One hundred years ago, the Greenwood neighborhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma was the South’s epicenter of African American economic opportunity. Greenwood Avenue was even dubbed “Black Wall Street,” a reflection of the district’s large concentration of thriving Black-owned businesses. But in 1921, the neighborhood became notorious for a different, yet related, reason: it was decimated by racist attacks known as the Tulsa Race Massacre.
Mike Bloomberg honored this history last month by giving one of the most important speeches of his presidential campaign. Mike visited the site of the Black Wall Street Massacre to unveil his Greenwood Initiative, a plan to deliver economic justice and create generational wealth for Black Americans. And while doing so, Mike reflected on the enduring legacy of discrimination and spoke with conviction about his agenda to close the economic gap between white and Black Americans.
I was proud to watch Mike’s speech because I know the impact that the Greenwood Initiative would have on communities like mine. As the mayor of Columbia, S.C., a city that’s over 40 percent Black and located in a state that’s more than a quarter percent Black, I have seen the effects of centuries of biased policies that have deprived many Black Americans of economic power. And while many of us have fought tooth and nail to persevere, this discrimination has kept too many African Americans from building the wealth they deserve. It’s clear from Mike’s Greenwood Initiative that this would change under a Bloomberg Administration.
In a nutshell, Mike’s plan lays the foundation to create 1 million new Black homeowners by increasing the supply of affordable housing, providing down-payment assistance, helping millions open bank accounts and get recognized by credit scoring companies, enforcing fair lending laws, and reducing foreclosures and evictions. Mike’s plan would also create 100,000 new Black-owned businesses, with employees, and invest $70 billion in disadvantaged neighborhoods to tackle the effects of generations of systemic discrimination.
But not only has Mike proposed detailed and thoughtful policies that would triple the wealth of the median Black household, he also has an unmatched record of supporting the African American community. As the mayor of the largest and most diverse city in America, Mike created and co-funded the Young Men’s Initiative, which was the country’s most ambitious effort to support young men of color by focusing on counteracting persistent disparities this group faces. Mike took on the city’s broken education system, resulting in record high graduation rates for Black students. He also created alternatives to incarceration and restructured the juvenile justice system, which caused the city’s incarceration rate to fall by 39 percent and a reduction of the number of Black New Yorkers behind bars.
In other words, Mike has a clear record of advancing policies to help the African American community. He’s done it before as Mayor of New York, and I’m confident he’ll continue doing so as president through the Greenwood Initiative and more.
As Mike spoke from the stage in Tulsa last month, it was more than clear that he is the leader we need on the national stage to bring about economic justice for Black America.