Lifting as We Climb

Black women face a 90% wealth gap. Yet, due to complex historical factors and ongoing discrimination, Black Americans and especially Black women remain heavily disadvantaged across a broad range of economic measures, including wealth, earnings, and health. The median Black household owns nearly 90% less wealth than the median white household and the gap is even slightly larger for single Black women relative to single white men. The structural factors that have created and reinforced these economic disparities that Black women face are multifaceted and interrelated, and inevitably we neglect many important issues.”Goldman Sachs, Black Womenomics

The above excerpt comes from the executive summary of a study conducted by Goldman Sachs this year called “Black Womenomics: Investing in the Underinvested.” The study systematically addresses the many disparities faced by black women in America, measured by earnings, education, capital access, personal finances, housing, and health. It then goes on to recommend a number of actions to address these unacceptable equity gaps, including: setting aspirational goals to hire Black women; increasing business loans to Black women; increasing investment in Black women’s businesses; investing in adequate and affordable housing in Black communities; and investing in high quality healthcare facilities.

Goldman Sachs emphasizes that “many of these factors are interconnected and span short and long-term timelines” and “that any efforts to effectively address the issues can only be successful if Black women are actively engaged in formulating the strategies and framing the outcomes.”

On this Mother’s Day, we are reflecting once again on the mothers that make us – Lamont Homes – a thriving social enterprise that does well and does good in its community; that is owned and operated by two black women and mothers; and that aligns with the Department of Behavioral Health to provide adequate and affordable housing to D.C.’s most vulnerable residents: adults with mental and behavioral health needs. Lamont Homes is a case study on the good and the growth that can stem from investing in black women, and today we thank the mothers that make us (Arnida and Monica) for their contributions to making a fairer and richer society.

The above picture (Arnida left, Monica right) was taken in front of a mural painted on a wall just off Martin Luther King Jr Avenue in SouthEast, D.C. The two women standing in front of it were both born and raised in that quadrant of the city, which happens to be the least advantaged, and the most Black, in our nation’s capital. Both women are mothers – one of the other – and both overcame their circumstances to ensure that their children had more than they did. Both are successful businesswomen – one the Founder and the other the CEO of Lamont Homes. Lastly, both have committed their personal and professional lives to doing what mothers do best: putting others ahead of themselves and caring for those in need.

Lamont Homes is a social enterprise that operates community residence facilities in 3 of the 4 quadrants of D.C. Every year, our business provides reliable employment to about 30 black D.C. residents (primarily from SouthEast) and provides safe and supportive housing to twice as many D.C. residents (over 90% of whom are Black) in need of mental health support. The 40-year legacy they created was built on good credit and good savings, on home and business ownership, and on investing in the very community they came from. The dual aspirations of doing well for their family and doing good by their community provides shelter for people that might otherwise be in prison or homeless; it provides people with meaningful employment that have struggled to find it elsewhere; it even helped provide me – Monica’s son and Arnida’s grandson – with a pathway to higher education, and a passion for supporting social impact entrepreneurs.

The 5 action items recommended by Goldman Sachs to address the black women wealth gap that were listed above came from a list of about 15, and not at random. Those 5 action items have either been instrumental to the foundation of Lamont Homes (investing in adequate housing and healthcare) or will be critical to its future success (access to capital). The mothers that make us have done what mothers do best in the way that mothers often do it: consistently, humbly, and unselfishly. They have taken on this burden of providing jobs and homes to hundreds in their community over four decades with grace. They have rarely asked for help and managed to survive a devastating pandemic on top of the demographic disparities faced by demography stronger and more determined than ever.

It is a start to thank all our mothers on Mother’s Day for everything they have done for us and given to us. But it our responsibility to express that gratitude in more than words. And so, for my part: Mom and Nana, thank you for all contributions to building a safer and more supportive D.C. for all its residents. I once heard it said that “if you don’t tell your own story, someone else will, and you may not like it.” So, I will continue to tell your story, and to help advance it in more than words. Goldman Sachs – and the many other organizations throughout the country that have committed to closing the black women wealth gap – is right: investing in black women is good for growth. Your story is the proof, and it’s about time everyone heard it.