Opinion: An Open Letter to Thomas Winston and Rosalyn Clemens

Rev. Donald L. Perryman, D.Min.

By Rev. Donald L. Perryman, Ph.D.
The Truth Contributor

  “Economic advancement must be the next big move in the life of African Americans.”           – Eddie N. Williams


Dear Esteemed Black Economic Leaders: Housing and Community Development Director Clemens and Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority President and CEO Winston,

As a profoundly concerned member of our Toledo community, I am compelled to bring to your attention the alarming findings of a recent research study conducted by Lending Tree. This comprehensive analysis, assessing the economic prosperity of Black households across the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the United States, reveals Toledo in a troubling position. Our city, regrettably, ranks “dead last” in terms of economic prosperity or “thriving” for Black Americans.

The research analysis paints a dreadful picture of the challenges faced by our Black community. For example, in Toledo, Black householders are grappling with the lowest median household income among these cities, a mere $31,106. This severe disparity is not merely a number. Still, it reflects deeper struggles, translating into hardships in affording basic living necessities, the dire straits associated with a lack of financial security, and severely limited opportunities for economic advancement. These challenges ripple through various aspects of Black life, affecting access to quality housing, education and healthcare and setting up barriers that hinder generational progress.

Moreover, the high rate of unemployment among Black residents, one of the worst in the nation, points to a local job market that consistently fails most Black Toledoans. The lack of employment opportunities directly impacts the immediate financial stability of African Americans. It also contributes to disparities in broader social issues like increased crime rates, health problems, and a general decrease in life satisfaction.

The educational attainment gap within Toledo’s Black community is also alarming. The notably low percentage of Toledo’s Black adults holding higher education degrees suggests shortcomings in our local education system and systemic barriers to higher education. This gap not only limits job opportunities and earning potential but also perpetuates a cycle of economic disadvantage.

Another pressing issue is Toledo’s Black community’s lack of wealth accumulation. A significantly low percentage of Black households earn over $100,000, limiting investment opportunities like home ownership. This challenge has profound implications for long-term financial security and the ability to provide a stable economic foundation for future generations.

The comprehensive economic environment of Black Toledo, characterized by a high poverty rate and a median household income lower than the national average, suggests that these racially-generated economic disparities are occurring within a larger framework of city-wide economic challenges. Therefore, addressing these issues is not just a matter of improving numbers but fundamentally enhances the quality of life and opportunities for the Black community in Toledo.

In light of these findings, your roles as leaders in the economic community are more critical than ever. Your influence, expertise, and deep knowledge of the local economic landscape uniquely position you to spearhead initiatives that can transform these concerning statistics into narratives of success and resilience.

We urge you to expedite new strategies and initiatives directly addressing these disparities in addition to those in your current portfolio. These fresh interventions might include mentoring young entrepreneurs, advocating for equitable economic policies, investing in educational programs, and collaborating with local businesses to create job opportunities. You might also consider bringing new partners to the table such as faith-based entities. For example, in Washington, D.C. a faith-based organization has as its mission to incubate entrepreneurs and facilitate businesses, which has conscientiously created hundreds of jobs for those who have had the most difficult time finding them. Nevertheless, I am certain that your leadership and commitment can change the dismal narrative for Black Toledoans, turning challenges into opportunities for growth and prosperity.

Toledo’s bottom ranking among metro areas reveals a city grappling with profound racial and economic inequality and necessitates a focused and sustained effort from all sectors of the city – government, business, public and higher education, faith–based, non-profit, community organizations, and individual residents.

Yet, it is also an opportunity to lead, innovate, and make a lasting impact. In these trying times, we look to you for guidance, action, and inspiration. Let us work together to create a Toledo where economic disparities are a thing of the past and every resident can thrive.

Thank you for your dedication and service to our community. Your leadership and vision will guide us toward a brighter economic future..

Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, PhD, at drdlperryman@enterofhopebaptist.org