By Oscar Perry Abello.
When Ebele Ifedigbo was growing up on the East Side of Buffalo, Ifedigbo’s father, an architect, would point out the check cashers and the rent-to-own shops as they drove around the neighborhood and the city. Those drives helped to cultivate curiosity about the ongoing economic injustice that undermines black communities in cities everywhere, but Ifedigbo couldn’t have known then that the path would lead to looking to correct that injustice through opportunity in cannabis legalization.
“He would show me all this stuff and he would say ‘these are the things that actually prevent us from being able to build wealth,’” Ifedigbo remembers. “They suck out the resources that we don’t really have.”
The wealth disparity today: Median net worth for white non-Hispanic households ($132,483) is 14.6 times the median net worth of black households ($9,211), according to figures released this month by the U.S. Census Bureau. Ifedigbo’s curiosity about this injustice led to studies at Columbia University, work in the financial and nonprofit sectors, and a degree from Yale’s business school.
“We can talk about political power, social power, all of those are important, but for me I feel like economics is the foundation for those other things to stand sturdy and be sustainable,” Ifedigbo says. “When I went into business school I was thinking, can business serve the ends of social justice, and if so, what would that look like?”
The path toward an answer came sooner than Ifedigbo expected, in 2015, when a wave of pot legalization began to spread across the United States.