From: Rodney Sampson
To: Black America, et al.
Re: An open letter to Black America on COVID-19, the future of work and beyond
Date: April 3, 2020
Grace and peace be unto you.
I hope you and your family are safe, sound & well during these unprecedented times – physically, psychologically and spiritually.
This year is bitter-sweet, particularly given the realities of our new normal that we are just beginning to understand, process and adjust to as it relates to COVID-19.
20 yrs ago as the Innovator, Founder and CEO of StreamingFaith, a wholly owned subsidiary of Multicast Media Technologies and the first to stream live, continuous broadcast and on-demand faith & family television networks, churches, influencer content creators & conferences on the Internet, I predicted that there would come a day in our lifetimes when all churches and houses of worship would have to set up to stream live, archive their messages, create online member profiles, organize auxiliary groups, receive & respond to prayer requests, receive tithes and offerings & sell resources. One of our use cases was a pandemic; and today, because of the combined virality and fatality of SARS-CoV-2, even funerals are being streamed. As history will record, our company’s first live stream in 2000 was the homegoing service of civil rights giant, Dr. Hosea Williams.
Now, today, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, here we are.
Ten years ago, in Kingonomics: 12 Innovative Currencies for Transforming Your Business and Life, Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I began speaking about a day that giving to Black non-profit organizations, including churches, would decrease dramatically because of automation, advanced robotics and the fourth industrial revolution; and its impact on our community’s workforce and education. This is why we have dedicated the last seven years to building OHUB as a place, program and platform based solution to ensure that everyone, everywhere was prepared for this future of unknown unknowns.
That future is here.
I tell you this not to brag; but to make a point that there are men and women in our community that have been positioned to peer into our collective futures and speak to and build solutions for what is to come. Unfortunately, many of these voices and solutions are not proactively heeded or leveraged until it is time to scramble. There are Black innovators right now, like Jasmine Crowe’s Goodr, Rodney Williams & Travis Holoway’s Solofunds and Edna Martinson and Clarence Tan’s Boddle Learning that are obsessively solving our planet, nation and communities hardest challenges – all exacerbated by COVID-19.
So although our ministries, colleges & universities, associations, content providers, event planners, associations, civil rights organizations, small businesses and financial institutions throughout the global African Diaspora and beyond are having to adapt quickly to the use of online technologies to stay connected to their respective audiences and customers, this must be approached with faith, facts and future; with a balance of immediate practicality and innovative wisdom. We must have the practicality to know that we must move quickly to stay connected in order to authentically connect during these times. Yet, we must also understand the other outcomes that our community’s increased usage of these digital tools will cause.
Ultimately, our increased nonstop daily usage creates a tipping point demand on the capacity of these social media, streaming and virtual conferencing platforms. These high growth, angel, venture and private equity based companies will respond by raising billions of dollars, acquiring more cloud capacity, opening more data centers and hiring more skilled software engineers “coders”, go to market, sales and operations professionals in a race to scale exponentially to deliver a quality service for their customers and users; and most importantly, increase the shareholder value of their companies and deliver returns to their early, present day and future investors. So, while we are hyper-consuming these technologies with our limited income and cash flow, these companies and investors are simultaneously producing exponential wealth. This immense innovation density directly increases income segregation, economic mobility and poverty amongst communities that are already and systematically destined for inequity and poverty.
Today, and long term, we must consider the implications of using these edge technology platforms (and what my colleagues frame as the future of work, fourth industrial revolution and beyond); and its impact on our community in particular.
You may be asking, what does that have to do with COVID-19?
Well, almost suddenly, our economy, society and life as we know it has changed because of this global pandemic. Whether fear or fact based, or both, this is our current reality.
COVID-19 has ushered in an almost immediate new normal that is impacting how we live, work, learn, play and worship. Nearly all “non-essential” businesses have ceased their in-person operations nationwide. Restaurants are closed. Bars and clubs are closed. Malls are closed. Neiman Marcus filed for bankruptcy protection. Entertainment venues and sports events are cancelled indefinitely. Colleges, universities, yes HBCU’s and secondary schools – public, private and charter – are closed to in-person instruction and are working tirelessly to pivot to a remote learning environment. Millions of students have been forced to adapt to online and remote learning immediately.
Has anyone considered the students that don’t have adequate Internet access or the hardware to access their classes? Do we understand the implications this will have on our future and community when new prisons are still built based on the reading levels of 3rd and 4th grade reading levels? I encourage you to familiarize yourself with the Children’s Defense Fund’s research and reports on the Cradle to Prison Pipeline.
So while we must absolutely practice social and physical distancing today and into the foreseeable future, we must simultaneously be as omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient as we can to prepare for a future that is manifesting at the speed of now.
When businesses and organizations that survive this pandemic reopen, they will operate more efficiently by leveraging automation, robots and software. This will quickly begin to replace out of demand blue
collar and white collar skills. Hundreds of thousands, even millions, of people will be redirected to warehouses and fulfillment centers for work alongside robots and machines in order to fulfill the demand of in-home commerce. E.g. Macy’s furloughs 130,000. Amazon hires 170,000. Facebook hires 10,000.
On our recent OHUB.SXSW #BlackAndHired virtual experience with 1100+ attendees, we featured one of the lead researchers and authors of McKinsey’s recent report on the future of work in Black America. I encourage you to familiarize yourself with this research. McKinsey reported that Black America is slated to lose 4.5 million jobs in the next decade because of automation. Black men will be impacted the most.
However, COVID-19 has accelerated this disruption in our national and global workforce. The Federal Reserve Bank predicts that 47 million Americans will be displaced from their jobs. In early April, McKinsey predicted that Black Americans will lose 7 million jobs during this process.
We will also continue to see the accelerated adaptation of new digital alternative currencies and platforms built on the blockchain in response to our inability to perform in person banking at the scale and frequency we one did. Here again, this requires adequate access to technology and the Internet. For decades, we’ve been talking about the racial inequities related to the digital divide; yet, without much intervention, again, here we are.
Many in our communities won’t be employable or be able to access the platforms required to be “free” in the fourth industrial revolution.
As you know, if a man (or woman) doesn’t work, he (or she) won’t eat.
How will this impact our Black institutions, large and small?
Who predominantly attends our churches and gives? What will happen to them?
Church mortgages? How will they get paid with decreased giving?
What about our HBCU’s, grassroots organizations and Black owned smalled businesses?
How will they sustain themselves?
How will our young continue to be educated? How will educators be trained to teach virtually? How will our mature citizens get the care they require?
These are the questions that we should be asking ourselves.
All understood, we walk by faith and not by sight; yet, faith without works is dead, standing alone. We must calmly and intentionally inform, fund & prepare our community and society with the skills, tools and opportunities for the future of work now. So, let’s get to work.
Today, Opportunity Hub (OHUB) is the leading technology, startup and venture ecosystem building platform created to ensure that everyone, everywhere has equitable access to the future of work, fourth industrial revolution and beyond as a path to shared prosperity and multi-generational wealth creation with no reliance on pre-existing multi-generational wealth; and we intend to leverage our resources, programs, platforms, networks, faith and work to address this systemic economic plague with measurable scale. Yet, we can’t do this alone. It’s going to require all of us.
Yet, we aren’t waiting.
As a start, we are circulating this letter to bring attention to these very important realities.
Next, we are writing our Federal, State & Municipal policy makers to encourage them to include the re-skilling of Black America and funding for entrepreneurship support programs, technology hubs, startup founders & investors in CARES Act 2 and beyond.
Over the coming days and weeks, OHUB will be scaling our access to future of work skills, resources, tools and careers, including our daily #OHUB365 webinar series. We are planning a virtual forum to provide Black America with the context, data and definitive solutions we can bring to our community
immediately. I will call upon you to participate and encourage your respective leaders and constituents to participate as well. If you are interested, please sign up for updates via Superphone.
Our virtual coding certificate bootcamp with Morehouse College and Momentum Learning will host its inaugural class on May 26. If you or anyone you know is unemployed, underemployed or ready to re-skill for in demand careers, then please apply now.
This is just a start.
Please take heed.
It is literally going to take billions of dollars to reskill Black America, fund our high growth startups and empower our investment platforms. We are strategizing on what it will take to raise this money.
I look forward to hearing from you as we work together to ensure that our community is equitably exposed, skilled, hired, funded and beyond for the future of work, fourth industrial revolution and beyond as a path to shared prosperity and multi-generational wealth and beyond.
Let’s make history together.
With highest regards,
+ Rodney Sampson, MBA
Executive Chairman & CEO, Opportunity Hub (OHUB)
General Partner, 100 Black Angels Fund I
Venture Partner, Draper Goren Holm
Nonresident Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution
Faculty, Morehouse College
Suffragan Bishop, International Bishops Conference
Member, Board of Directors, Multicultural Media, Technology & Internet Council
Member, Board of Advisors, AI4All
p.s. Please amplify to every Black person and ally you know.