Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Audio Visual


First, I want to say peace & thank you to my readers, consistent or sporadic, long-time or just tuned in. Thanks to your support, I am moving into other endeavors and continuing to push the envelope regarding ideas that are relevant & relative to the issues that communities face all across this country. While my focus is original people as well as the poor & oppressed, the ideas that are discussed are meant to be beneficial for all that read this blog.

- Since we're on the subject of adding on (+), My illustrious brother Divine Culture & I are manifesting a new addition to the blogosphere: Urban Anthropology (UA)! UA will focus on original people and the intersection of ideas & concepts that give birth to what is now conviently termed as "Urban Culture" (Read: Nigga S_ _ _). While the subjects will be exhaustively researched and analyzed, expect the writing to be engaging, and relative to a wide variety of people. The address is www.urbanology1.blogspot.com. Come on over and learn, explore, & grow with us!

- Next, I gotta send strong universal greetings to my brothers at www.blackelectorate.com regarding their first "Business & Building" weekend held this past weekend in D.C. What I saw of both events was inspirational, forward-thinking & progressive. While so many profess rhetoric, there are few who walk the walk with real solutions for our people, and those brothers are in that category. They have my support & backing as they strive to elevate the condition of original people.

About a week ago, i was perusing BE and noticed a link to an article about Street Lit in TIME magazine. Now, I'm aware that there are a number of perspectives about street lit, some good and some bad. To me, there are some larger implications on the development of the genre that make it an important discussion. Below, please find the article with my comments in bold:

When St. Martin's press begins promoting the latest work from novelist K'wan next month, the campaign won't look like the marketing for, say, the corporate thrillers of Joseph Finder. Funkmaster Flex, the hip-hop evangelist, is closer to the flavor(My man is about five years late. Flex today is about of much of a tastemaker as I am. Flex was able to leverage the power and following that he has from Hot 97 to represent the "Hip-Hop" market. In my estimation, Jay-Z would have been a better example, given the sophistication of his current plan) K'wan's reading audience is loyal--he has more than 400,000 books in print. But titles like Gangsta, Road Dawgz and his latest, Hood Rat, have captured an audience well outside St. Martin's usual purview. So instead of signings at Barnes & Noble, St. Martin's is planning giveaways and readings in barber shops and beauty salons. There will be ads on urban radio and an official Hood Rat mix tape CD(I'm all about keepin it real, b.u.t. there has got to be some limits).

"When they signed me, they were like, 'Great. We got him,'" says K'wan. "But they didn't really know what to do with me until now." St. Martin's isn't alone in that dilemma. For years, book publishers have catered to the $250 million African-American market with the aspirational stories of authors like Terry McMillan and Eric Jerome Dickey(Read: Middle-Class). But attracted by the gaudy numbers generated by the genre known as street lit, such publishers as Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins and Random House are hitting the pavement.

Street lit profiles the black underworld in graphic detail. Like gangsta rap, street lit often has thieves, pushers and prostitutes as protagonists. And like gangsta rap in its heyday, street lit is hot business. In an industry that considers sales of 20,000 copies of a typical novel a success, gritty street-lit authors like K'wan are routinely doubling that number.

And just as rappers reshaped the recording industry, street-lit authors have applied their own considerable entrepreneurial skills to publishing. They have insinuated themselves into every step, from negotiating the book deal to promoting the finished work. In the process, they have expanded the fiction market, a trick that has eluded mainstream publishers, making customers out of people who aren't exactly pining for E.L. Doctorow's latest(This paragraph is really the crux of the article. Using a model that's less top-heavy and more mobile, street-lit authors have been able to turn the stuffy publishing industry on it's head. For better or worse, they've been able to bypass the obstacles that make the publishing industry almost impossible to enter for the average person, as there are virtually no barriers to entry for street-lit authors).

Although street lit's roots reach back to the 1970s and the novels of Donald Goines and Iceberg Slim, the development of cheap digital printing smashed one barrier to entry. And the advent of Amazon, which diminished the need for display space in bookstores, smashed another. So street-lit authors had a route around mainstream publishing houses. Following the success of The Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah in 2000--it sold 475,000 copies--a flood of gritty, self-published crime novels hit the market. What street-lit authors may have lacked in wordsmithing (Again, a testament to the insular, slightly elitist nature of the publishing industry), they made up for in cold business savvy( Was it business savvy, or was it a untapped market?).

On a recent afternoon, Relentless Aaron parks his white SUV near Rockefeller Center in New York City and begins digging through a pile of books in the van. A giant portrait of him covers the side of the SUV along with the tagline AUTHOR, PUBLISHER, PRODUCER. In the late 1990s, Relentless, as he likes to be called, was jailed for passing bad checks. He turned to writing for therapy, and when he was sprung, restructured himself into a one-man publishing house. Now, with a Bluetooth hands-free in his ear and a stack of books in hand, he prowls tourist-filled 50th Street, approaching anyone who seems to fall within his target audience. Last year Relentless signed a four-book deal with St. Martin's Press. Two of his books have been optioned for films.

When he talks, Relentless sounds more like a marketing executive than a burgeoning author. "My goal is to sell into the future," he says. "You can't just come out here and sell nothing. But more than selling now, I want to create an awareness that I have an entertaining brand." That's exactly the sort of sales-speak that makes publishers dance. While most editors claim a love for literature, they need to move the merchandise. "You're more likely to find that sort of hustler, business mentality among street-lit authors," says Monique Patterson, a senior editor at St. Martin's. "The streets are all about going out and being competitive and hustling your own stuff(We should look at this development as inspiring & empowering for future generations: apply a DIY ethos to traditional fields in order to create value for you as well as your communities)."

Putting it in business terms, some street-lit authors have transferred their core competency to publishing from other sectors. Like drugs. K'wan was still selling marijuana at the point where his Gangsta started to fly off the shelves. He moved out of public housing in 2004--the same year he signed a book deal. But he didn't leave everything behind. "In the morning I load up my trunk and hit the streets," says K'wan. "It's the same as when I was on the block hustling, except it's a different product. I hit the street vendors in the Bronx, Harlem and Brooklyn, talk to the kids and sign a few books." (He should be studied and spoke about in the same way that more mainstream black entrepreneurs are spoken of, regarding grassroots marketing and keeping a pulse of the demographic that you serve)

Street-lit author Vickie Stringer has become vertically integrated to protect her market share. Currently, she's enjoying the fruits of a six-figure book deal with Simon & Schuster. In the early 1990s, Stringer says, she was trafficking up to 30 kilos of cocaine weekly to street gangs in Ohio. She was busted and served seven years in prison. When she got out, she self-published her roman à clef Let That Be the Reason--and got nowhere. So she developed a business plan. "I finished the book in 2001, and I sent out letters to over 26 agents and publishers, and no one would touch it," says Stringer. Instead, she self-published. "I just took it to the streets, just trying to recoup my printing.
Stringer has repeatedly reinvented herself for the shifting dynamics of her genre. When a number of authors rejected by mainstream publishers approached her for advice, she founded a company--Triple Crown Publications--in her kitchen. When mainstream publishers began competing with her for authors, she started a literary agency, ensuring herself a cut from the contracts of writers who went big. K'wan was her first author and her first client as an agent. "Even when I was a hustler, I never wanted to sit on a street corner. I always wanted more control," she says. "I always wanted to have the freedom. I wanted to be the check signer, not just the receiver."

The boom in street lit has led to an equally potent, if not predictable, backlash from black writers with a more literary bent. "I've heard from agents and writers, all telling me the same thing," says author Nick Chiles (In Love and War), who blasted street lit in a New York Times editorial earlier this year. "There's all this talent out there that five years ago editors would have been clamoring over, and they aren't getting a shot. I've seen a waning of the industry's interest in contemporary black fiction." (The larger issue here is that many of those writers are not entrepreneurial enough to survive in a changing market, as they were used to the traditional system. They should leverage their time spent in the industry and be able to deliver product to their demo through whatever channels are applicable. At the end of the day, the book business is about selling books)

Even among its purveyors, street lit's ethos has taken some knocks. "There are so many people flooding the market, but they're not taking responsibility for what they're writing," says K'wan. "It's just a bunch of guns. The life we live is graphic and real, but authors need to have some type of moral lesson in their books."(His point is well received. I read street-lit (No really, I do), and some of it is the literary equivalent to a Gangsta rap album made in somebody's basement by a bunch of would-be criminals that can barely spell. Like "Gangsta" Hip Hop, some of it is really good, and much of it is really not. On another note, we must realize that poor people are going to follow whatever pathway they think will earn a dollar for them without any concern for the quality of the product. Everybody's got a story to tell, and they'll make one up if that's what people want)

Like every other kind of media, publishing is faddish. The rapper 50 Cent(The Black Sir Richard Branson) recently started an imprint. Vibe magazine, in conjunction with Kensington Publishing, followed suit. The expansion has left some of its authors ambivalent. "In the beginning it was about a need to express ourselves on a greater plane," says K'wan. "But now it's such a money thing. It affects how the genre is perceived by the public, and it affects authors coming in. They look at this like it's Hollywood. They don't understand that to endure this game, you have to love this game." But as he well knows, to play it, you've got to make the numbers.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A Pot To Piss In, A Window To Throw It Out Of


When I was younger, one of my Grandmother's favorite sayings was "____ ain't got a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of." At that point, I really didn't understand the depth and wisdom present in that statement; It just served as a damn good put down to whoever was on the receiving end. As I got older, I realized that she was right: While many tended to front like they were on change (Philly Stand Up!!), most individuals that I came in contact with on a daily basis had neither. Even if they made a lot of money through their job/hustle/racket, etc., most had nothing to show for it outside of a few material trinkets that depreciated the minute you brought them.

After years of thinking, reviewing, and discussing social-economic issues with hundreds of people, I came to another realization; not only did her saying hold true individually, it was valid for the collective as well. If one is honest, there are very few social institutions in our communities that are exclusively black-owned. Now, don't misunderstand me; business is global, and money moves through many hands and there are instances where being exclusive can be counter-productive. When you look at the state of the black community in general, however, it's obvious that the lack of economic power has crippling effects on the other dimensions of our lives.

You can have power in a lot of ways in your environment (Intellectual, Political,Physical, etc..) b.u.t. if you don't have the ability to access resources, then your power to create the world you want to see will be somewhat limited. One of the main reasons that I printed up the "Get Money, Teach Kids" shirts was that for many "progressive/conscious" people, it's become anathema to talk about acquiring resources, lest you be considered a "capitalist". There are many flaws in this logic which I'll discuss at another time, b.u.t. here's an analogy; Imagine yourself in a world where being a warrior was how everyone survived, b.u.t. there was a small group of people who wouldn't call themselves "fighters" because they thought that people couldn't see the distinction between fighting for survival and fighting for fun!

In closing, I'll leave you with a article that outlines the importance of economic power. Remember: People + Money + Infrastructure = Sustainable power!

An Open Letter To Black America

It Is Time To Bring Back Black

In recent years some nationally prominent Black leaders have complained that they resent being known as Black leaders, they say they want the world to know they are capable of leading anybody. Rather than demonstrate that leadership by leading their own people to the necessary levels of self- sufficiency and competitiveness, these leaders have abandoned the critical issues facing Black people and have begun to chase an ambiguous romanticized notion of alliances with other groups without any demonstration or even an explanation as to how these alliances will actually empower Black people.

For decades these leaders have stood on the shoulders of the Black community to challenge and threaten corporate America in what we were told was a struggle for economic justice, and while the Black community is still being exploited by corporate America these nationally prominent Black leaders acknowledge that their operating budgets are now sustained by their corporate sponsors. It appears as though these leaders, a small cluster of their friends and, in some instances, members of their own families are the only ones to have received concessions from the nation’s major corporations. This mis-leadership is precisely what noted sociologist Max Weber warned against when he made the distinction between living off politics and living for politics, Weber contends, “He who strives to make politics a permanent source of income lives off politics as a vocation, whereas he who does not do this lives for politics.”

Leaders not only examine issues and point out inherent problems; they also craft solutions and lead by example. These nationally prominent Black leaders and organizations have actually abandoned the specific needs of Black people, Case in point: Black Americans have never received proportional benefits for the time, energy, and resources that they have devoted to voting. No major party or candidate has delivered benefits to Black people in return for their votes. Still these nationally prominent Black leaders tell Blacks simply to vote, while politicians hide behind mythical concepts and broad groupings, like people of color, minorities, poor people, multi-culture, and diversity in order to justify doing nothing specifically for Blacks in return for their votes. Unless the politician or political party is committed to repairing the damage done to Blacks by centuries of historical inequities, telling Blacks to just vote is to engage Blacks in nothing more than a keep busy activity. Too often these nationally prominent leaders have engaged in a flawed analysis of the problems confronting Blacks, and as a result have offered inadequate solutions.

Black people are offered a meaningless covenant with America that leaves all the power and resources firmly in the hands of white power brokers. These leaders have cooperated with major white developers in securing huge development contracts to build anything they please, from Stadiums in downtown Brooklyn to a $1billion urban riverfront in Cincinnati, Ohio. Rather than secure the development project itself for a consortium of Black developers they, on behalf of the white developers, urge Black people to accept temporary dead end jobs as the Black benefits, jobs they would never allow their own children to accept.

These prominent leaders argue that unemployment is so high among Blacks that any job is of value. When you consider that unemployment among Asians is 0%, among Arabs 0%, Hispanics 4.6%, with Hispanics receiving 41% of all new jobs since 2004, and among whites unemployment is 4.5%, it is clear that other groups have an economic plan working in and for their communities. With unemployment at 48 to 50% in Black urban centers throughout the country and thereby making any job acceptable, the real question becomes, how is it that under their watch unemployment among Blacks remains twice the national rate that it was for all Americans during the Great Depression of the 1930Â’s. Black leaders, where is your economic strategy to empower Black America?

While ignoring the work being done to revitalize Black communities by lesser known Blacks in various cities, and in some instances even moving to block and discourage those efforts, these prominent Black leaders have agreed to become the mouthpiece for other groups in order to make the agendas of those groups sound like an extension of the civil rights movement. Black leaders should be taking Black people to the next level, addressing the unfinished business of our civil rights movement, which will then make our people politically and economically competitive and self-sufficient.

Allowing any and all groups to use broad terms like diversity, people of color, and minorities is a ploy to avoid addressing the specific needs of Blacks, and to equate the grievances of these groups to the historical suffering of Black people does Blacks and history a great disservice. For over a century and a half, Blacks in America have marched and protested against every perceived affront. Blacks have marched and sued for equal rights, minority rights, womenÂ’s rights, poor peopleÂ’s rights, gay rights, workers rights, voting rights, and now immigrant rights. Blacks have held hands, sung songs, prayed and swayed with everyone, yet have barely moved an inch economically and politically in terms of real power and influence.

Blacks have the strongest legal and moral grounds for justice due than any other group, but have not enjoyed the full support of any of these other groups. Given our history of struggle we are offended by these national Black leaders and organizations that scold and chastise us for not embracing their newest gimmick to impress white power brokers, that of immigrant rights. They don't seem to understand that there are still critical issues unresolved that have particular consequences for Blacks.

Enough is enough, Black people are in need of leaders who without apology are committed to the very real needs of Black Americans, We urge the leaders who feel trapped by their Blackness to go quickly to the task of providing leadership for all these other groups so that we can get away from their mis-leadership long enough to get out of our current political and economic ditch.
It Is Time To Bring Back Black, and hundreds of thousands of us are ready to do just that. What about you?

Hood Research, Detroit; Black Chamber of Commerce of Akron Ohio; National Leadership Alliance, NYC;
Black Waxx, Jersey City NJ; Harvest Institute, Washington DC; The Coalition of Artists & Activists, NYC;
Los Angeles Council Of Elders; Blackonomics, Cincinnati. Ohio; Reparations Now, LA; Recycle Black Dollars,
California; BAFCA: Black American Family. Christian Agenda. California; KUJI Economic Development Initiative, Cincinnati, Ohio
Virtually Black, San Diego, CA.;

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Understanding Cipher....

Music I'm bumpin' right now: Block Tested, Hood Approved - Big Rich


Blogs are an interesting thing; they can be used for anything from from politics to romance, to rants, and sometimes you'll see all three in one (depending on the mood of the blogger). For the most part, I keep my blogs impersonal and based on the title that you see, because while I think that my life it somewhat interesting, it's not necessarily what needs to be posted for the world to dissect. I try to present the best part for readers/viewers, meaning I give what I think you'll get something from.

I'm going to depart from that somewhat for this blog, as it's about me turning 30. That's right the big 3-0. In the Culture of the NGE, it stands for Understanding Cipher ( not the other way around), and is the degree when Allah stated that a man/woman comes into the "true" Knowledge of him/herself that's based on experiential observation/analysis as well as information. For me, it gave me a chance to reflect on the different milestones and markers within my life & analyze where I've been/where I'm going. Within that, I have developed a greater understanding of my place in this world dealing with the past, present,& future.

For example, my father & uncle came to Power Born to celebrate with me & the family. My father is my living role model and example of manhood that I received as a child, so you can imagine how honored that I was that he would do so. Additionally, my uncle also played a very large role in my development through sports & other means (Inadvertently, he was also my first exposure to the NGE due to him running a rec center at 10th & Oxford during the late 80's). The relationship and closeness between my father & his brothers is the model that I use for maintaining the bond between me and the Gods that I've taught, so in a sense it was the past and present coming together to define the future through an intergenerational bond (I know, that's some sh!#, right?)

Thinking back to where I was mentally and physically @ 10, 15, 20, & 25 years of age also showed me the power of your environment and the impact of small increments of time when you review and recollect. At 10, I was a regular kid growing up in the hood listening to the Beastie Boys & Rakim; at 15, I was a avid hip-hop head who just got the knowledge of himself; at 20, I was in Pittsburgh as an expectant father teaching mathematics & organizing the youth march for the late Johnny Gammage; At 25, I was developing the Growth & Development process for the NGE, among other things. At this stage in my development, I can actually use all of my experiences to move me, my, family, my nation, and humanity forward. I'm older, wiser, & smarter, and my future activities will reflect that.

It's been a hell of a 30 years, and I'm going to keep the next 30 just as funky. Respect & love to my Old Earth, Old Dad, and all who have contributed knowingly or unknowingly to my growth & development; I'm putting you on my back and I'm standing straight up.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Keep On Movin'

Last month, I Medina & I were in Medina (Brooklyn) on a day trip. Upon realizing that the West Indian Carnival parade was being held on the next day, we decided to explore Eastern Parkway & it's surrounding areas. Usually when I travel to Medina, I'm either headed to the head (Fort Green) or the heart (Bed-Stuy), areas named for their role in the development of the NGE in New York. While I was familar w/ Eastern Parkway from my research on Hasidics from Crown Heights & the tensions between them and the So-called West Indians/African-Americans, I had no inclination of the experience that was to come.

What I found in Flatbush & East Flatbush was a vibrant neighborhood filled with businesses, beautiful homes & a strong sense of community. To be true, it seemed like another world from what I was accustomed to. There has been much research done on the earning disparity between West Indians & African Americans in various communities across. Without going too deep into the myriad of reasons, it seems as though so-called west indians have utilized the time proven method for getting a economic foothold in america: Entrepreneurship, Education, & Fiscal Discipline. This phenomenon stretches to other worlds as well. Case in point: 12 years ago, when I was accepted to the University of Pittsburgh, most of the Black students were middle/lower-middle class students from Philadelphia. Fast Forward 12 years later, Pitt raised their standards for admisssion in hopes of becoming a "public ivy", & now most of the students are So - called West Indians & Africans from the New York metropolitan

Below is a article about Black & White incomes in Queens from the NY Times. Check it out and let me know what you think!

Across the country, the income gap between blacks and whites remains wide, and nowhere more so than in Manhattan. But just a river away, a very different story is unfolding.
In Queens, the median income among black households, nearing $52,000 a year, has surpassed that of whites in 2005, an analysis of new census data shows. No other county in the country with a population over 65,000 can make that claim. The gains among blacks in Queens, the city’s quintessential middle-class borough, were driven largely by the growth of two-parent families and the successes of immigrants from the West Indies. Many live in tidy homes in verdant enclaves like Cambria Heights, Rosedale and Laurelton, just west of the Cross Island Parkway and the border with Nassau County.

David Veron, a 45-year-old lawyer, is one of them. He estimates that the house in St. Albans that he bought with his wife, Nitchel, three years ago for about $320,000 has nearly doubled in value since they renovated it. Two-family homes priced at $600,000 and more seem to be sprouting on every vacant lot, he says.
“Southeast Queens, especially, had a heavy influx of West Indian folks in the late 80’s and early 90’s,” said Mr. Veron, who, like his 31-year-old wife, was born on the island of Jamaica. “Those individuals came here to pursue an opportunity, and part of that opportunity was an education,” he said. “A large percentage are college graduates. We’re now maturing and reaching the peak of our earning capacity.”
Richard P. Nathan, co-director of the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government in Albany, called Queens “the flip side of the underclass.”
“It really is the best illustration that the stereotype of blacks living in dangerous, concentrated, poor, slum, urban neighborhoods is misleading and doesn’t predominate,” he said.
Andrew A. Beveridge, a Queens College demographer who analyzed results of the Census Bureau’s 2005 American Community Survey, released in August, for The New York Times, said of the trend: “It started in the early 1990’s, and now it’s consolidated. They’re married-couple families living the American dream in southeast Queens.”

In 1994, an analysis for The Times found that in some categories, the median income of black households in Queens was slightly higher than that of whites — a milestone in itself. By 2000, whites had pulled slightly ahead. But blacks have since rebounded.
The only other places where black household income is higher than among whites are much smaller than Queens, like Mount Vernon in Westchester, Pembroke Pines, Fla.; Brockton, Mass.; and Rialto, Calif. Most of the others also have relatively few blacks or are poor.
But Queens is unique not only because it is home to about two million people, but also because both blacks and whites there make more than the national median income, about $46,000.
Even as blacks have surged ahead of whites in Queens, over all they have fallen behind in Manhattan. With the middle class there shrinking, those remaining are largely either the wealthy, who are predominantly white, or the poor, who are mostly black and Hispanic, the new census data shows.

Median income among blacks in Manhattan was $28,116, compared with $86,494 among whites, the widest gap of any large county in the country.
In contrast, the middle-class black neighborhoods of Queens evoke the “zones of emergence” that nurtured economically rising European immigrants a century ago, experts say. “It’s how the Irish, the Italians, the Jews got out of the slums,” Professor Nathan said.
Despite the economic progress among blacks in Queens, income gaps still endure within the borough’s black community, where immigrants, mostly from the Caribbean, are generally doing better than American-born blacks.
“Racism and the lack of opportunity created a big gap and kind of put us at a deeper disadvantage,” said Steven Dennison, an American-born black resident of Springfield Gardens.
Mr. Dennison, a 49-year-old electrical contractor, has four children. One is getting her doctoral degree; another will graduate from college this school year. “It starts with the school system,” Mr. Dennison said.

Mr. Vernon, the lawyer from Jamaica, said: “It’s just that the people who left the Caribbean to come here are self-starters. It only stands to reason they would be more aggressive in pursuing their goals. And that creates a separation.”
Housing patterns do, too. While blacks make more than whites — even those in the borough’s wealthiest neighborhoods, including Douglaston — they account for fewer than 1 in 20 residents in some of those communities. And among blacks themselves, there are disparities, depending on where they live.

According to the latest analysis, black households in Queens reported a median income of $51,836 compared with $50,960 for non-Hispanic whites (and $52,998 for Asians and $43,927 among Hispanic people).
Among married couples in Queens, the gap was even greater: $78,070 among blacks, higher than any other racial or ethnic group, and $74,503 among whites.
Hector Ricketts, 50, lives with his wife, Opal, a legal secretary, and their three children in Rosedale. A Jamaican immigrant, he has a master’s degree in health care administration, but after he was laid off more than a decade ago he realized that he wanted to be an entrepreneur. He established a commuter van service.

“When immigrants come here, they’re not accustomed to social programs,” he said, “and when they see opportunities they had no access to — tuition or academic or practical training — they are God-sent, and they use those programs to build themselves and move forward.”
Immigrants helped propel the gains among blacks. The median income of foreign-born black households was $61,151, compared with $45,864 for American-born blacks. The disparity was even more pronounced among black married couples.
The median for married black immigrants was $84,338, nearly as much as for native-born white couples. For married American-born blacks, it was $70,324.
One reason for the shifting income pattern is that some wealthier whites have moved away.
“As non-Hispanic whites have gotten richer, they have left Queens for the Long Island suburbs, leaving behind just middle-class whites,” said Professor Edward N. Wolff, an economist at New York University. “Since home ownership is easier for whites than blacks in the suburbs — mortgages are easier to get for whites — the middle-class whites left in Queens have been relatively poor. Middle-class black families have had a harder time buying homes in the Long Island suburbs, so that blacks that remain in Queens are relatively affluent.”
The white median also appeared to have been depressed slightly by the disproportionate number of elderly whites on fixed incomes.

But even among the elderly, blacks fared better. Black households headed by a person older than 65 reported a median income of $35,977, compared with $28,232 for white households.
Lloyd Hicks, 77, who moved to Cambria Heights from Harlem in 1959, used to run a freight-forwarding business near Kennedy Airport. His wife, Elvira, 71, was a teacher. Both were born in New York City, but have roots in Trinidad. He has a bachelor’s degree in business. She has a master’s in education.
“Education was always something the families from the islands thought the children should have,” Mr. Hicks said.
In addition to the larger share of whites who are elderly, said Andrew Hacker, a Queens College political scientist, “black Queens families usually need two earners to get to parity with working whites.”

Kenneth C. Holder, 46, a former prosecutor who was elected to a Civil Court judgeship last year, was born in London of Jamaican and Guyanese parents and grew up in Laurelton. His wife, Sharon, who is Guyanese, is a secretary at a Manhattan law firm. They own a home in Rosedale, where they live with their three sons.
“Queens has a lot of good places to live; I could move, but why?” Mr. Holder said. “There are quite a number of two-parent households and a lot of ancillary services available for youth, put up by organized block associations and churches, like any middle-class area.”

In smaller categories, the numbers become less precise. Still, for households headed by a man, median income was $61,151 for blacks and $54,537 for whites. Among households headed by a woman, the black and white medians were the same: $50,960.
Of the more than 800,000 households in Queens, according to the Census Bureau’s 2005 American Community Survey, about 39 percent are white, 23 percent are Hispanic, 18 percent are Asian, and 17 percent are black — suggesting multiple hues rather than monotone black and white.

“It is wrong to say that America is ‘fast becoming two nations’ the way the Kerner Commission did,” said Professor Nathan, who was the research director for the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders in 1968 and disagreed with its conclusion. “It might be, though, that it was more true then than it is now.”