Daily my television programs present two major wars going on in the world. Both are frightening. The expressed intent of the aggressors of both is to destroy Democracy and establish an authoritarian form of government. At the time of this writing the Ukraine war is in its 6th week of an increasingly brutal military invasion by Russia’s President Putin. Ukraine’s citizens know that President Putin wants to destroy their Democracy and establish rule by his authority. They are fighting valiantly to keep what they have because they have experienced authoritarian rule and they do not want to go back.
In America the war is not so visible. We do not see a military with missiles, tanks, and bombs destroying homes, hospitals and schools, nor frightened women fleeing with children. Rather, the invasion to destroy American Democracy is more subtle and cunning. It is being eroded by the manipulation of the democratic process. I am one of many Americans who believe that a corruption of the democratic process is in play to replace our current form of American Democracy with a more authoritarian form of government. Race is not the only polarizing issue but it is a major issue.
In this article, I emphasize my perspective that Democracy in America is in crisis and that too many Americans are blind to the crisis because they take our Democracy for granted. Many Americans have not known any other form of government. They notice our form of government less than they notice breathing, living in it as a birth right, a given—eternal and invincible. I hope to heighten the awareness of those who are blind to the danger that we are about to lose a precious gift and to motivate all who value America’s Democracy to work harder to save it.
A brief look at history will place my perspective in a broader context:
I was born in 1934 in racially segregated Johnson County, Georgia. In school we were taught that we lived in a Democratic country and that made us the greatest country in the world. We were very proud to be an American, although in practically all of the southern states of America had locked African Americans out of the democratic process since the Compromise of 1877. This secret unwritten agreement by a bipartisan congressional commission ended the Reconstruction era and the short-lived voting rights given to African Americans by the Constitution in 1870. President Johnson, pressured by a long Civil Rights Movement, signed the 1965 Voters Rights Act which banned racial voter discrimination, making American Democracy more fully democratic by extending the right to vote to all of America’s citizens.
Thus, I view American Democracy to always be in a state of becoming more inclusive of all of its citizens with justice and fairness for all. As our country has become more diverse racially and more responsive to pressure from other marginalized groups it has been moving towards what I call an inclusive Multiracial Democracy with equity or a Just Multiracial and Multicultural Democracy. In my world-view this is an ideal which has not been achieved in any country that I am aware of.
After the 1965 Voting Rights Act, racial inclusion in the political process increased but so did polarization between the Democratic and Republican parties, reflecting the growing political divisions in our society as a whole. These divisions became more visible and severe when Donald J. Trump emerged as a Republican presidential candidate for the 2016 election with a campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again”. He won. President Trump’s confrontational style, expressed proclivity for violence and lack of respect for established democratic norms shocked the nation. His open friendship with dictators who were previously considered enemies of democracy, support of a White Supremacy ideology and tolerance for racial discrimination exploded the existing political divisions into polarized camps of Americans. This was an intentional strategy used to undermine the democratic process.
President Trump’s expressed values became the revealed values of many Republicans. The leadership of the Republican Party has coalesced under the Make America Great Again (MAGA) agenda. They have created a MAGA movement which is openly not in favor of a Just Multiracial Democracy. In the 2020 election the Democratic Party’s Candidate, Joe Biden, won. The former President has not yet acknowledged this win, thus no peaceful transfer of power to President Joe Biden. The MAGA Republicans claim that the election was stolen even though all official election sources of both parties say that the election was fair and just. The MAGA members are experts at publicly spreading lies, disinformation and conspiracy stories which keep people confused and unable to recognize true facts. These are major weapons to dismantle democracy.
Voter suppression and the changing of election rules for partisan advantages are also weapons against democracy. In at least 11 states MAGA Republicans are passing laws under the pretext of decreasing voter fraud. These laws make it harder to vote for such citizens as people of color, young people, seniors and those who have mobility disadvantages. The laws also allow them to change the election results when those results do not match their expectations. At the same time, MAGA leaders are promoting the belief among their supporters that voting does not work, thus no need for elections in America. Voter suppression and dismantling elections are deathblows to Democracy.
We can applaud, celebrate and support the actions of protest, advocacy and other forms of resistance that many Americans throughout history and today faithfully work to make this country a better place for all of us. Every privilege we enjoy is fought for by people who make a sacrifice. These people are ordinary citizens and elected leaders, young and old from every race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation. They work long and hard to make our Democracy better serve a multiracial society with equity. All of us owe them our prayers, gratitude and financial support.
The November Mid-term Elections this year are critical for the fate of Democracy at the local, state, and national levels of our government. Democracy is the major issue on the ballot. All who value our American Democracy and see the danger of losing it must work harder to save it and continue to make it better. This work requires prayerful discernment, commitment to Justice for all and dedication to act from such values as truth, love, kindness and goodness.
We can join some of the groups that are actively working on such issues as voter preparation and education, voting rights, fair elections, and legislature that strengthens Democracy. We can create small group coalitions around a shared goal of electing candidates who support Democracy. Individually we can work to heighten the awareness of family and friends who may not be aware of the significance of the dangers by sharing information from trustworthy sources. We cannot be silent. We must use our gifts to stay informed, act to support our values and inform others while respecting those who disagree with us.
I believe that most people want a society that values truth, justice, and love for everyone. Our vote must reflect our values for a Just Multiracial Democracy. We must not be distracted by candidates who will appeal to our pocketbooks around economic issues and other hot topics but vote for the ones who best support our prayers for justice and equality for all.
Rita Dixon is a retired clergy woman in Greater Atlanta Presbytery and a former Staff Associate in the Division of Nation Missions of PC(USA).
A business founder, realtor, IT project leader, and ordained Christian minister, Robert L. Davis, Jr. believes in financial sustainable choices and wealth building. Because he thinks they should be available to everyone, he started Davis Asset Realty LLC, an Atlanta-based real estate brokerage aiming to help individuals and families build financial freedom and generational wealth by investing in Real Estate. Combining his vocation and occupation, Rev. Davis believes that he has a particular call to a "Market-Place Ministry" where he can help empower people of all ages with education, exposure, and opportunities that will enhance their future, their families, and their communities.
UM: Robert, you hosted the Spring 2022 Urban Cafe of UM as we met via Zoom to discuss the topic of poverty and what a global, multi-faceted, and relevant topic! How did you begin your journey toward educating people about financial sustainability?
RLD: Thank you for the opportunity to share something that I've been passionate about for a very long time. It started in my home city of Cleveland, OH, where I began buying rental properties, and I discovered my passion for real estate and making housing affordable. I wish that we could eradicate poverty for everyone forever. I see it in communities near me, where I live and work, and when I travel abroad. Most recently, during a vacation trip my wife and I took that included a visit to Honduras, I saw the hard-working efforts of some women who made a living by creating and selling decorative bracelets at the marketplace. As in the figure below, I see poverty's debilitating effects on the individual. I wish that everyone everywhere could always live in abundance. However, that does not appear to be life's design on this planet. So, we must have a plan to help those who need help and want help toward a more financially sustainable life. That's where the role of leadership comes in.
The figure is from “Walking with the Poor: Principles and Practices of Transformational Development”
June 15, 2011 – by Bryant L. Myers
UM: What do you mean by that?
RLD: During the Urban Café, I shared my approach, which includes an understanding of how each context, like the US, has historically addressed the issue and how poverty has affected the lifestyle of those it was meant to help. Outcomes and results are essential. This is crucial because it reminds us that eliminating poverty and building wealth goes beyond personal action: it's about supporting policies that promote access for all people. When it comes to overcoming generational poverty and building wealth, individuals, organizations, and communities have more power than they imagine.
UM: Yes, it's essential to understand how our various global settings and contexts address poverty. I appreciated the questions and issues raised by participants in the conversation. "What tools must I have to overcome poverty?" "How do we pull back the layers of poverty, so we don't sound superficial in our efforts to understand and act responsibly?" And "how do we package the discussion on overcoming poverty through wealth building in a way that might be different and pliable to all?"
RLD: Yes, these are essential questions. However, it is just as important as understanding our historical and national context and how they have framed the national discourse on wealth building and poverty is understanding how we approach the topic from the stance of faith. For instance, while most faith traditions include a passage such as Deuteronomy 16:1 (the poor will be with you always), it is essential to discuss the various interpretations of such passages within the larger societal contexts of greed, power, and selfishness. This approach allows us to see the issues of power and wealth and the corresponding social calling for justice and equality in an unjust world, in a world where the main objective is to make more and more money.
UM: The question then becomes, how can we, concerned communities, organizations, congregations, and individuals- help people to escape poverty?
RLD: We must first distinguish between addressing immediate needs and long-term needs. As much as we can, we can use collective resources to respond to immediate, basic necessities, i.e., food, shelter, utilities, etc. However, we don't want to leave people without long time solutions to their financial challenges. Is the need for a GED? Re-training for the changing workforce? Or, learning how to live within one's means? A community-based response is often required- one that considers the actual condition of the individual or family household and their potential resources. Why? Because as we acknowledged during the Urban Café, poverty is enormous, big business. Do you recall the book that one participant referenced? It was The Poverty Industry by Hacker. Another participant spoke of the book Toxic Charity and suggested that some of our mission methods are based on a racist approach to helping people.
UM: Yes, I was glad to hear that. Often, people assume that it must be good if it is Christian mission work. And that's not true! So much of our understanding of missionaries, missions, and mission work is a tangled mess of the four (4) C's- colonialization, civilization, commercialization (commerce in African enslavement), and Christianization. In the 21st century, it is crucial that we unpack this to recover the true meaning of Christian mission according to the Gospel of Jesus and become aware of the need to respond to poverty with dignity, wholistic, hope, and faithfulness.
RLD: Yes, it is vital as we talk about strategies to help people overcome poverty and build wealth, to recognize the different types and causes of poverty, and which tools are required to overcome each type.
UM: Thank you so much for this stimulating conversation. As we prepare to join you and participate in Part 2: An Urban Conversation, Summer 2022, on Saturday, August 20th, at 10:00 a.m. EST, what is the takeaway from this Urban Café conversation? And how do we prepare for the next discussion?
RLD: Know first that we have the power to change the language and thus our perspectives and take a personal inventory. Instead of speaking of the "War on Poverty," let us talk of "Building Wealth." It involves the dynamism of accentuating the power of the positive and the ability to believe that we can build a better future. Then, get five (5) people to care about poverty and wealth building. Encourage them to define wealth, what it is, our role in it, and the importance of intergenerational wealth. Yes, get five people to care about building wealth in our communities.
UM: Wow! That's quite a challenge, but I think it is very doable.
RLD: Then, give some time to think about the notions of sustainable financial ability and economic and social inclusion. What are your positive or negative experiences with poverty, money, and wealth? Then reflect on these two questions:
What is poverty? Many people define poverty as, not having enough money to meet basic needs, including food, clothing, and shelter. However, poverty is more than just not having enough money.
The World Bank Organization describes poverty in this way: "Poverty is hunger. Poverty is a lack of shelter. Poverty is being sick and not being able to see a doctor. Poverty is not having access to school and not knowing how to read. Poverty does not have a job; it is fear for the future, living one day at a time. Poverty has many faces, changing from place to place and across time, and has been described in many ways. Most often, poverty is a situation people want to escape. So, poverty is a call to action -- for the poor and the wealthy alike -- a call to change the world so that many more may have enough to eat, adequate shelter, access to education and health, protection from violence, and a voice in what happens in their communities."
In addition to a lack of money, poverty is about not being able to participate in recreational activities; not being able to send children on a day trip with their schoolmates or to a birthday party; not being able to pay for medications for an illness. These are all costs of being poor. Those who can barely afford food and shelter can't consider these other expenses. When people are excluded within a society, when they are not well educated and when they have a higher incidence of illness, there are negative consequences for society. We all pay the price for poverty. The increased cost on the health system, the justice system, and other systems that support those living in poverty impact our economy.
What Is Wealth? Wealth is the sum total of assets (things that you own) that give you financial security. The word wealth carries the idea of abundance and security.
Building Wealth vs. Getting Rich - there's an important distinction to make here. Becoming rich happens when you experience a financial windfall or a sudden influx of money. A tech company having an IPO, receiving an inheritance, or a pro athlete signing a deal are all examples of financial windfalls.
Sadly, though, you can blow through lots of money in the blink of an eye! That's because the good habits that allow people to build wealth (generosity, planning, discipline, and consistency) are the same habits that help people stay wealthy. No one becomes rich by accident. You must set a goal to work hard, grow your money, and show up daily to make that dream a reality.
Source: Ramsey Solutions (Dave Ramsey), https://www.ramseysolutions.com/retirement/how-do-you-define-wealth
UM: Thank you for providing these thought-provoking questions as we prepare to meet with you on Saturday, August 20th at 10:00 am (EST). Everyone is invited to attend this free event: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89821086952
RLD: The only other thing I would add is this: I measure wealth, not by the number of material things one has but by how long the benefits of one's management of abundance last. I like to use the analogy of a bucket versus a stream. If you fill a bucket with water, that water will only last until the last cup is drawn. However, if your water source is a river or even a stream, then the water could potentially flow for the unforeseeable future. Being rich is like water in a bucket. Being wealthy is like having a source of never-ending water that one manages for the benefit of many for an extended period.
RLD: Remember, everyone is invited to join us on Saturday, August 20, 2022, at 10:00 a.m.
The Zoom link is: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89821086952
Updated: Apr 22, 2022
UM Board Member, Phyllis Wilson, interviews Dr. Malcolm Hill Sr.
Coach of the Illinois Orange Basketball Club
Within urban communities throughout the world, there are experienced leaders who are effective promoting social change, and that’s exactly what Dr. Malcolm Hill Sr. is doing with The Illinois Orange Basketball Club. Dr Hill’s vita includes teaching at the elementary school level, secondary social studies department chair, athletic director, associate principal, and 25 years of basketball coaching experience. In addition, as a coach, Dr. Hill won three Missouri District Championships, five suburban East and North conference championships; won many AAU tournaments and won five coaches of the year awards. Dr. Hill has assisted with the recruitment of more than fifty student athletes.
The non-profit Orange Basketball Club (501c3) was founded to honor his son, Malcolm Hill Jr., and the Illinois basketball players throughout the great state of Illinois. Malcolm Hill Jr. is the third all-time leading scorer in the history of the University of Illinois basketball players and currently plays for the Atlanta Hawks. I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Hill and learning more about his organization.
UM: Dr. Hill, thank you for the opportunity to interview you. I would like to share your program with other readers in an article written for Urban Missiology. First, we are really excited about The Illinois Orange Basketball Club. What inspired you to start this nonprofit basketball program for youngsters?
Dr. Hill: My career spans 27 years in education. During that time, I was a teacher and a basketball coach before I became an administrator. After becoming an administrator, I really missed coaching quite a bit, so I got involved in coaching again and my son Malcom Hill Jr. benefited from it through the Southwest Illinois Jets organization. I was able to assist his AAU coach, help develop his skills and he was able to become an accomplished basketball player. I was with the Southwest Illinois Jets for the past 10 or 11 years and I was able to learn the business. I learned how the finances work, how to schedule and how to recruit kids. So, this past year, I decided to start my own nonprofit AAU organization, The Illinois Orange Basketball Club
UM: Tell me a little bit about the Illinois Orange Basketball Club. Dr. Hill: Our mission is to provide high quality basketball skills training with an emphasis on skill development, and teaching character through educational lessons during the season. Our goal is to build strong relationships on and off the court and inspire these young men to become productive citizens.
UM: Do You offer various developmental basketball camps or is this program designed to train specifically for tournaments?
Dr. Hill: We do both, we focus on training for tournaments and we offer skill camps that range three or four times a year. Quarterly, and they go from June up until AAU season when we start recruiting in October. The league will compete in local leagues and local basketball tournaments in the Midwest Region. Our goal is to eventually compete in national basketball tournaments.
UM: During these camps, I know as coach, you are teaching essential skills and techniques and how to play competitive sports. Is there a specific age group you are working with and can girls as well as boys participate?
Dr. Hill: Actually, yes. Girls are welcome, but right now this first year with my nonprofit organization, we are primarily focused on boys, usually fifth grade up to twelfth. I have been actively recruiting coaches to coach girls because I want girls to become involved also.
UM: Earlier you mentioned that there is a character-building component to this program. Do you use experiences on the court to help build confidence and character skills that they can apply in their personal lives outside the court?
Dr. Hill: Absolutely! We teach them skills on collaboration and sportsmanship as well as emphasizing the value of healthy competition. Usually, I have a word for the month, and we may have a lesson once a month. For example, I introduced the word ‘perseverance.’ That is one of our vocabulary words. We may have obstacles to overcome, and we teach them there may be bumps in the road, but they can deal with it. They might need to go around it, to get over it, but not to quit when there is a barrier in the way. We may have words of the month such as resilience; accountability; responsibility, honesty, and integrity. Sometimes we have a team chat before practice. For instance, if something happened in the previous game, like if two of our strongest players fouled out of the game, we discuss how we were resilient and found a way to continue and win.
UM: That's impressive Dr. Hill and those are important life-long skills to have. Now, we know that the Illinois Orange basketball Club is dedicated in honor of your son Malcolm Hill Jr. Please share with us how he got started.
Dr. Hill: Well, when he was born, I was just out of college, I had been one year removed from being a college basketball player, and basketball was still heavy on my mind and heart. So, when he turned four years old, I still loved basketball, and we entered him in the North County, St. Louis YMCA basketball league. He was always a tall kid, so I put a basketball in his hand, and he just really loved it. He loved to train, and he wanted to be the best. He just took it and ran with it. His skills just grew with his height. He is six feet tall now.
UM: Malcolm Jr. definitely benefited from your leadership and positive encouragement at an early age.
Dr. Hill: Yes, he did. Of course, I forced it. him (laughing) because I was still playing and coaching after I graduated from college and he was always around it. He just loved it; he would be out there practicing with me. It was just a perfect storm for him.
UM: Dr. Hill, you played NCAA Division II basketball for the University of Missouri Tritons and your coaching career is very impressive also. What inspired you to become an educator and a coach?
Dr. Hill: Well, my late mother was an educator. I got my educational skills and passion from her. I knew early on, as early as seventh grade, that I wanted to be a teacher because I had particularly good teachers when I grew up. Yes, and my dad always wanted to be a coach, but he never got a chance to because of his job at General Motors. So, I knew I wanted to be a coach also, it was naturally in my blood. My inspiration came from both of them. Then, I had a high school coach who took an interest in me and made sure that I was able to develop my skills and earn a basketball scholarship. I have always felt like I needed to give back and that is exactly what I am doing. I love giving back and helping young men get into college.
UM: The Illinois Orange Basketball Club is a nonprofit organization, so how do you get funding and other resources?
Dr. Hill: Our funding comes from parents, fundraising and through donations to my 501c3 the small donations help so much. For example, a practice jersey costs $12. Many people think they must make large donations to benefit us, but the small ones help just as much.
UM: You are doing so much for so many. Organized sports help to keep kids from just being on the streets and getting into trouble, and your organization has a place in the community for those interested in playing the sport of basketball. That is a blessing!
Dr. Hill: Yes, that is true. Thank you! This nonprofit is like my calling for right now, because many of the kids I work with in our program come from poverty, and we charge the bare minimum to be able to participate. That is why fundraising is so important. I have also been working with a grant writer to include other programs in our organization. We are working on developing healthy eating classes; fitness and exercise classes; and financial literacy classes to support the Black community.
UM: Thank you so much for what you are doing Dr. Hill and for the opportunity for this interview. Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Dr. Hill: No. Thank you very much.
UM: Well, we are hoping for the absolute best for you and the Illinois Orange Basketball Club.
I was so impressed with Dr. Hill’s energy and positivity. He is truly invested in promoting social change in his community. If you are interested in supporting the Illinois Orange Basketball Club or reading more about the accomplishments of Malcolm Hill Jr. please see: