Panel Discussion on Black Economic Progress

CNNfn Panel Discussion on the Measure of Progress

Broadcast date: 2003

DAVID HAFFENREFFER, CNNfn ANCHOR, MARKET CALL: All this week, we`ve been exploring the four decades of economic and social progress African- Americans have made since the historic march on Washington. There is no question substantial progress has been made. But how much advancement or progress is yet to come?

Joining us now to explore that question is a panel of guests: in Los Angeles, Gregory Rodriquez, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, a research nonprofit group; in Minneapolis, William Cunningham, an investment advisor with Creative Investment Research; in Miami, editor-in- chief of BLACK ENTERPRISE Alfred Edmond; and BLACK ENTERPRISE is our partner in this series. And here in the studio, Roy Innis, chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality.

Welcome to you all.





HAFFENREFFER: Roy Innis, you`re sitting closest to me. Tell me a little bit, as we look back on these four decades, about where we are right now in this with progress that we`re making. It`s a very broad scope that we`re looking at, obviously, just under the heading of progress. But, obviously, the challenges are still there and remain for the future. But how much progress has been made?

INNIS: Tremendous progress. Dr. King`s prophecy has substantially been fulfilled. America has gone through the greatest social and political revolution in the history of all mankind and in the shortest period of time.

HAFFENREFFER: And so -- give me the main challenge yet to come.

INNIS: The main challenge is to look inward, within our own communities, to see what we can do for ourselves. We`ve removed the -- King and the great leaders of 40 years ago have removed the barriers to progress.

Now it is up to us to maximize the changes and the sacrifice that they made to do some things for ourselves, to take a look, a hard look, painful look, at ourselves.

HAFFENREFFER: Alfred Edmond, you guys have been helping us, BLACK ENTERPRISE magazine helping us take a look at these hard issues over the week. Tell me about how to maximize, as Mr. Innis said, how to maximize what we`ve learned in the past 40 years, so as to set the stage for a strong and very developmental future.

EDMOND: Well, BLACK ENTERPRISE as a magazine, has covered some of the main things that we have to focus on. One is individual and personal investing, both in terms of the stock market and Wall Street, as well as in our own educations. Education is still the key. It was the key 40 years ago; it`s the key today.

And also, the building up of businesses and executives in corporate America, playing a full role in the economy of the country and of the world.

HAFFENREFFER: William Cunningham, on the investment side of things, we read recently that more and more African-Americans are investing, not only in stock market-type investments, but also only in homes. Good news, but tell me about that trend and where you see it headed.

CUNNINGHAM: Well, certainly. We`ve seen the same thing over the course of the past five years. You know, we put up a website,, back in 1999, and we were surprised by the number of people that we saw come to our website, minorities and women specifically, looking for investment advice.

We think that trend is going to continue. If you look at the financial markets, they`re beginning to develop financial products that actually appeal to this sector, mainly because there is money to be made there. I mean there are no dummies, and people really want to make money out in that area.

Same thing with the -- on the housing side. One of the great things that happened in the wake of Dr. King`s speech was the fact that banks and financial institutions started to reduce the barriers to minority home ownership.

So we`ve seen..increases in minority home ownership. We anticipate that`s going to continue.

HAFFENREFFER: And in Los Angeles, Gregory Rodriquez, as we mentioned earlier, senior fellow at the New America Foundation, your thoughts, as we take a look at the 40 years since the march on Washington?

RODRIQUEZ: You know, I really think we have a lot left to do in the way we think about race. I think we still haven`t completely dismantled this binary, polarized way of talking about race. And what`s happening in places like California is the increased intermarriage, racial and ethnic intermarriage. And somehow, we`re going to have to start to think about race, not as a fixed biological category, but a cultural category that can change and be as fluid. I think we really haven`t gotten there yet.

HAFFENREFFER: And it seems like education, as we were talking about just a moment ago -- education, obviously, a major priority at this point, to make sure that people are armed educationally with everything they need to make it in society today.

Roy Innis, obviously, leadership is needed. We need strength politically in order to get so many of these tasks done?

INNIS: Leadership, leadership. We have to get our leaders to commit themselves to stop over-emphasizing race. We have to stop being the hypersensitive about race. To do -- if we don`t do that, we continue to victimize black people, and other minorities, and have them think about the external factors that affect them and never the internal factors that they can correct themselves.

HAFFENREFFER: How to do that, though? And Alfred Edmond, I`ll let you take that. How to take away that victimization of African-Americans, and still be making progress. Is there a way to do that? It seems like a delicate line to walk.

EDMOND: Well, I think it`s important to recognize that "leaders" don`t have near the impact today that Dr. King and Malcolm X and others had 40 years ago.


EDMOND: Those types of leaders were necessary -- well, I think what you have is an emergence of African-Americans from all walks of life, whether you talk about corporate America, people like Dick Parson and Ken Chenault, whether you talk about in the professions, where you look at people like Earl G. Graves, the publisher of "Black Enterprise." You have an emergence of African-Americans in the different professions and in different areas of American culture and American business. So there`s not just one lightning rod that`s necessary to lead African-Americans, or Americans in general.

When you look at a Colin Powell, he is not an African-American leader, he is an American leader, who happens to be African-American. As you see more of that, I think you`ll see us continue to make progress, not only as African-Americans, but as a nation.

HAFFENREFFER: We are hampered by time in this industry, and I wish we had more of it. But I want to thank you all for being here with us today -- Roy Innis, Alfred Edmond, and William Cunningham and Gregory Rodriquez.

William Michael Cunningham


  • B.A. (Economics) , MBA (Finance), A.M. (Industrial Organization)