Black people in America achieved personal liberty 158 years ago. Economic freedom, on the other hand, has proven considerably more difficult.
Jim Casselberry, a veteran portfolio manager, is attempting to address this issue by leveraging his four decades of investment knowledge to help bridge the gap for people of color and Indigenous people.
“We have to do better, and we have to do better by getting capital into the hands of the right people,” Casselberry remarked recently. “What we want to be able to do is help them stand up and use the talent, opportunity, and skills that they have.”
Juneteenth, which is observed on Monday in the United States, has been designated as a national holiday for the past two years. It is the anniversary of Major General Gordon Granger’s proclamation of slave liberation in Texas.
While the holiday commemorates a horrible wrong that was eventually righted, it does not herald the end of racial discrimination in the United States. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the distribution of wealth.
The statistics are painfully familiar: black people make up 13% of the population yet own only 4% of the wealth. The wealth of the top 400 Americans is comparable to that of the whole Black population. The racial split between whites and blacks is 6 to 1 – less than the 23 to 1 gap following liberation in 1870, but still significant. These figures are from the Minneapolis Federal Reserve and are current as of 2019.
Bridging that gulf is part of the aim of Known, a nonprofit created in 2021 by Casselberry and a group of Black, Indigenous, Hispanic, and Asian-American co-founders. According to its website, it is “a finance and asset management firm that works with founders, family offices, and large asset owners who value competitive returns as well as powerful long-term racial, social, and climate impact.”
Casselberry, on the other hand, stated that the aim is right there in the name.
“The reason we use the term ‘Known,’, particularly among the Black, Brown, and Indigenous populations, is that we want them to feel known, that they see we have the ability to do this,” he explained. “So many of the programs and opportunities… don’t work, but they haven’t necessarily been given the chance to work.”
“Given our polarized and dysfunctional government, we’re unlikely to see reparations on any meaningful scale.” “Philanthropy has tried many approaches, but they are not on a large enough scale to have an impact on the problem,” he added.
“The real solution lies in capital markets, where the real money is found and managed, but where more than 98% of funds under management are controlled by old majority white firms,” Casselberry continued.
According to Treasury Department data, the wealth discrepancy between white and Black households has altered little over the last 20 years.
Casselberry hopes that projects like this one will help alter that.
“Known was formed to be the solution for asset holders that want to be able to invest for better outcomes,” he explained. “And it’s formed to be a resource capital access point for the [Black, Indigenous, and People of Color] community to be able to access, grow, and create opportunities.”