OPINION – We have heard all the statistics about the conditions of African Americans. Twenty five percent of African Americans lives below the poverty line compared to eight percent of whites. Our unemployment rate presently runs 6%-7% higher than the national rate. Seventy percent of our children are raised in single family homes. The average net worth of a white American is $ 88,000 versus $6,000 for African Americans. This has to change. There is an old song that was sang by The Impressions in the 1960s. It was called, “People Get Ready, A Change Is Coming.” The chorus said “You don’t need a ticket just get on board.”

Something very special is happening within our community. The African American community is crying out for change and leadership to take it in a new direction. We are in a time period not unlike 1954 prior to the Civil Rights movement .The Ferguson incident and the killing of Eric Garner in New York has awakened an emerging new consciousness. People are seeking and asking for more. They know something is awfully wrong and are seeking answers and solutions to their conditions. They have elected a Black President, governors, senators, mayors and city council persons but nothing has changed concretely in their lives. They are beginning to realize that if change is to take place, they must look to themselves and institutions that understand, support and respond to their condition.

The Black church is that institution. It is by far the most influential institution within our community. The Civil Rights movement was successful because of the Black church. The support and guidance it gave to Dr. King was fundamental to its success. It is an institution with the moral authority and resources to make a major change in the lives of African Americans.

There are over 85,000 Black churches. They have over $50 billion in assets. They spend over 6 billion dollars a year. Pooling the Black church’s resources is the key to promoting economic development.

A template for Church Economic Development (CED) is the Allen African Methodist Episcopal church in Queens, New York. Reverend Floyd Flake took the neighborhood with empty storefronts and other signs of a dying local economy and built a 400 unit apartment for senior citizens with the help of his congregation . Allen AME has developed 11 nonprofit entities and several for the Housing and Development Fund and a senior transportation business to serve the needs of the community. It established a Credit Union, Home Care Agency, Transportation Corporation. It provided micro loans at low interest rates to over 34 minority entrepreneurs after a business plan was presented. Loans ranged from $2000-$ 20,000; recipients would not have qualified for bank loans.

This successful template must be duplicated on a national bases along with the following.

All churches must have an Economic Development Department. A fixed portion of all tithes and offerings must go to Economic Development. All churches must have a financial literacy program for its members.

There are no limits to the power of the church to transform communities. And Black economic development equals automatic political power.