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Posted by on Feb 16, 2014 in Blackacre, Progressive policy, Progressive Think Tank, Public Policy, Socio Economics, Uncategorized | 4 comments


I’ve had the great fortune to be a professional “watcher” of sorts during careers in two surprisingly similar industries — newspaper publishing and business development.

Before I get too deep into my “OBSERVATIONS” blog, I must thank Leo Barron Hicks for the opportunity to contribute to Blackacre Public Policy Forum. Every barbershop and corner bar in Black America generates at least one conversation about the need for a think tank dedicated to solving societal challenges. Leo has done it… with a twist!

Blackacre aspires to be a forum for influencing public policy and, sadly – in my experience – special interests outweigh individuals in crafting the policies that shape the ways governments perform, ostensibly in the interests of citizens. I appreciate the opportunity and count it a privilege to add to any effort that results in positive change.

Now, I hope you scratched your head for a moment trying to figure out how publishing and business development could possibly be “surprisingly similar.” I’m glad you asked, and I’ll gladly answer you this way:

I published a weekly newspaper that worked each week to interpret for its targeted audience the ways that public policy impacted their lives, in education, healthcare, justice, economics… even in athletics and entertainment. In my work as an advocate for increased business opportunities I face a constant diet of interpreting, re-interpreting, untangling, defining and re-defining statutes governing doing business with government. The similarity? Again, glad you asked! The similarity is that Black folk have far too little understanding of the policies that shape, constrain or impede access to opportunities of all kinds.

Though louder voices control the conversation, don’t be deluded into believing that Black folks don’t pay our fair share of taxes. That others pay more proves only that they earn more, or own more. Here’s a quick glimpse of how it works: We ALL pay taxes; governments decide how that tax revenue will be spent; government awards contract to execute its decision; repeat.

Black Texans represent from 12-14% of the population of our state, depending on who’s counting. As such, taxes levied from Black folks represent our pro-rata share of state revenue. In its 2012 budget, our state government spent $14.4 BILLION and African American owned businesses earned ONE POINT SIX THREE PERCENT (1.63%) of the dollars expended to execute OUR government’s mission.

Not so surprisingly, conversations with elected officials and agency officials elicit “Is that all? That’s terrible!” in response to this revelation. Surprisingly, though some responded with “How’d you manage to get that much?”!! The real surprise, I guess, is that this inequity passes on as business as usual with no real plan for improvement.

My hope is that Blackacre Public Policy Forum ignites a passion for learning and understanding the way government impacts our daily lives, with a particular focus on how government spending is the practical expression of the “will of the people.”I hope further that our increased understanding of government spending will help us create empires in construction, road building and provision of services to government that are championed as examples of free market capitalism at work, just as it has for hundreds of years for others.

Charles O’Neal



  1. Thanks for this commentary. The challenge we face as black Americans today was articulated eloquently by Dr. Martin Luther King in 1963 when he stated: “One hundred years after slavery the Negro finds himself living on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.”

    Sadly, we’re not 150 years after slavery and not much has changed since Dr. King uttered those prophetic words. Of course, many will point to all of the new-found wealth that some black Americans enjoy. They will point out the many mayors, school superintendents, business owners, law enforcement leaders, judges, elected officials and appointees in the federal government and, of course, President Barack Obama and his wonderful family. All of that “progress” can be pointed out, for sure.

    None of that progress, including all of the black leaders in academia and the numerous legacy organizations that struggle for social justice and civil rights have moved this one needle: ALL black-owned businesses in America produce LESS than 1% GDP and virtually zero net new jobs. That statistic was true in Dr. King’s day and was true in W.E.B. DuBois’ day and was true in the era of Frederick Douglass.

    Until we address how that needle of economic competitiveness is moved, we will continue to remain surrounded by oceans of material wealth, as we are in every urban metro in the nation, and remain disconnected from competing for opportunity in it.

    A good example is Austin, TX. The City Manager is black. The school superintendent is black. And many of the folks who sit in leadership positions are black. There’s even an HBCU in Austin. Yet, while Austin is a thriving growing tech innovation hub and is attracting startups from Silicon Valley, black folks in Austin remain completely disconnected from the mechanisms that drive the economy there.

    That paradigm is true for every urban region and every black community.

    In Austin, CAPCOG is the RDO that’s a member of NADO. CAPCOG produces the five-year Comprehensive Economic Development Strategies plan for the entire MSA. This plan is updated annually. When black folks in Austin wonder why their communities are always an afterthought it’s because they don’t have a seat at the table of economic strategy. And if they did, they don’t speak the language of the 21st century knowledge-based, tech-driven, globally competitive innovation economy.

    I seek to change that paradigm and empower black Americans nationwide. My problem is I can’t find black organizations who value this information enough to convene local stakeholders and sponsor my presence to speak or provide a workshop or even a multi-day summit.

    President Obama has called for such convenings and he’s now even launching an effort himself since his clarion calls continue to be met with sounds of crickets.

    I’m presenting at SXSWedu Conference in March. I’d like to be able to use my time in Austin to visit Houston and Dallas to speak with groups about connecting to the local innovation ecosystem and economic opportunities for black business owners, entrepreneurs and education leaders.

    I’d be thrilled if we could collaborate and connect with the local leaders who may be interested in empowering folks with new information that isn’t being circulated in our communities. After all, we’re leaving billions of dollars on the table … literally. And then complaining that someone else isn’t thinking about us when the fight over those dollars commences. I’d like to show us how to get into the arena and compete for those funds to build infrastructure our communities desperately need, if we intend to move the needle.

    Contact me for more info: mike(at)

    • It’s about the money. Always has been, always will be. Feel free to use Blackacre for your organizational and communication efforts. And thanks again to Mr.O’Neal for the enlightened content.

  2. Well done Frat I’ll keep reading

    • Good. That’s what we want.

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