COLLEGE PARK – With the release of a new report on equity in Prince George’s County and a forum held at the University of Maryland, solutions have been proposed to reach financial equity for communities of color.
In the report, written by Steve Brigham, a principal at Public Engagement Associates and a board member of the Prince George’s County Social Innovation Fund, the author notes that while Prince George’s County has made strides towards progress, it is surrounded by counties and areas that have prospered significantly more, even though the county has the potential to succeed.
“Prince George’s County possesses a wide range of enviable assets (e.g., its geography, transportation, higher education, diverse communities, tourist attractions, to name a few).
“However, as we know, the county continues to face challenges,” wrote Brigham. “Its development has paled in comparison to the rest of the region for many reasons, including perceptions (with at very least an implicit bias if not outright racially discriminatory element) that the county is less worthy of investment, although that too is slowly changing.”
The report gives three paths that will purportedly lead to a solution: investing in local industries, developing a culture that creates jobs and talent through a strong “cradle-to-career” pipeline with an emphasis on low-income communities and communities of color, and land development that prioritizes affordable housing and ease of transit.
The potential impact of not investing in communities of color can be grave. Dr. Sacoby Wilson, an associate professor with the Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health at the University of Maryland, College Park, used the example of lead in cities like Flint and Baltimore in describing the problem as plaguing communities of color with long-lasting effects.
“We got to focus on making sure there’s equity and opportunity; we have too many people, too many children, for example, who have been thrown away,” said Wilson. “We have some of the highest rates of lead exposure in Baltimore.
“If you think about what happened in Flint, when children are exposed to lead, they basically have neurocognitive impacts. We dropped the ball on lead; that’s a social justice issue. And when a kid is exposed to lead, you put a cap on their opportunity, their potential. So, we’re probably throwing away future doctors, lawyers … people who can have impact, because we did not feel like, because of the color of their skin, we could not do more to invest in them.”
Marcus Bullock, CEO of Flikshop, an app that allows friends and family to send personalized postcards to incarcerated peoples, noted the struggle he had doing fundraising with a criminal background and as a person of color.
“One of the hardest parts of the journey was raising money, as a black funder that has a felony, that lives in a county that kind of, sort of, has this stigma attached to them that prevents me from getting access to some of the rooms that some of my counterparts have,” said Bullock.
The report spelled out multiple high-priority recommendations, many of which are in line with helping to foster financial success in communities of color. Specifically, one of the recommendations was to “scale up support and investment in entrepreneurs of color” by creating networks, providing access to capital and organizing incubation and acceleration activities.
A $100,000 investment and a mentorship stint from startup accelerator Techstars tripled Bullock’s business revenue and brought invaluable investors.