Nobody celebrates themselves more tirelessly and uncritically than Black America’s wealthy and empowered political class of millionaire entertainers, business types, preachers and politicians.
Unfortunately, Black folks outside that charmed circle also tend to applaud the glittering wealth of Black celebrities without bothering to look at where that wealth comes from.
Millionaires and wages
Last year in Black Agenda Report, we talked about near-billionaire former NBA star Junior Bridgman, who owns more than a hundred Applebee’s and Wendy’s restaurants, and spends millions each year lobbying Congress and state legislatures to keep his workers’ wages nice and low.
There’s Earvin “Magic” Johnson, who’s a major partner in Sodexo, a firm that privatizes food service in prisons, public schools and charter schools, and janitorial service in schools as well, making tens of millions a year relentlessly cutting jobs, wages and quality of service.
In Atlanta, there’s Tyler Perry. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is rushing through a deal with as little public scrutiny or input as possible to sell Perry 331 prime acres of a former military base less than four miles from downtown Atlanta – for a mere $30 million – to build new production studios and whatever else he might want to do.
If Atlanta doesn’t hurry up and give Perry this land, Reed says, Perry might take the 8,000 new jobs he claims his studio might create somewhere else. Never mind the fact that Perry’s existing Atlanta studios have been sketchily constructed and maintained, and had little or no positive economic impact on their surrounding neighborhood.
Atlanta mayors have a tradition of lying about how many jobs will be created when they give public resources and land to their friends. Previous Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin claimed her Atlanta Beltline boondoggle would create 40,000 temporary and 30,000 permanent new jobs – if only Atlanta would divert $140 million away from the public schools every year for twenty-some years.
A studio the size of Perry’s will use a tenth or less of 331 acres. Most of the 800 or fewer jobs there will be professional and managerial folks already working for Perry.
The fact is, Reed wants to hurry up and give Perry the land without any guarantees whatsoever of how many permanent jobs will be created, how many units of affordable housing will be constructed – and without consulting the area’s existing residents and business owners. Perry made substantial contributions to Georgia’s Republican governor. Expect him to support Reed in any other office he might seek.
There has never been any interest from Atlanta City Hall in involving the public on how the 440-acre former military base will be integrated into the city. Instead, Atlanta’s greedy and myopic Black political class sees only a chance to make a few of its already wealthy members a lot richer – at the expense of everybody else.
Bruce Dixon is managing editor of BlackAgendaReport.com.