Harrisburg Event Examines Debt in the African-American Community
Harrisburg Correspondent - Published: October 21, 2010
The Harrisburg Black Law Students Association held a screening of the CNN segment “Almighty Debt” on October 20, 2010 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in Room A180. The viewing was open to Widener students and faculty along with members of the Harrisburg legal community – including lawyers in the Keystone Bar Association. After the screening, there was a discussion on the significance of debt in communities of color led by Assistant Professor Tonya M. Evans.

The CNN segment focused on a church that was helping its parishioners by providing debt counselors. The pastor of the church explained that he felt that debt was a bigger problem than racism, and that the issue is particularly important in the African-American community because wealth accumulates over time. As African-Americans have not had the same opportunities to build wealth over time, they can be forced to take on debt in order to maintain any standard of living.

One particular family took advantage of the debt counselor and was trying to save their house from being foreclosed. Despite owning a large house and several BMW’s, they had not paid their mortgage in 2 years. Another individual in the video was a high school student who came from a low-income family and was about to put himself into debt through college loans. The last individual featured was a 68-year-old man who was a vice president at an insurance firm and was laid off. The video explored his struggle to find another job because of his age.

Following the video, Professor Evans led a discussion on the issues discussed in the video segment. Some topics that were discussed included whether debt was actually a bigger problem than racism, the mentality involved bin the inability to meet monetary obligations, and how previous generations had the attitude that if they didn’t make enough then they didn’t buy it.