During a spectacular testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee in June 1956, actor and singer Paul Robeson stated: "My father was a slave and my people died to build this country and I'm going to stay right here and have a part of it, just like you. And no fascist-minded people like you will drive me from it. Is that clear?"
Like Robeson, most African-Americans are descendants of slaves who suffered at the hands of their owners and endured every heinous physical crime imaginable. They were repeatedly tortured, raped, starved, and brutalized on a daily and sometimes hourly basis.
In addition to physical maltreatment, slaves were also subjected to emotional and mental exploitation, which included education deprivation. All across the South, white legislatures created new laws to restrict the rights of African-Americans, and devised regulations that forbade anyone from teaching slaves or free blacks how to read. Anti-literacy laws were enforced in many slave states before and during the Civil War, and carried heavy penalties for both student and teacher if slaves were educated. The anti-literacy laws were enacted largely in response to abolitionist David Walker's 1829 publication of Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World, which openly supported rebellion, and Nat Turner's slave rebellion of 1831.
Enslaved and free blacks understood the power of education and aimed to learn to read, write and educate their children, which was viewed as a form of mental freedom. This inclination to learn and acquire knowledge was championed by great historians and civil rights activists such as W.E.B. DuBois, who believed that African-Americans needed chances to pursue advanced education in order to develop its leadership.
Due to their unparalleled bravery and the inalienable right to live free, black Americans throughout history have made extraordinary advancements in business, politics, law, education, science and technology, literature, sports, music, performing arts, the military, and media. Similar to Robeson, who was educated at Rutgers College and Columbia University, the successes of African-Americans occurred in the face of racism, and in defiance of the social, political, and economic systems designed to marginalize and oppress black people.
Today, education is one of the most important instruments we can use to thrive and succeed in the U.S. Not only formal, postsecondary education at colleges and universities, but also self-education, which requires the exploration and cultivation of ideas, tools and resources not found in schoolbooks.
We all know from statistics that, even though the U.S. spends more per student on education than any other country, American schools lag behind most developed nations in education quality, academic achievement, and educational performance. Almost 60% of course material in U.S. schools won’t prepare them for the global environment in which they will live.
The origins of the U.S education system began with subject matter uniquely crafted to churn out law-abiding citizens who work hard to continue the growth and prosperity of a booming industrial revolution. The system was not designed to inspire or promote creativity, or to encourage self-awareness and the exploration of ethnic ideologies. Additionally, it was not designed to promote accurate world historical facts, or to provide the tools needed to achieve financial success.
Cultural awareness, ethnic history, wealth-building, and entrepreneurism are rarely at the forefront of any U.S. public school system, and are typically only available once you pay the steep fees required to attend colleges and universities. However, by this time, the formative years have passed and students have already formed solid opinions, norms, and ideas that are rooted in 19th century teaching methods. Most of these methods administer curricula that white-washes black history, limits artistic expression, and teaches children very little about how the monetary system works.
For this reason, we must encourage young black boys and girls to engage in subjects that will dramatically impact the future, and how we live, work, and thrive in the U.S. and around the world. More specifically, three specific areas of expertise will remain essential to self-education for the future. Each of these subjects --technology, business, and money -- will undoubtedly shape the successes and failures we encounter in the near and distant future:
STEM (Science | Technology | Engineering | Math)
This includes participating in math and science workshops, coding camps, technology research groups, and STEM incubators. In addition to economic empowerment and social consciousness, STEM education is one of the most important factors in the solution to uplift and sustain the Black community. Advancements in technology will drive future markets and have the most significant impact on the global population.
Business and Entrepreneurism
Becoming an entrepreneur and understanding business management is crucial to the success of African-Americans. Businesses are the backbone of the economy, and being a business owner will increase our knowledge of important business functions such as business finance and accounting, operations management, and organizational leadership. Business ownership allows us to take more control of our futures; take advantage of government tax breaks; create generational wealth; explore technological innovation; and better support our communities.
Personal Finance and Fiscal Management
Managing money is arguably the most important concept you can learn to thrive in the U.S. economic environment. Finance and economic empowerment includes understanding money, controlling cash flow, and how banks and businesses work; understanding tax laws and avoiding unnecessary tax payments; learning how to budget and manage income and expenditures; understanding equity and bond markets, and investing; and tips for managing credit cards, mortgages, retirement, and savings.