My columns of late have been focusing on the 4Es: Economics, Employment, Education and Ex-Offenders as our most important issues as individuals. If we solve the 4Es throughout our community, 95 percent of the problems we face can be solved. Let’s talk about “E” number 3: Education.

Education for our community isn’t just about 12 years in elementary/high school. It’s not even just about college. What it’s about is getting our community to become critical thinkers and not just forces for the “okeydoke.” It’s about knowing enough regarding the system in which we live to be a force for or against it, depending on the issues. When I was in college, my minor was in education. When I went to teach, I found that I didn’t really want to teach. But the basic principle of those education classes?”for every action there is a reaction?”has stayed with me my entire life.

When people can control your reactions, then they know what actions to take. For example, being involved in this community for the past 16 years, I’ve noticed the “Wednesday Night Meeting” phenomena. Whenever there is anything of major importance going on in the neighborhood, and those in charge don’t want black folks to show up, they call a Wednesday Night Meeting. They know many black folks go to bible study on Wednesday night. So the action is to call a meeting where they know exactly what your reaction will be. You can’t miss bible study, so you don’t show up, and they can continue to do what they want. Black folks, get educated to the game.

Next is the way black folks seem to be oblivious to the role education is playing in the city’s sinister plans to gentrify our neighborhoods. If people’s actions are to move to the suburbs for better schools, what will black folks’ reactions be to their neighborhoods if there aren’t any schools? Black folks take action by going to the board, asking them to s.o.s (save our schools) and the board’s reaction is the appearance of s.o.s (help). Yet time after time, the s.o.s (same ol’ sh…) from the school board against black children is met with our time-after-time reaction of being s.o.s (stuck on stupid). Black folks, get educated to the game.

History is an important part of education. In the 1960s, “urban renewal” was the method by which the government took over communities to change them. Now we have “gentrification.” Urban renewal still allowed blacks to remain in the city as we moved to new neighborhoods; gentrification is forcing us out of the city. I spoke with a gentleman a while back who told me that when blacks first came out of slavery, we were at our most educated level. “Huh?” I thought. He explained that every slave had a job and therefore knowledge. We knew how to farm, repair, build, etc. The “myth” of the uneducated slave is perpetuated by those who want to keep us in mental bondage. What more knowledge does one need in a farming society than to know how to plant, tend and harvest the crop? Yes, those ancestors could not read, but they knew sharing knowledge was the key to our survival as a people. Black folks, get educated to the game.

Thinking?”and learning to think?”is an education tool we need. I attended the Madison Avenue TIF (tax increment financing) meeting at the Refectory recently. As the woman explained how the TIF worked, she mentioned the fund had grant money available. “Money you don’t have to pay back” flowed from her lips. Many in the audience perked up at that comment, but had they been paying attention, the money that the TIF will give them back is their own tax dollars. So the game is to have you pay more taxes than needed, then give you some of it back and try to pretend that they have “granted” you something. It’s a lie?”like responding to a question about the high property taxes and then the official in charge blames the county. It’s our own city council that votes on property taxes, then has the county collect it. Black folks, get educated to the game.

Economics is another area where we need to get educated. How does your credit card company compute the finance charges? Why is it better to move your paycheck through a bank instead of a currency exchange? How does not having credit affect your life? Can you file your own income tax return? Can you balance a checkbook? Can you make a budget? Are you still paying for an unlisted number when everyone you call has caller ID and knows your number? Black folks, get educated to the game.

If you own a home here in Austin, are you educated in all that you need to know to own that home? What is the equity you have in that home? How much are people getting for homes in Austin today? What should a new roof cost? How much should it cost to rewire your home? If you have a first mortgage and then take out a second mortgage, which one can foreclose on you first if you miss payments to both? What should you do if you can’t make your mortgage? Black folks, get educated to the game.

Lastly, the computer which once was a luxury has now become a necessity. Many talk of the “digital divide” that is supposed to be occurring in the black community. So I ask these questions: If the new computerized cars aren’t keeping black folks out of new car showrooms, and cellphones which are just computerized walkie-talkies aren’t stopping every child and granny from having one, then is there really a “digital divide”?”or is that what they want us to believe so we don’t go out and purchase a computer? In fact, PCs are one of the few devices that keep getting easier to operate as each new model comes out. So we must question why we believe we can’t become computer literate so we too can get/give information (education) at the click of a mouse. Black folks, get educated to the game.

If 95 percent of our community addressed the issue of the prison industrial complex, would 95 percent of our problems disappear? Ex-Offenders: That’s the last “E” and my next column.