Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg on Sunday garnered a coveted endorsement from education leader Geoffrey Canada after the candidate announced a bold $70 billion investment plan for Black America.
Bloomberg announced the initiative Sunday at the site of historic race riots in Tulsa, Okla., in the Greenwood community. The area, once known as the “Black Wall Street,” was destroyed by marauding racists in one of the worst incidents of racial terror in U.S. history.
Canada, founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone in New York City who has been a national leader in education and education reform, especially for some of the nation’s poorest children, called the plan a major game-changer.
Bloomberg’s plan, “The Greenwood Initiative: Economic Justice for Black America,” proposes a $70 billion investment in 100 disadvantaged communities in this country. In addition, it sets goals to create 1 million new Black homeowners and 100,000 new Black-own businesses, largely women, in the next decade.
MLK and “True Equality”
“[A]s we celebrate the life of Dr. King, we remember that he not only marched for equal rights, he marched for economic justice, because they go hand-in-hand,” Bloomberg said in a statement released over the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend. “He knew that equality under the law was only the first step to true equality, and true equality is only achieved when there is no correlation between skin color and success.”
Canada, who spoke exclusively to TheGrio, said such an investment in Black communities is long over due.
“I know from experience that simply raising salaries is not going to improve the outcomes for poor children around this country and we need a massive investment in community infrastructure if we’re going to save children,” Canada said. “Our communities are way overdue for a massive reinvestment in community infrastructure necessary for communities to be successful.”
As a respected advocate for poor Black and Brown kids, Canada knows that he will be asked how he can support Bloomberg who is well-known for his “Stop and Frisk” program, which disproportionately impacted people of color.
The Problem with “Stop and Frisk”
“Mike and I have this interesting relationship because he will admit I am one of the people who told him he was wrong about “Stop and Frisk” and he debated back and forth with me on this. He believed what his criminal justice people were telling him about broken windows and why this was really going to be a successful crime fighting strategy and homicide were decreasing. And I argued that this was a discriminatory practice. And we simply debated this, and he refused to move on this point. And it was a mistake. And I told him it was a mistake. And I told him it was going to undermine the good work he had done in the city, in particular supporting education and other issues in the Black and Brown community.”
Canada shared that he also sounded the alarm about the negative impact President Bill Clinton’s infamous crime bill would have on people of color. “I have video of me testifying in front of Joe Biden, and telling them that this crime bill, which was a focus on punishment and no support, was going to be a disaster in our community.”
Unable to undo the past, Canada said “For me, the issue is who is going to give our community the best opportunity to recover from that damage that was done by those laws and those police laws. And, for me, that’s Mike Bloomberg.”
True economic investments for African Americans
Asked about his endorsement for Bloomberg over Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, a former educator who is polling strong for president in 2020, Canada was frank about seeking an economic infusion for African Americans.
“My issue is not on whether or not someone believes in education or has an interest in education or wants to do something significant. I wanted somebody who was prepared to make a massive financial investment in poor communities. Not, you know, a hundred million dollars, a couple of hundred. I’m talking something big enough so we thought it could do the job and there’s no other candidate who’s come up with anything even close to that. This to me is very important for our community that, in the end, we know someone’s going to be president who is going to be prepared to do the kind of investment in our communities that have happened in other communities.
“President Trump got in, he took care of all the businesses. He made these tremendous tax cuts for them. They’re all doing great. That’s terrific. That’s who he supports. I want somebody who’s prepared to do something as significant for our community and Elizabeth Warren or none of the others have come on that I see with a plan that approaches the kind of scale that I think is necessary if we’re really going to make a difference in the entire country.”