Ralph Harper was a young boy when he watched a childhood friend get beaten with an extension cord.

His friend’s mother wielded it. She had ordered her son to lie down on a table and proceeded to beat him with it. Harper can still recall the sound of the extension cord striking his friend’s back and see the tears in his eyes.  

As an adult, Harper now believes what he witnessed that day was not just a horrible punishment but a norm passed down from slavery. 

“To this day that haunts me,” he says.

Today, Harper is the author of Own the Change – How Our Children Will Lead The Next Cultural Movement. He is also a seasoned IT professional, the founder of DPLOYIT Staffing, and the Chairman of the Board for The 2060s Project, a nonprofit organization.

He met with Local Profile last week as part of the Local Leaders series on Facebook Live to discuss The 2060s Project, which he built around the realization that the horror of slavery still affects Black Americans today.

“I believe that the idea, the notion of inequality has also derived from slavery and the end of slavery,” he says. He saw the specter of slavery the day that his friend was whipped with an extension cord, just as he sees it in the era of Jim Crow laws and segregation. Racial discrimination, profiling, police brutality, and mass incarceration: racial inequality did not end with the Emancipation Proclamation.

Racism is not just a problem for Black Americans, he adds. “Anyone who believes in their minds and their souls that they are fundamentally better than someone else because of the color of their skin, there’s something wrong with that.” 

The 2060s Project is based on the idea that the only solution to Black American inequality is accountability in the Black American community. It provides a guide to that accountability and the positive effects it could have on future generations.

The book, he says, covers everything from the end of slavery into 1960s voting and civil rights. Harper calls it a plan “to appropriately guide our children into the 2060s.”

“I know the problems we have in our community cannot be solved in a year or two years or ten, so I decided to give us 60 years,” he says. “This is what it takes to win in the United States.”

Right now, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, he sees momentum for his community to cause change and win in the United States.

“We’re in this place where we have an opportunity to start seriously addressing these issues in this country,” he says. 

Highlights from Harper’s conversation include:

The WIN model

“We must go back to the basics. My seven principles for success can be broken into three buckets: [the first] involves reading, education, and work. Then [the next is] integrity, which has to do with accountability and respect. The last is duty, supporting others, and financial astuteness.”

The Importance of Literacy

“It’s shocking to me to learn that 32 million adults in the US are illiterate. Those are just the adults. 32 million. … Reading is the starting place. Every parent should make sure that child is reading because by the time they’re 8, they’re reading because they want to read … when that fundamental piece of education starts early, all these other things will come.”

How to Make Change

“We have to create the buzz. We need to build a curriculum so that work is done consistently across the country and, bigger picture, we need technology to track the results [of the project] like graduation rates, job sales … we will start to prove our program’s success.”