Episode 4 (The Presentation)
After carefully setting up the easel and properly displaying his project, Jamal was ready to begin. To the trained eye, Jamal presented himself like an experienced marketing strategist at a fortune 500 company. If one didn’t know better, they would have assumed that he was a student of Wharton Business School and not at a community college. The only thing that was missing was the signature blue Brooks Brother’s suit, crisp white button down shirt, red pinstripe tie and a pair of Kenneth Cole shoes.
The power point portion of Jamal’s presentation covered the demographics of Jamaica, Queens, the targeted location for his first tax preparation center. His statistics covered the ethnic breakdown of the neighborhood and the general services provided in comparison to Kew Gardens, Queens a more affluent neighborhood. While the top two tax preparers, H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt, serviced both neighborhoods most of their business generated from the poorer neighborhood of Jamaica. Jamal pointed out that poorer residents looked for the easiest and most convenient method available because they either didn’t have the time or didn’t know how to bargain hunt on their own. Unfortunately, they are left to the vices of an agency that doesn’t take the time to search the tax codes to offer the best return possible for the client. They feel that as long as they are getting a return that their needs are being met. What they don’t understand is that their unclaimed tax dollars are recycled back into the government to be capitalized off of by middle and upper class residents through federal grants. These are the same people that hire private accountants to handle their taxes or they are educated enough to do them on their own without paying the exorbitant preparation fees.
Jamal’s plan was to make tax return services more affordable to low-income residents of New York. They would also provide training sessions to educate people how to read and understand the tax codes as well as teach them how to prepare their returns themselves. In addition, there would be computer centers set up so that people could prepare their own taxes on site through the use of the internet. Eventually he would branch out to neighborhoods with similar demographics and ethnic makeup like Jamaica, such as Bedford Stuyvesant, East New York and Brownsville in Brooklyn and Queensbridge, Rochdale and Far Rockaway in Queens. Of course Harlem wasn’t far down the line but with the changing tides of gentrification, the concept may soon become a non-issue in that area.
By the time he had completed his presentation, everyone in the class was convinced that Jamal’s neighborhood tax preparation centers were the thing of the future and more beneficial to the low-income community. Jamal’s centers promised to provide an atmosphere that was like family. It grew with the individual as their needs changed each year. He also showed how a percentage of the benefits would be placed back into the community to uplift the youth with internships and assist the elderly with home visits instead of lining the long pockets of corporate America.
Overall, Jamal’s project showed just how crucial these tax preparation centers were to predominantly black and latino communities. His stamp of approval came as he returned to his seat to a thunderous applause. This is when he noticed the smug look on Jimmie’s face as he halfheartedly clapped his hands in unison with the rest of the class. ТHater,У is what Jamal mumbled to himself.
After class, Ms. Jones motioned for Jamal to stop and speak with her. “Jamal, your assignment was incredible; one of the best I’ve seen in the 10 years that I’ve been teaching here. I could tell from your enthusiasm and meticulosity that this brainchild is more than an A grade for you.”
“You just don’t know Ms. Jones. I’ve been planning this concept in my head for the past two years. This class just gave me the opportunity to express my views to a larger audience.”
“If you don’t mind, I would like to discuss your project with a friend of mine who is a tax lawyer. I think she could give you the advice that you need to get your idea up and running if you are really serious about this business venture.”
“Most definitely, Ms. Jones. I have every intention of making this project work. Any help that you could give me, I would greatly appreciate it.”
“Alright, give me a few days and I will arrange an appointment for you to meet my friend.”
“Thanks Ms. Jones. You have just turned a rainy day into sunshine.”
Practically floating out of the class, Jamal bumped into Jimmie who was waiting outside the classroom for him. “Pretty decent work Washington. I honestly didn’t expect to have any competition in there today but you proved me wrong.”
To avoid further conflict Jamal walked away still reeling off of the high received in class but at the same time feeling sorry for Jimmie. Jamal thought, “It’s bad enough that brothers have to contend with white America and the vestiges of slavery to get ahead, but when brothers begin cutting each other for a slice of pie not meant for them, it’s worse.” He quickly tossed these thoughts to the wind because he refused to waste any more energy on negativity. He was going to treat himself to something he hadn’t done in a while and something he long deserved.
After hitting a few rounds in the batting cage at Chelsea Piers, and shaking off a month’s worth of intense studying and preparation, Jamal decided to call Lela to see if he could salvage what was left of his relationship.