By John Hope Bryant, Founder, Chairman, and CEO, Operation HOPE, Inc.
There has never been a riot by a 700-credit-score community in American history. Only 500-credit-score communities riot. Traditionally, these have been urban, inner-city, left behind black and brown communities, but in the current political landscape we’ve seen the fabric of civility tear in 500-credit-score communities that are effectively poor, rural and white; individuals who are upset that economic progress has not trickled down to them.
Today, whether you are black, white, red, brown, or, yellow, you want to see more green—as in U.S. currency. Financial inequality is at the foundation of the current spate of upheaval in communities across the country, and by extension, around the world. In perspective, most social unrest has little to do with race, and everything to do with class. In order to truly address what’s wrong in our communities, we must first acknowledge the true nature of the battle.
Though racial disparity in policing is a reality, some of the biggest ongoing challenges faced by people in underserved areas of our great American cities are financial illiteracy, predatory lending, and lack of opportunity. These obstacles restrict the average individual from earning a living and being an active player in the economy. Without the financial know-how and economic prospects required to build a sustainable future and successfully participate in free enterprise, people in these areas are held back and left out.
An effective approach to combating economic inequality lies in improving financial literacy for youth and adults, increasing business role models and business internships for young people, and stabilizing the American dream by boosting credit scores and creating bankable communities, empowered with financial dignity and economic opportunity.
Empowered with financial dignity, individuals have a stake in the future of their communities. They are connected to it, and to each other, for a greater purpose. They want to serve; they want to be contributors. They ask better questions and make smarter decisions. The saying, “People don’t burn what they own,” has been proven accurate time and time again.
The collective way forward must be building up communities torn down and incapacitated by lack of equity. Through a powerful new initiative based on sustainable, transformational, community uplift at scale, Operation HOPE is packaging and distributing Project 5117 programs throughout the nation to advance financial inclusion, strengthen low- and middle-income families, and help revive the economy. Over the next four years, here in Atlanta, through Atlanta Uplift 2020, we will activate:
- 25 new HOPE Inside locations — sponsored offices in bank branches, government facilities, and other community locations that provide free financial literacy and small business education and empowerment programs, including credit and money management support, homebuyer counseling, and entrepreneurship training.
- 25 HOPE Business In A Box Academies — training, mentorship, and seed investment for youth entrepreneurs, grades 4-12.
- 25 Banking on Our Future ‘Signature’ Schools — free in-school financial literacy education for students.
Young men and women in Atlanta, Ferguson, Detroit, Baltimore, Chicago, New Orleans, and Los Angeles; in big cities and small towns throughout this nation, are smart. They are paying attention. They do want success. They do want to work hard. They do value education. They do want to be educated. What they lack are proper role models, financial training, and real opportunities to operationalize their dreams and contribute to their communities.
About Financial Inclusion
Operation HOPE, Inc., powers the broadest financial inclusion network in the country. Through strategic partnerships with organizations like SunTrust, Wells Fargo, Hyatt Hotels, and Coca-Cola, the nonprofit is making free enterprise accessible to all by equipping youth and adults with the financial training and tools to realize their aspirations and ensure their financial wellbeing. Through its core programs, Operation HOPE has provided financial dignity and economic empowerment to over 2.6 million individuals worldwide, and $2 billion in economic activity for the disenfranchised—turning check cashing customers into banking customers, renters into homeowners, small business dreamers into small business owners, and minimum wage workers into living wage consumers. Project 5117 is the organization’s multi-year four-pronged approach to combating economic inequality that aims to improve financial literacy, increase business role models and business internships for youth, and stabilize the American dream by boosting credit scores. The Atlanta Uplift 2020 initiative will escalate the organization’s services throughout the city to strengthen low- and middle-income families. For more information: www.OperationHOPE.org
Volunteer with HOPE Corps: http://www.operationhope.org/hopecorps
Learn more about membership levels: https://www.operationhope.org/becomeapartner