A side note: Why the issue of colonial status in the United States Virgin Islands is a non-issue …

For years the Virgin Islands of the United States has struggled with the issue of whether it should remain an unincorporated territory, become a state, or go the route of an independent sovereign nation.  The territory is nowhere near self-governance, not even a recipient of all the constitutional rights guaranteed to citizens living on the mainland. 

Going its own way by shedding its colonial status requires a process that goes deeper than a constitutional convention or ballot referendum.  Besides the issue of creating a national identity that not only includes ancestral Virgin Islanders (those who can directly trace their ancestry to a grandparent born and living in the old Danish West Indies on 31 March 1917) and native Virgin Islanders like myself who were born in the territory but have no lineage to March 1917, there is the political economic issue that undergirds the definition of colony. 

Getting clarity on the definition is important because clarity will guide you to the primary stakeholders whose buttons have to be pushed.  In my opinion, the button-pushing has focused heavily on 80% of the USVI population of African descent who are being treated as second- or third-class citizens by the world’s best-known democracy, and for this painful reason the status of the USVI has to be resolved.  Status has become another civil rights issue on steroids.

Let’s look at “colony.”  According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, a colony is a group of settlers in a distant land that is under the jurisdiction of their native land.  It is territory ruled over by a distant state with a community of the same nationality or pursuits.  As a territory, a colony is part of a country or empire that does not have full status.

What is missing from this definition is the economic aspect of colonization.  If you take the classic case of the original thirteen British colonies in North America in the 17th and 18th centuries, we had transplanted Brits that extracted natural resources and sent those resources to Great Britain for further processing and packaging where part of the finished product was sold back to the colonists.  This was the basic crux of the relationship.  We had landowners in North America trading with investors and manufacturers in Great Britain, trading on a platform of cheap land and free labor in the form of African slaves.

But when it was time to press for independence, the philosophy and narrative came from the landowners in the colonies.  The philosophy and narrative were created by a wealth class that stood to benefit from reallocating Great Britain’s monopoly on taxes from the monarch to American government.

Fast forward to the 21st century Caribbean.  I believe that if the USVI is going to move from its unincorporated status, that move will have to be initiated by the group that has the most to lose or gain economically from a change in status.  That group is not the 80% of the population that descended from African slaves.  The groups calling the shots on removing colonial status will be the owners of USVI tourism assets and financial institutions and the investors on the US mainland and in Europe. 

Should these groups see economic benefits and political influence stemming from a change in status being greater than the current political economy status, that is when the non-black wealth class will agitate for that change in status.

In the meantime, change in status is a non-issue for the majority of Virgin Islanders.  They have no control over the political economy and will settle for now with the current level of American citizenship.

Alton Drew

20 May 2022

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Where Black political leadership failed on Ukraine …

Angus Roxburgh recently wrote an honest and insightful piece for The Guardian about how Western nations can bring about a quicker end to the conflict in Eastern Europe. Mr Roxburgh recommends that all interests of each stakeholder be taken into account in order to reach a resolution.  In the article he states the following:

“To get Putin to the negotiating table at all, everything would have to be up for discussion – including Ukraine’s borders, Russia’s age-old security concerns, perhaps even the very logic of basing today’s international frontiers in that part of Europe on what were internal borders in the USSR, drawn up by communist leaders precisely to prevent Soviet republics and regions from being viable independent states. The outcome of the talks does not need to be predetermined. The important thing is to talk rather than fight.”  

I agree with his assessment.  Americans in general and Black Americans in particular have begun and ended their analysis of the conflict with the mantra of Russia’s “unprovoked” attack on Ukraine.  In the world of geopolitics, I doubt there is such a thing as “unprovoked.”  Most Americans, for example, fail to incorporate into their conclusion that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was unprovoked when history demonstrates that United States’ aggression in the Pacific, particularly the restriction of access by Japan to oil supplies, was enough to rile up the Japanese to embark on a plan to push the United States out of the Pacific.  Japan’s attack was not unprovoked. It was a responsive measure.

A similar argument can be made by Russia.  For decades they have been apprehensive about the West, particularly the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s encroachment on then Union of Soviet Socialist Republics now Russia’s borders.  The fall of the USSR and NATO’s influence on Eastern Europe has been enough to give Vladimir Putin a few nightmares.  I could make the argument that Mr Putin’s 2022 invasion was also a preemptive strike much like Japan’s preventive strike in 1945.

To make this kind of analysis requires stepping outside of the flashing disco ball and looking at all sides of the issue, especially if the issue has some sort of ramifications economically.  Stepping outside of the issue in order to account for as many factors as possible aids in strategic positioning.  For the black community, applying this rule puts it in a position to garner more tangibles from trading in the political markets.

For example, black political leadership has fallen in lock step with the media and political narrative that the Ukrainians are Luke Skywalker and Russia is represented by the evil Darth Vader.  Black leadership never took on the burden of educating the black community on the factors and environment that turned Anakin Skywalker into Darth Vader.  The overnight conversion of a group of Americans, who on 23 February 2022, couldn’t find Ukraine on a map, into flag waving Ukraine supporters on 24 February 2022 is near stunning. 

Black leadership apparently did what it did best: exchanged aggregated black support for a few political campaign finance crumbs from the leadership of the Democratic and Republican parties. 

True black political leadership would have leveraged black community political and demographic clout on a peace campaign.  Imagine black elected leadership getting 20 million blacks to write their representatives and the leadership of NATO expressing their displeasure with military action; recommending and urging a peace settlement; threatening their own domestic and foreign economic embargo as a response to unfair treatment of blacks in Ukraine; and not participating in the 2022 or 2024 U.S. elections if their demands were not met? 

This kind of leadership could have cemented American blacks not only as a domestic political force but as a player on the world stage.

This kind of leadership calls for vision.  Unfortunately, the black community’s current leadership does not have this kind of vision…  

Alton Drew

3 May 2022

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Remarks by Vice President Harris in a Virtual Meeting with Caribbean Leaders

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everyone.  Good afternoon.  Thank you all for joining us today for this very important meeting.  I am Kamala Harris, and I’m pleased to welcome you all to this conversation and this convening.

As a neighbor in the Western Hemisphere, the United States shares a common bond with the nations of the Caribbean.  As neighbors, we know our partnership is key to our shared prosperity and security. 

We also know that we have common challenges.  And that is why I’ve convened this meeting: to strengthen our partnership and chart a path forward together.

As we all know, our nations have extensive people-to-people ties.  Millions of Americans have Caribbean heritage.  Millions of Americans travel to the Caribbean each year for vacation, to visit friends and family, and to engage with the richness of that history.

From South Florida to New York and beyond, Caribbean culture has become a meaningful part of American culture.  And we are all grateful for that. 

At the same time, we recognize that we find ourselves collectively in a challenging time.  The pandemic has upended so many aspects of our lives and the lives of our people.  And economic recovery has been difficult and uneven for so many in this region. 

There is also an existential threat we collectively face in the climate crisis, and we are acutely aware that the world’s emissions have an outsize impact on the Caribbean.

In light of this, I want to be clear: The United States is committed to you, our neighbors, and we will take on these challenges together. Convenings like this haven’t happened very often.  So, today, as a demonstration of our administration’s commitment, I propose this be an annual meeting.

We have, of course, today, a lot to discuss.  And there are three areas in particular that I will ask us to focus on — areas that I know are a priority for many of you: economic recovery, security, and climate and energy.

On the issue of economic recovery, the United States is the Caribbean’s biggest economic partner.  This partnership benefits the economy of the United States just as it benefits your economies.  So we will explore today how we can strengthen that economic partnership.

On the issue of security, I know for many of you that you are particularly concerned about the trafficking of drugs and guns, and the associated violence.  That is why today’s agenda includes a discussion of additional funding and other support the United States can offer to reduce violence in the region.

And third, we will discuss the urgent issue for our entire planet: the issue of the climate crisis.  In particular, we will discuss ways to strengthen your climate resilience and to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy. 

Your input will help guide the United States’ effort in the days and months ahead.

To each of you: I thank you for being here, and I thank you for the work we have done and will continue to do together.  I look forward to our discussion today and to our gathering in Los Angeles at the Summit of the Americas in June. 

Thank you to the members of the press who are watching these opening remarks.  We will now proceed with the rest of our meeting.  Thank you.

                             END                4:41 P.M. EDT

Source: The White House

Black social media documents how not to approach global political power …

Commentary

Being a part of the African Diaspora, it is sad to see how Afro people in America and its Caribbean territories have been analyzing the Russian invasion of Ukraine through emotionally tainted lenses. On Facebook, for example, Afros quickly donned digital banners on their feeds expressing support for Ukraine. Some adopted the left-wing media narrative of tying former US president Donald J. Trump to the actions of Vladimir Putin, an easy low-hanging fruit move by Mr Trump’s detractors given his past expressions of admiration for the Russian Federation president.

The media has inundated Afro people in America and its Caribbean territories with plenty of images that stoke emotional responses. Crying children, concerned parents, people trying to leave on trains, bombed out buildings, and a young Ukrainian president in military garb are the content for countless press photos on Twitter and Facebook. Afros in America and its Caribbean territories dutifully share these photos thus aiding the narrative’s virality. What is puzzling is how Afro people in America and its Caribbean territories have not given any mention or included in their analyses similar actions taken by their own country with plenty of those actions based on contrivances just as grievous or more so than those conjured up by Mr Putin. Here are a few:

  1. The American invasion and occupation of Haiti from 1915 to 1934, under the guise of maintaining law and order so as to prevent European foreign influence in the island-nation.
  2. The American designed and supported Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961, under the guise of stemming the influence of the Soviet Union and neutralizing Cuba’s new left-wing dictatorship.
  3. The Kennedy Administration’s implied approval of the assassination of South Vietnamese president Ngo Dinh Diem who had shown himself to be ineffective in garnering the people’s support against the North Vietnamese.
  4. The United States invasion in 1983 of the island-nation of Grenada, pursuant to the assertion that an airport under construction on the island-nation was intended to serve as a staging area for Soviet Union military aircraft. Troops from Jamaica and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States also participated.

Fast forward to today and the Russian Federation is expressing its concern for possible NATO encroachment on Russia’s borders and that invasion of Ukraine is necessary for mitigating such a threat. Afro people in America and its Caribbean territories have not taken into consideration that they have seen this behavior before on the part of the United States and that such behavior, albeit egregious, is par for the course in world politics.

And it’s not like war on the European continent is that unusual, even today. Blood on the European continent was spilled during the Yugoslav Wars from 1991 to 2001, yet none of the concerns we heard back then come close to the amplification we hear today.

Given our marginal political power status, standing on the sideline and and acting like we are at a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader audition brings no dividends. The only question that should be asked about now is, “How do we benefit from this conflict?” In the short and intermediate run, nada, especially since Ukraine is not a major trading partner of the United States or the Caribbean.

The longer run is a different matter. The removal of certain banks from the Society for Worldwide International Financial Transactions, freezing assets in American and European banks, and the suspension of the Russian stock market should not provide the African Diaspora with any reason to do back flips and shake their pom poms. Quite the opposite. It should make you scared. The world is not western Europe. The populations of China, India, and the continent of Africa alone account for over three billion people. Technology is not limited to the United States. These areas can, with a lot of feasible work, create their own regional, integrated political and economic systems and trade among themselves. If that were to happen, then Afros in America, who already, as a collective. are on the bottom rung will suffer as their US dollar loses more value and poor working families are faced with the increasingly daunting task of keeping food on the table.

Rather than sending “prayers up” for (and to) a bunch of people who, when the dust settles, will be doing better than you, it is time for Afro peoples in America and her Caribbean territories to ask themselves, “How do we prepare?”

Alton Drew

04.03.2022

Realizing that we are not American is the first step toward USVI integration into the Caribbean …

Commentary

One day while heading out of my apartment on an errand, I met a young lady seemingly out on a walk for exercise. We exchanged pleasantries and inquired about where we were both from.  She said she was from Guyana. I told her I was from the Virgin Islands.  She replied, “But you guys aren’t Caribbean.”  She was taken aback by my indignation. “Of course, we’re Caribbean!”, I said.  She quickly headed on her way with the clear message that I was insulted.  This was many years ago. After a couple decades of mellowing out (although I refuse to apologize for any passion I express regarding politics), I can see why West Indians, especially those residing in independent Caribbean island-nations, would take the position that the U.S. Virgin Islands is more American colony than Caribbean.

 All one has to do is to follow residents of the USVI on social media to realize how immersed Virgin Islanders are in American society and politics.  From American football (full disclosure. I am a 50-year Dallas Cowboys fan), baseball (you are either a Yankees or Dodgers fan), and partisan politics, Virgin Islanders have an opinion on all things American.  Peruse the local print media and you’d swear the rest of the West Indies did not exist, even with a significant portion of the territory’s population either hailing from or directly descended from parents who were born on other islands.

Virgin Islanders are not the only West Indians suffering from cultural cognitive dissonance. The people of Barbados have always been viewed as being more British than the British.  Guadeloupe is a French department, fully incorporated into France. You are in France when you visit Guadeloupe.  The British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands are still crown colonies of Great Britain. But just because other territories may suffer from dependency and cognitive dissonance issues doesn’t mean the Virgin Islands has to marinate in that infirmity.  Snapping ourselves out of this malaise is increasingly imperative given the cultural shifts I am seeing in the United States.

America is a divided nation.  According to data from Pew Research, approximately 77% of Americans believe the United States is more divided now than it was prior to the outbreak.  At the core of this division are differences over ideology, race, and religion.  The American Democratic Party is seen as tending toward more progressive or liberal views on ideology, race, and religion.  While the Democratic Party itself has its underlying fissures led by its distinct internal factions, its prevailing narrative is based on responsible and increasingly regulated capitalism, voting rights reform, racial equity and equality, and religious tolerance.  The Virgin Islands political landscape is dominated by the local Democratic Party, but other than the moniker “Democratic”, that is about where any serious similarities end.

The non-relatability of the vast majority of Virgin Islanders to the Republican Party is understandable.  I am to this today amazed that the Republican Party still exists in the USVI.  The narrative they have been painted with by the left—that they are racist and support corporate greed—has seeped in to the sub-conscious of a Virgin Islands with a population that is 79% Afro-Caribbean and is not a haven (yet) for corporate activity that has positively impacted USVI residents.

But the notion that USVI residents should latch on to the national Democratic Party is also puzzling. Having observed the national Democratic Party up close and personal here on the mainland, I can tell you that the national party and its ideology has nothing in common with the mores of the people of the USVI.  Virgin Islanders are, again, majority Afro peoples; they are religiously conservative; and, ironically, vehemently opposed to wasteful government spending, especially where benefits are not apparently flowing to the population. “Where deh money?” is still a refrain in VI politics, and vehemently so given the territory’s small and intimate population.

This unfounded allegiance, I believe, stems from the USVI not only appreciating its place in the Caribbean, but failing to establish a national identity of its own.  Since the territory officially transitioned on 31 March 1917 from the Danish West Indies to the Virgin Islands of the United States, it has gradually pursued Americanism.  As American ascendancy increased seemingly exponentially from World War I into the late 1960s, the Virgin Islands rode that wave.  Virgin Islanders, especially older ones, fail to see that the wave has long crested and that America’s place in the world is under severe challenge. 

The notion of democracy itself is under challenge globally.  China’s ascendance adds to skepticism that democracy must accompany capitalism in order for an economy to grow.  In addition, the likelihood of China and Russia aligning to create and deploy their own communications system for moving capital and currency is increasing.  And even in the Virgin Islands own Caribbean backyard, the idea of regional economic integration is moving from the backburner to the oven.

The Virgin Islands cannot take advantage of the shift in global economic, social, and cultural attitudes if it insists on maintaining ties with a giant sitting on its laurels.  The United States will be forced into isolationism either by its own choice or when the rest of the globe turns its back on America.  When that happens, it will be forced to cut costs and a territory that does not bring the US tax revenues and is no longer needed as a military deterrent to World War II German submarines will be on the chopping block.

To prepare for what I see as inevitable, the Virgin Islands of the United States will have to look within, create a national identity narrative, and use its labor talent and natural resources, and go its own way.  There is a waiting Caribbean region for us to integrate into.

Alton Drew

21.02.2022         

Interbank Market News Scan: Canada sees no rush to issue a central bank digital coin …

Links you should follow ….

Foreign exchange. Luis Costa outlines commodity currencies that he is trading. This strategist outlines which currency commodities he’s trading (msn.com)

Foreign exchange. The Bank of Canada is thinking in more concrete terms about how its digital currency might look and work but it does not currently see a strong case for issuing one, a deputy governor said on Wednesday. Bank of Canada does not see currently see strong case for issuing digital currency | Nasdaq

Foreign exchange. After more than a year of slumber, investors are preparing for currency volatility to come roaring back to life. Currency FX Volatility Set for a Comeback on Looming Policy Shifts – Bloomberg

Foreign exchange. A dovish Federal Reserve and accelerating growth abroad are weighing on the dollar, a move that could be a boon for stocks and other assets. Analysis-Floundering dollar falls to bottom of global currency heap (msn.com)

Foreign exchange, cryptocurrency. ‘Bitcoin isn’t even a reliable hedge for risk-off events, let alone inflation shocks. It’s actually highly pro-cyclical…In difficult times, crypto assets don’t go up; they go down.’— Nouriel Roubini. Bitcoin isn’t a currency or financial asset, but ‘looks like a bubble’: Roubini (msn.com)

Foreign exchange rates of interest …

Changes in currency tails comprised of the euro, US dollar, and Canadian dollar and currencies out of the Eastern Caribbean, Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Jamaica remained relatively flat over the last 24 hours. Any tightening of rates on the part of major central banks is expected to have a significant impact on Caribbean currencies thus the purchasing power and cost of remittances sent back to the Caribbean.

Currency PairsRates as of 12:00 pm AST 27 May 2021Rates as of 10:45 am AST 26 May 2021
EUR/XCD3.30073.3055
USD/XCD2.70002.7000
CAD/XCD2.22492.2402
EUR/JMD182.7800181.2040
USD/JMD147.9460148.0130
CAD/JMD122.3780122.8050
USD/DOP56.479956.4454
USD/HTG88.663488.6591
Source: OANDA

Interbank Market News Scan : A thought on creating an Afro-American currency …

My morning takeaway …

I think a currency should reflect the reality of the relationship between two distinct political economies that reside under a single flag.  I am specifically concerned with two groups under the American flag: Afro-America and the Virgin Islands of the United States.  Neither group have been fully incorporated into the American political economy.  There is only a 47-year difference between their starting attempts at incorporation into the United States with Afro Americans, at least on the surface, holding a lead in political-economic corporation due primarily to their physical presence in the contiguous United States, their 43 million population, and thus greater access to political channels.

Both Virgin Islanders and the Afro-American community have disproportionately higher poverty rates, lower incomes, and higher unemployment rates than their white American counterparts.  Both communities suffer from a dearth of capital and lack productive capacity, for now, through which they could independently sustain themselves.  Their banking markets are, like the rest of the United States, subject to the Federal Reserve, and the lip service of the Fed’s community development initiatives and the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977.

A priori, neither community draws the attention of family offices, hedge funds, investment banks, or individual trading desks in search of margin that supports any trade, including foreign exchange.  This is due primarily to both communities not having sufficient pooled natural and human resources upon which a currency (value or “energy”) can be calculated and leveraged.

Then again, under a credit creation theory of banking, this may not matter where credit, money, margin, are created out of thin air … but more on that at some other time.

In the mean-time I thought it would be interesting to add two proxy foreign exchange rates reflecting the currency of the Virgin Island (USVI) and Afro-American (AfAM) communities.  It is my endeavor, amongst too many others, to develop them in the near future …

20 May 2021

Currency PairsRates as of 2:00 pm GMT 20 May 2021Rates as of 12:44 pm GMT 19 May 2021
GHS/EUR0.14180.1419
GMD/EUR0.01610.0159
NGN/EUR0.00200.0020
SLL/EUR0.00010.0001
KES/EUR0.00750.0076
RWF/EUR0.00080.0008
ZAR/EUR0.05830.0584
MZN/EUR0.01370.0137
XCD/EUR0.30330.3033
USVI/USD0.00010.0001
AfAM/USD0.10000.1000
Source: OANDA, Alton Drew

Links you should follow …

Banks.  Three of the biggest US banking groups want the US Department of Agriculture to reconsider the terms of billions of dollars in planned debt relief for minority farmers, claiming it will cut into banks’ profits — and warn they may have to cut those same farmers off from future loans.  Banks say USDA’s debt forgiveness for minority farmers will cost them money and could affect future loans. Black farmers call that a threat. (msn.com)

Banks. Australian stocks closed higher on Thursday, marking their steepest rise in nearly two weeks, due to gains in tech and banking stocks and upbeat employment data.  Australian shares see best day in nearly 2 weeks on jobless data, banks boost | Nasdaq

Banks. In an effort stemming from the murder of George Floyd and at the behest of a Connecticut state official, a who’s who of financial institutions on Tuesday promised to address the effects of racial disparities in financial services by investing billions of dollars to support Black and Latinx communities. A state treasurer convinced big banks to commit billions of dollars to tackle racial inequities. This is the result. (msn.com)

Banks. Mike Mayo, Wells Fargo Securities senior banking analyst, joins ‘Power Lunch’ to discuss the competition banks could be facing from fintech, the future of bank branches and more. Banks are headed toward record efficiency, says Wells Fargo’s Mike Mayo (msn.com) Banks, central banks, digital currency. Can crypto benefit central banks? 3 ways digital currencies backed by central banks could benefit the global economy, according to Fitch (msn.com)

Central banks. The Bahamas became a global leader in e-money last year when it launched one of the world’s first central bank digital ­currencies—the “sand dollar”—beating China’s “digital renminbi” to the market by six months. How the Tiny Bahamas Beat Global Giants in the E-Currency Race (msn.com)

Opinion: Black Americans and Bitcoin. Playing it Wrong from the Beginning and How to Play it Right Now

A few years ago, I saw a number of Black Americans on Facebook touting bitcoin as the path to wealth. What bothered me that in all the hype being expressed that there was nary a discussion on what currency actual meant. No discussion as to the economics. No discussion as to the political-economic philosophy that undergirds a currency. 2017 saw the bitcoin bubble burst and the chit chat by those same Black Americans faded away like the unrealized gains they promoted.

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have been touted by some proponents as the way to introduce underbanked or unbanked minorities into the credit system. Some Black Americans may have bought into this although the leading Black advocate organizations i.e. National Urban League, NAACP, Color of Change, Multicultural Media, Telecom, and Internet Council, to name a few, have been relatively silent on the benefits of crypto as a banking and payment system. No surprise their since when it comes to technology, Blacks have consistently taken a consumer position versus a producer position. And given that these legacy organizations are lead by the older generation, leadership’s inability to wrap its head around the true underlying economic benefits of cryptocurrency is a direct result of leadership being out of step with technology overall and how technology lies at the core of America’s economic exceptionalism.

In addition to consumerism, Black Americans still emphasize allegiance to the American political economy instead of a more skeptic, independent view of it. Again, its current leadership emphasizes inclusion and diversity as benefits without discussing its costs: that not everyone will benefit from such an approach. A truly inclusive approach to the political economy would be one where Black Americans view themselves not as a community, but as a nation within an American confederation. The advantage of that approach, a national approach, would require that Black Americans re-evaluate the meaning of economic value and the technology or mechanisms for capturing, storing, expressing, and transporting that economic value, particularly in a digital age. Cryptocurrency can be a vehicle for capturing, storing, expressing, and transporting Black economic value.

The upfront work will be the hardest, that being to identify and “mine” that value and quantifying it into a digital asset like cryptocurrency. But by doing so, by tying it to a Black economic engine, Black Americans can provide a blueprint for moving cryptocurrency from merely a speculative commodity to a true currency that can be used in the mainstream to buy and sell any and all goods. Unless crypto can demonstrate its utility in trade, then Nouriel Roubini’s description of cryptocurrency as shit coins will take hold as truly appropriate by most observers. Creating that value means taking a “nationhood” approach. It means connecting all productive assets within Black America to its current banking assets, identifying the economic value within Black America, issuing coin based on that value, ane getting members of its community to buy off on that value.

There are legal and regulatory hurdles, but the biggest hurdle will be cultural and societal. Black Americans will have to take a more courageous approach to Black economic viability and sustainability. The current political-economic structure has failed them and it will be up to Blacks on their own to reimagine the production and distribution of economic value within their communities.