Stephen Rogers, an Evanston resident and former Harvard Business School professor, and Eric K. Williams, founder and CEO of Empowerment Resources International, are the leaders of this year's Black History Lecture Series. As part of that, they held a discussion Saturday at the Levy Senior Center about building Black generational wealth and homeownership.
The annual event, sponsored by the Haiti Strengthening Council, the NAACP Evanston North Shore Chapter and the Shorefront Legacy Center, has been held for the past 14 years but was canceled due to the pandemic. Saturday was the first series of lectures since then.
Every Saturday in February, a different topic related to the Black community will be discussed at the Evanston venue.
Terry Shepherd, NAACP executive committee member and chapter leader, said it's important to discuss financial literacy, especially now that reparations have been approved.
“I think homeownership is very important because obviously the Fifth Ward is losing a lot of homeowners to taxes and gentrification. I think many of us would be in a better situation if we had knowledge of the resources,'' Sheppard said in an interview before his talk.
Willie Shaw, the NAACP's civic engagement and political action chair, said he has always considered financial literacy to be an important topic for the Black community.
“Unfortunately, this is one of several areas where we need education and where we need to do better as a community,” Shaw said. Last July, she NAACP Closing the gap between rich and poor blacks was one of the main topics of discussion at the 114th National Convention plenary session.
Lionel Jean-Baptiste, a founding member of the Haiti Strengthening Council, said financial literacy should be taught in schools and at home.
“Even in families, we should instill in our children the value of wealth, the value of hard work, the value of preserving what you have and passing it on to the next generation,” he says.
Mr. Williams began his talk by asking who in the audience owned a home. When almost everyone raised their hands, he asked who had paid off the mortgage and almost everyone who had raised their hands lowered their hands.
“One of the things I focus on every day is educating people on how to avoid the many pitfalls that come with having wealth in America,” Williams said. “There are some things that are holding us back from moving forward. Obviously, home ownership is one thing.”
Williams also said that taxes are a big issue in this country. “Most wealthy people I know pay less than 8 percent in taxes, while everyone else pays 25, 30, 40 percent,” Williams said.
Mr Williams said debt was another issue weighing down the working class.
“I think taxes are the biggest erode of wealth because debt is the number one consumer problem draining away wealth in the United States. I also think the biggest eroder of wealth is interest payments,” he said. I understand,” he said.
Williams added that Empowerment Resources International teaches clients how to make their money work for them.
“We teach you how to use tax-advantaged tools that allow your money to earn compound interest, guaranteed growth, dividends, or profit sharing,” Williams said. “We teach OPM, how to use other people's money and how to profit from it.”
During his talk, Mr. Rogers shared anecdotes from the past, historical explanations of America's inequality, and brightened the room with his sense of humor.
“Hello, my name is Steven Rogers. I'm the first black Captain America,” he said, and the small crowd erupted in laughter.
After living in downtown Chicago, Rogers said she missed living in Evanston and moved back to her hometown 12 years ago.
“I call Evanston 'Heaven's Stone,'” he said. “So I bought this house for myself and came back.”
A few years ago, Rogers Second Christian Church, Scientist It's located at 2715 Heard Avenue in North Evanston. He originally wanted to buy the church's parking lot because black families were being forced to move from their homes on Bauer Place, which is now the site of the parking lot.
When Rogers was denied land, he purchased the entire church for $1.5 million.
“I don't have a mortgage,” he said, and the audience erupted in laughter and applause. “I don’t come from a wealthy family, but the Lord has determined for me to do something regarding the black community.”
Rogers added that he has dedicated his life to uplifting the black community, noting that education alone cannot close America's wealth gap.
“Why do white people have a greater net worth than us?” he said. “It's not because they're smarter than us. It's not because they work harder than us. It's very simple. They get subsidies from the federal government.”
He said federally mandated slavery enriched white people. He then briefly addressed redlining, the racist lending practice that denies access to services and homeownership to Black people living in certain neighborhoods.
Mr. Rogers then said that it is important for young people to know how to create, maintain and increase wealth.
“Money is not the complete source of happiness, but financial well-being can give you a sense of security and a better life,” Rogers says. “There's an old adage that says, 'What kind of wealth is important?'” My favorite answer is, “What kind of wealth is important?” ”