Jim Casselbury, known
Black people in America won their personal freedom 158 years ago. Despite this, economic freedom was a long way off.
Veteran portfolio manager Jim Casselberry is trying to do something about it, using his four decades of investment experience to help bridge the gap between people of color and Indigenous people.
“We have to do better, and we have to do better by getting the capital in the hands of the right people,” Casselberry said in a recent interview. “What we want to do is be able to help them stand up and use the talent, the opportunity and the skills that they have.”
Celebrated on a Monday in the United States, Juneteenth has been a national holiday for two years. It marks the day Major General Gordon Granger declared freedom to the slaves of Texas.
While the holiday signals a critical wrong that has finally been righted, it does not signal the end of racial inequality in the United States.
Houston resident Priscilla May sings during the Emancipation Proclamation Reenactment Walk outside Reedy Chapel in Galveston, Texas, June 19, 2021.
Idris Latif | Reuters
The numbers are now painfully familiar: Blacks make up 13% of the population but own only 4% of the wealth. The 400 richest Americans own as much wealth as the entire black population. The racial gap between whites and blacks is 6 to 1 – better than 23 to 1 in 1870 after emancipation, but still a massive gap. These stats are from the Minneapolis Federal Reserve as of 2019.
Bridging this gap is part of the mission of Known, an organization Casselberry co-founded in 2021 with a team of Black, Native, Hispanic, and Asian American co-founders. Its premise is listed as “a financial and asset management firm that works with founders, family offices, and large asset owners who value competitive returns as well as strong long-term racial, social, and climatic influences.”
Target, though, is true to the name, Casselberry said.
“Why we use the term ‘known,’ particularly among blacks, browns, and Indigenous people, is that we want them to feel known, that they see that we have the power to do so,” he said. “A lot of programs, a lot of opportunities… don’t work, but they haven’t necessarily been given a chance to work.”
He said programs such as affirmative action have helped make progress, but he believes broader reforms are necessary.
“Given our polarized and dysfunctional government, it is unlikely at best that we will see reparations on any meaningful scale. Philanthropy has tried many approaches, but they are also not on a scale where they can affect the problem.”
“The real solution is in the capital markets, where the real money is found and managed, but where more than 98% of the money under management is controlled by old majority white companies,” Casselberry added.
Treasury data indicates that the wealth disparity between white and black families has not changed much over the past 20 years.
Casselberry hopes the efforts of such organizations will help change that.
“Al-Marouf was formed to be the solution for asset owners who want to be able to invest for better results,” he said. It was formed to serve as resource capital access for [Black, Indigenous and People of Color] To be able to reach, to be able to grow, and to be able to create opportunities.”