NEWARK, New Jersey (WABC) -- Newark Mayor Ras Baraka was joined by the Rev. Al Sharpton and others Monday to announce the launch of a $100 million fund to combat social and economic inequalities as well as put capital directly in the hands of Newark Black and Latinx business owners.
The "NWK FAM Fund" (Newark 40 Acres and a Mule Fund) aims to reduce disparities resulting from systemic racism and provide direct relief to those who need it the most and who suffer from the greatest barriers.
"Black Lives Matter is not rhetoric, it's a statement of action," Baraka said. "It's more than just eliminating racist behavior and inequality in our justice system, it's about creating equality and opportunity for our black and brown communities. There are vast wealth disparities in our nation, state, and city between white-owned businesses and Black and Latinx-owned businesses, clearly worsened by the pandemic."
According to the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, the median net worth of New Jersey's white families is $309,000, while the median for New Jersey's Latinx and Black families is just $7,020 and $5,900, respectively -- one of the worse racial wealth gaps in the nation.
Officials say the objective of the fund is to close these gaps by providing Black and Latinx business owners with a more level playing field with their competitors.
The NWK FAM Fund, co-managed by Invest Newark and New Jersey Community Capital, seeks to raise $100 million, with $10 million in hand by the end of 2020.
AT&T, Shaquille O'Neal, Panasonic, Carlos Medina, Nelson Mullins Law Firm, and New Jersey Community Capital, PSEG, and Popular Bank are the first of the investors and corporate partners.
"We believe that we have created a national model where financial institutions, corporation donors, and local economic development corporations partner to create a holistic investment platform that provides Black and Latinx businesses with access to the business contracts, patient capital, and technical assistance necessary to grow despite the current pandemic and social unrest," Invest Newark CEO Bernel Hall said.
The name of the fund comes from one of the earliest Reconstruction promises to the newly-freed slaves of 1865, to provide each freshly-emancipated family head with "40 acres and a mule" in America's mostly undeveloped and unowned land at the time of the Union winning the Civil War.
Under this initiative, "freedmen" and their families would be able to become small, independent, farmers.
However, the program was never pushed forward, and most of the freedmen rapidly reverted into a new form of semi-slavery as tenant "sharecroppers," living in poverty and perpetually in debt to their white landlords.
MORE ABC 7 UNITE
See more stories at abc7NY.com/unite
SEND STORY IDEAS TO EYEWITNESS NEWS
Watch Here & Now
We are also publishing resources in a range of areas, which will grow and can be found below:
Ways to Help
Teaching the Next Generation
Black-Owned Bookstores in New York and New Jersey
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children In A Racially Unjust America by Jennifer Harvey
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
American Son: Available on Netflix
If Beale Street Could Talk: Available on Hulu
Just Mercy: Available on Amazon Prime
Selma: Available on Amazon Prime
The Hate U Give: Available on Amazon Prime
When They See Us: Available on Netflix
13th: Available on Netflix
America Inside Out with Katie Couric: Available on National Geographic
Becoming: Available on Netflix
I am Not Your Negro: Available on YouTube