A Look at The Toledo Black Agenda

A wide range of leaders in Toledo’s Black community have joined forces to put together a report on the challenges facing that community in six critical areas.

The report, The Toledo Black Agenda, a months-long project in the making, examines historic obstacles and current challenges in the areas of criminal justice, economic development, education, housing, health, workforce development.

The community leaders and experts were assembled by Lisa McDuffie, CEO of YWCA of Northwest Ohio and Robin Reese, CEO of Lucas County Children Services.

Now Toledo’s Black Agenda will be made available to local government agencies, along with a host of private and public companies and entities in order to gather community-wide support for the demands and suggestions proposed in the report.

We are printing excerpts from the report over the next few weeks. The following is McDuffie and Reese’s introduction followed by the executive summary, statistics and recommendation from the second pillar – the Economic Justice pillar.

The entire report can be read online at



The racial inequity that exists today is the direct result of “Structural racism,” a term that asserts   our country is steeped in policies, practices and culture that, either by purpose or by indifference, exclude and oppress people of color. While we recognize that racism affects all people of color, this document was created by representatives of the Black community for the Toledo Black community. It is our response to the murder of George Floyd and to an ongoing system of unrestrained and unrelenting racism in this country toward Black people, a system that is moving a race of people onto a path of genocide in plain view of the entire country, without any organized and aggressive voices being raised to stop it.  This is our call to action to make “Black Lives Matter.”

Across the United States, cities are declaring that racism is a public health crisis. Toledo City Council and the Lucas County Commissioners each, unanimously, passed the same such declarations. These words truly represent a step in the right direction. However, words in a declaration alone will not institute change. Concrete actions must be planned and executed to give credibility and effect to these well-intentioned government decrees.

The broad term “Public Health Crisis” reflects significant impacts on a community’s health, its life expectancy, and its economy. Structural racism affects the health of Black people in every aspect of their lives. Without question, the data and research make it clear that racism is a systemic and ongoing public health crisis with serious consequences for the health of Lucas County Black citizens. It is also clear that racism has a profound and pervasive impact across all the factors that shape our health. This includes our healthcare delivery systems, education, housing, food, economic, environmental, criminal justice and political systems.

Uniform support, from all sectors of the community, of the recommendations in this document along with zero tolerance for inequity will drive momentum towards true, lasting and effective change for the Black community in Greater Toledo.


As the facilitators of this process, we gratefully acknowledge the hard work, time and talent of all the individuals who made this document possible. The forming of the Unification Coalition proved beneficial in our ability to organize and execute. For roughly three months of intense weekly meetings, we have done it!

Lisa McDuffie               Robin Reese
Convener                      Co-convener



Economic Justice is a goal that generations of Black Americans have been striving to achieve. After centuries of inequalities, the wealth gap between Black and White Americans remains vast. When exploring the financial root causes of this wealth gap one must look at the assets, liabilities and income as well as the historic and current hurdles an ethnic group faces in accumulating wealth.

The historical wealth gap between White Americans and Black Americans is mainly due to not being able to benefit from the transfer of wealth from generation to generation. The years of chattel slavery, decimation of thriving black communities, not earning a fair working wage, not being able to purchase and/or retain real estate, and not being able to obtain competitive financing have negatively impacted this generational transfer of wealth.

Household income is used to acquire assets and to pay off debts. Income is also used as a measure to apply for mortgages and credit cards; consequently, the amount of income you have often helps you obtain lower interest rates on the debt you acquire while helping you to lower your monthly debt payments.

We must reverse the trends that systematically stymie the growth and transfer of black wealth. With access to proper resources, we can ensure that the African- American Community has a real opportunity of revitalizing our community, owning thriving small businesses, and decreasing the historic wealth gap.


The median net wealth for White American families was $171,000 compared to $17,600 for Black American families, in the most recent Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finances published in 2016

The latest Census and Federal Reserve data show that White Americans make up 60.1% of the population but account for 82.3% of the assets owned while Black Americans account for 13.4% of the population but only account for 4.7% of the assets owned. Census data also shows that White Americans account for 71.3% of debts owed (while accounting for 60.1% of the population) and Black Americans account for 8.5% of the debt owed (while accounting for 13.4% of the population).

When digging into the data it shows that White Americans hold most of their debt in lower interest rate mortgage debt (69.2%) while Black Americans hold most of their debt in higher interest rate consumer credit products (43.3%). Income is also a huge factor in the wealth gap.

In Ohio the average household income for a White American family is $54,200 while the average household income for a Black American family is $29,000. This household income disparity holds true for Lucas County where the average household income for a White American family is $50,700 while the average household income for a Black American family is $22,700.

In 2016, 26% of White Americans received inheritances, while only 8% of Black Americans received inheritances. Obtaining education is a means to accumulating wealth individually, however, the byproducts of systemic racism can even pose a challenge to this basic freedom. Closing the wealth gap between Black and White Americans will take investing in entire communities.

The latest Census Survey data shows this by highlighting that the median net worth of a White American family with no bachelor’s degree is $98,100, while the median net worth of a Black American family with a bachelor’s degree is $68,200.


Investing in the neighborhoods with the most need and in well-constructed Opportunity Zones are key components to revitalizing communities. Instead of investment, we find that community hubs like the Frederick Douglass Center have been abandoned at worst or have garnered inconsistent support, at best. The work needed to revitalize other higher need neighborhoods to be economically sustainable has been unfunded. In thriving communities, transferring wealth from one generation to another is seamless.

Businesses are at the center of thriving communities; this was on display during the height of the Dorr Street Corridor. Businesses should be in neighborhoods. There is a need to rebuild the small business backbone in the Black community through innovative means like business incubators and an investment in technology.

The first business incubator in the US began in 1959, and they rose in popularity in the 90s. Businesses such as, Dropbox and Air BnB, have benefitted from being a part of business incubators in their early days. When starting a business incubator, we must have all the elements to help participants succeed and scale. Some of those elements include research and determining viability of business, business development, mentorship, funding, and team development.

Established programs and organizations that are fixtures in the Black Entrepreneurial Community like Assets Toledo, the Port Authority, the Toledo Urban Credit Union, University of Toledo’s Minority Business Development Center and University of Toledo’s Minority Business Assistance Center Program should have the adequate funding to assist everyone who needs help. Financial education at places like the Financial Opportunity Center and Premier Bank (formerly First Federal Bank) should be leveraged for future entrepreneurs and businesses to gain sound financial footing. Innovative new programs like Jumpstart and Afro-Tech initiatives need room to grow and be embraced to propel Toledo to become a hub for Black technology businesses and investments in technology.

Investing into a business takes time, expertise, most importantly capital. Historically, Black businesses have an incredibly hard time accessing capital. Investing in Black businesses is not only impactful to the entrepreneurs and the Black Community, but to the overall markets. The most recent census data shows that 28.79% of small businesses are minority owned and 9.35% black owned. In Ohio 13.56% of small businesses are minority owned and 8.97% black owned.  In Lucas County and Toledo, 17.58% and 25.67% of businesses are minority owned. From 2007-2012 the number of minority small businesses grew 38%, showing that these businesses have the resilience to grow during economic downturns even though 80% of black small business owners state that access to capital is their largest business challenge. The current Toledo capital landscape includes Community Development Financial Institutions, Super Regional Banks, Community Banks, Credit Unions, The Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority and The Ohio Development Services Agency (ODSA) Minority Business Development Division (MBDD). Each one of these entities has a role to play to support the Black community and Black entrepreneurs. They could create a new loan fund specifically for entrepreneurs of color or for businesses which hire primarily people of color. A fund like this could provide loans (average size $50,000 to $150,000) to businesses which cannot secure conventional bank financing. There is also a need for local funding/venture capital pitch opportunities and small business loan opportunities geared towards or inclusive of black business owners.

A community-wide push to increase deposits and enhance the offerings at the Toledo Urban Federal Credit Union, would allow them to become more impactful business lenders to the community and deploy those funds in the forms of more small loans to the people and businesses that need them. Larger financial institutions should leverage their Community Reinvestment Act dollars to support underserved communities and Community Development Financial Institutions to ensure that there is the appropriate access to capital.

For Black Americans who do not want to pursue their own businesses but would like to pursue the American dream by earning a living wage and having successful careers working for a business or a governmental entity, pipelines into high wage-earning careers & trades need to be highlighted. Pipelines into professions & trades should be available to all Americans. However, for Black Americans, discrimination and historical injustice have created significant barriers to opportunities. Pathways should not only be into education institutions but also into trades. In research from Strata Institute, revealed that 43% of college graduates from 2010-2017 worked in jobs that did not require a degree. Focusing on career pathways that lead to a living wage and low debt is key.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statics, 56% of African- Americans find themselves in supportive roles rather than directive roles compared to 43% of the general population being in supportive roles as opposed to directive roles. In 2016 the median estimated annual income for a person in a directive role was $68,914 compared to $32,232 in a supportive role. Initiatives are needed that highlight career choices for Black Americans at an earlier age and promoting programs and educational choices that focus on mentoring Black American students like University of Toledo’s Excel and Historical Black Colleges and Universities. Investments in career education and awareness can ensure that the pathways that members of the Black American community choose are pathways to careers that help with the progression up the socio-economic ladder.


Here are the key points of our Economic Justice Pillar:

  • Invest in plans that truly change neighborhoods and that are created with the neighborhood voice (not just created about the neighborhood). An example of this type of plan is the Junction Plan.
  • Establish neighborhood based Black Business/ Entrepreneurship Incubators (example location-Frederick Douglass Center).
  • Substantially invest in Community Banks and in funding their economic empowerment programs and capital to provide loans to people and businesses in underserved communities. Increase access to capital for black businesses.
  • Establish and ensure that there is a continuum of pathways into professions & trades.
  • Establish teen & college entrepreneurship exposure programs, promote HBCU (Historical Black Colleges & Universities) education and support youth pipeline programs into high paying professions (Example pipeline programs: NSBE Jr. Chapters (National Society of Black Engineers, for engineering) and ACAP-Ohio (Ohio’s Accounting Careers Awareness Program presented by the National Association of Black Accountants, The Ohio Society of CPAs and The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business).