the world’s best talent to become labor in its universities and businesses while maintaining a dominant European American ownership of these institutions. A domination that certainly seems to be crumbling to Asia and China more specifically but that isn’t to say they are falling far. A movie is of course more than just a story on a screen. Its shapes viewpoints and cultures. We know simplistically speaking it is why European American women have become the most desired women in the entire known world. Entertainment in general does this which is why we also see hip-hop’s presence abroad so impactful and now kids all over the world are break-dancing and have even become rappers themselves and yet African America owns and controls a marginal piece of hip-hop at best. Now, if you want to keep a people psychologically dependent and desiring to assimilate then you can’t give them strong images of themselves like stories of Black Wall Street and Harriet Tubman. Imagine that.

Nigeria has created Nollywood, which as of 2009 has become the 2nd largest film producer in the world behind Bollywood in India. Now while I personally could do without the knock-off Hollywood names they give themselves I can appreciate their desire to cultivate an industry of their own that represents them on the big screen and not waiting for Hollywood to do so. Even more so it provides counter social weight to the depiction of what it means to be a Nigerian and African which can be depicted and usually is in a negative light from Hollywood who has their own social idea of what Africa is. What is even more amazing is the number of African American actors going to Nollywood to star in films. The likes of Vivica Fox, Hakeem Kae-Kazim, Tom Sizemore, Michael Madsen, and even Kimberly Elise. That is what you call true African Dispora social and economic capital circulation. Franco Sacchi, director of documentary This is Nollywood, states that it has created tens of thousands of jobs and the industry is expanding and that Nigerians have complete control of the cinematic medium. Imagine that.

We are so romanticized with the idea of ONE America sometimes I’m convinced we will forsake our own interest to advance this ideology despite the reality that no other group practices it. We are like a child playing on the playground that sees the rules of the game written down and realizes that nobody else is playing by them so we spend all of our time trying to get the other players to play by them – so much so that we always end up coming in last. Our inability or indifference in dreaming of a world where we are masters of our own fate for the sake of a “united” America despite the fact that all other groups have shown through policy and action no desire for this to truly happen and honestly why should or would they? Is it because it is the “right” thing to do? By whose definition are we using for right or for determining morality? These are things that simply vary too much from culture, gender, ancestry, and others to have some universal meaning. And while some will argue me down there can be an agreed upon definition – do me a favor and don’t hold your breath waiting on it to happen. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it until I die (I might even get it etched on my tombstone) that no group of people in power in the history of mankind has ever voluntarily relinquished any of its power for the betterment of other groups. We get mad at groups who seek to protect their power and its self-interest ultimately because we refuse to do so. If we would spend more time doing the same we would have made real inroads to building up our institutional power as a people by now and not this as Malcolm said in jest “Progress is sitting next to white folks on a toilet” nonsense. Imagine that.

The answer is not magic. It’s simply pursuing vertical integration and ownership. This would give us a counterweight to the caricatures of how we are presented in Hollywood. As opposed to waiting on others having some moral awakening and treating us “fair”. I’ve heard the arguments well of course they have their own country in Nigeria so it’s possible. Is there something stopping us from building our own Nollywood in Atlanta? New York? Richmond? Is there not land we can buy and build? Control the medium as Mr. Sacchi stated from script to production to screen. Simply put there is no reason we can’t control the vertical integration of our movie industry from script to screen (even the vendors who serve the coffee and food on set). This would be true circulation of the African American talents and dollars. Pick any industry and repeat. Too often we are slaves to what is and don’t allow ourselves the freedom to imagine what could be. Yes, imagine that.

HBCU Money™ Business Book Feature – The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement

David Brooks has written an absolutely fascinating book about how we form our emotions and character. Standing at the intersection of brain science and sociology, and writing with the wry wit of a James Thurber, he explores the unconscious mind and how it shapes the way we eat, love, live, vacation, and relate to other people. In The Social Animal, he makes the recent revolution in neuroscience understandable, and he applies it to those things we have the most trouble knowing how to teach: What is the best way to build true relationships? How do we instill imaginative thinking? How do we develop our moral intuitions and wisdom and character? Brooks has always been a keen observer of the way we live. Now he takes us one layer down, to why we live that way.

–Walter Isaacson

The HBCU Money™ Weekly Market Watch

Our Money Matters /\ August 3, 2012

NAME TICKER PRICE (GAIN/LOSS %)

African American Publicly Traded Companies

Citizens Bancshares Georgia (CZBS) $3.60 (8.86% DN)

Carver Bank New York (CARV) $5.61 (11.98% UP)

Radio One (ROIA) $0.80 (3.25% DN)

African Stock Exchanges

Bourse Regionale des Valeurs Mobilieres (BRVM)  147.56 (0.07% DN)

Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE)  7 297.33 (0.05 DN)

Ghana Stock Exchange (GSE)  1 036.23 (0.20% UP)

Nairobi Stock Exchange (NSE)  85.40 (N/A)

Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) 35 244.22 (0.60% UP)

International Stock Exchanges

New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) 7 949.13 (2.36% UP)

London Stock Exchange (LSE)  3 000.51 (2.16% UP)

Tokyo Stock Exchange (TOPIX)  723.94 (1.23% DN)

Commodities

Gold 1 607.20 (1.04% UP)

Oil 91.36 (4.85% UP)

*All quotes reported as of 2:00 PM Eastern Time Zone

Every HBCU Freshmen Should Have A Roth IRA

“There are more important things in life than a little money, and one of them is a lot of money.” – Anonymous

fresh

You are standing at graduation and thinking about the “real” world you are about to enter. Its an exhilarating feeling. The one thing that has not been on your mind at all the past 4 years. Retirement. Of course why should it be you are just starting your 20s. You have plenty of time to worry about stuff like that you think to yourself – and you would be wrong.

The basics first. What is a Roth IRA? In the simplest explanation it is a retirement and savings hybrid investment vehicle that allows an individual to invest after-tax income into investments and earn tax-free returns over the life of the account. Any contributions (principal) you deposit can be withdrawn in the case of an emergency without penalty. You can not withdraw the earnings on that money though without penalty. The income eligibility for it requires a single person to make less than $105,000 gross to participate and less than $167,000 for married couples. You can contribute currently no more than $5,000 annually to the account. My belief is the Roth IRA is a much more vital vehicle to African Americans than their 401(K) which I discussed in an article titled “STOP: African Americans Should Not Be Maxing Out Their 401(K)“.

The reality of the matter is we are in a bad news, bad news, and some good news situation. In an attempt to put lipstick on the pig I will start with some good news. The gap between the African America’s savings rate and European America’s savings rate as a percentage of median income is only 100 basis points (or 1%). But here comes some ice cold water, versus our Asian America counterparts the gap is 2300 basis points (or 23%).  African Americans currently save 7% of our median income versus 8% and 30% for European and Asian Americans respectively. Couple that with median incomes of $65,637; $55,530; and $34,218 for Asian, European, and African Americans respectively you can see just how dire the war of wealth and resources is for us. We are saving the least and making the least. The low income is a result of lack of business and enterprise ownership. The savings rate while close to our European American counterpart is kind of misleading. We are basically running at a pace slightly slower with someone who is already 50 yards out in front of us and then miffed at why we can not catch up. A higher savings rate would require a cultural shift in thought within our own institutions.  Unfortunately, even if we were saving 50% of our income we still would not be savings as much in real dollars as Asian Americans on an annual basis. Their higher incomes in large part are based on the concentration they have in engineering and medicine along with high reinvestment of their savings into assets that generate residual and investment income.

All is not lost though because one of the major ways to combat this reality is a policy called TIME. Earlier saving will allow compound interest to work in our favor as opposed to against us.  Let us assume you are standing at graduation with $5,000 in your Roth IRA invested and never add another penny for the next 40 years other than the returns it generates on its own. The stock market has historically delivered a 12% return on investment. Over a 40 year window that is still quite a reasonable expectation with the ebbs and flows of the market. Your Roth IRA at age 62 would be worth over $465,000. However, let us say you decide to wait a decade and get more “settled” to start. You are in your early 30s with $5,000 to start and never add another penny. That “lost” decade will see the value of your Roth IRA at 62 drop dramatically to a worth of approximately $150,000. Or you can even attempt to play catch up and add $1,000 each year going forward for the next 30 years. You would still come up short only reaching a worth of $420,000.  Can our community and your family afford to just leave $45,000 on the table? Imagine your own parents. Do you think they could use an extra $45,000 right now? Now, what makes you think you will not need it when you reach that age? Hoping you will not need it is a dangerous strategy.

HBCU financial aid departments could use some goodwill amongst HBCU students and should take up the mantle of this task. I have argued that HBCU freshmen should be on campus at least 2 weeks prior to the returning student body (my own preference would be a month) for an orientation of school history, class bonding, and at which time the financial aid departments would hold mandatory financial literacy and philanthropy classes for students sponsored by an African Diaspora owned financial institution. Upon the completion of this they would assist the students in opening a Roth IRA with an African Diaspora owned financial institution. It of course, preferably, would be with the HBCU Credit Union.

It is small steps like these that can strengthen the social and economic infrastructure fabric of African America. Take the rotten seed of miseducation rampant in our students about finances and our lack of circulation as a whole as a group and plant a new seed that will grow a tree that bears the fruits of wealth and shade of protection to our Diaspora.