ABC7 Unite: Newark launches $100 million fund' for Black, Latinx business owners

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."

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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.

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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.

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