The Silver Rights Movement

Cover_the_silver_rights_movement_2Foreward by Dr. Cecil "Chip" Murray, pastor-emeritus, First A.M.E. Church, and now Lecturer of Religion, Tanzy Chair of Christian Ethics at USC

SILVER RIGHTS-a concept that documents and validates the next phase of civil rights: the empowerment movement not only of American minorities, but of majorities as well. That is, we transition beyond giving a fish, beyond teaching to fish, to owning the pond itself. In the time of a vanishing middle class, John Bryant and Operation Hope, his brainchild, would develop stakeholders, that group between the working class and the middle class, not making more money, but making better decisions with they money they have.

In this classic presentation, the author/speaker argues convincingly that history has an economic interpretation, as witnesses the War Between the States, the civil rights movement, and now the information age. The dollar speaks with a universal voice and dialect, challenging the underserved to seek a hand up and not a hand out, the ideal voiced by Operation Hope, the decade old national movement that now accesses in the trillions of dollars, and assists in the conversion of a half-million persons nationwide.

John Bryant, a lad who arrives homeless in Los Angeles, and moves to 40 employees and a $5 million dollar budget for the home office, with offices in the major cities of America, is living proof that diversity is not adversity-the magnificent differences displayed in New York and California are not coincidental to the development of these two modern mammoths, but is integral to them. Here is living proof that drawing the best from each brings the best to all. Ignorance is the invincible enemy killing both the majority and the minority, costing fortunes to both. Operation Hope enlightens by using its own fuse box as a prototype of how we can make movement from zero to hero.

The Operation undertakes to teach economic literacy to students by the time they complete 8th grade; to utilize its Banking On Our Future concept to pass on information; to move from renting to home ownership; to teach the advantages of sound banking beyond check cashing. The statistics of success are so overwhelming, and so well documented herein, that the reader simply has to come away convinced of a vital untapped market in the underserved regions of America.

John Bryant and Operation Hope are a spider of excellence weaving a web of wonder in moving from CIVIL RIGHTS to SILVER RIGHTS.

Reverend Dr. Cecil "Chip" Murray is pastor-emeritus at First A.M.E. Church in Los Angeles, California, and a senior advisor and spiritual mentor to John Bryant.

Calling for a new Silver Rights Movement in America, Operation HOPE, America’s first non-profit social investment banking organization, a national non-profit self-help organization and a leading provider of economic empowerment tools and services, proposes to continue and build upon the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the famed Civil Rights Movement.

At Operation HOPE we call this the Silver Rights Movement.

Throughout the 20th Century, in America and arguably throughout the world, the major issue of the day was race and the color line. The primary and increasing focus on race and the color line brought civil rights and the Civil Rights Movement into mainstream focus, here and abroad. In America and arguably throughout the world today, the major issues facing us, increasingly, are the twin issues of class and poverty. The primary and increasing focus on class and poverty will bring forth new challenges, new calls and new cures.

Operation HOPE believes that these new challenges, calls and cures can be seen clearly through the lens of what it calls the Silver Rights Movement.

The authors of the Silver Rights Movement believe, as U.S. President George W. Bush and others national leaders have suggested, that education is the ultimate poverty eradication tool. That individuals don’t need to necessarily make more money, but rather, to "make better decisions with the money they make."

The authors of the Silver Rights Movement believe that the focus should not exclusively be on or about America’s low to moderate-income, or any particular ethnic group per se, but those who have experienced poverty in their lives – be it spiritual, mental, emotional or financial.

The Silver Rights Movement is rightly focused on an inclusive policy, aimed at empowering the wealthless of America, wherever they are; be they black, white, brown or yellow.

The authors of the Silver Rights Movement believe that there should be a new class of American citizens, lodged between the working class and the middle class; called the STAKEHOLDER CLASS. The stakeholder class will be comprised not necessarily of or by individuals that make more money, but make better decisions with the money they make.

The authors of the Silver Rights Movement believe that individuals prefer "a hand up to a hand out," and actively promote programs aimed at helping people, people help themselves.

The authors of the Silver Rights Movement believe that the ultimate answer to eradicating poverty, right here in America, lies in an active, proactive and coordinated "three-legged stool" partnership, by and between the private sector, government and the community.

The authors of the Silver Rights Movement believe in the powers of conversion: Converting check-cashing customers into banking customers. Converting renters into homeowners.

Converting small business dreamers into small business owners. Converting minimum wage workers into living wage workers. Converting the economically uneducated to the economically literate, and empowered. Helping people help themselves, and creating more stakeholders in America.

The authors of the Silver Rights Movement believe that "any society is at its greatest risk from those individuals that have no stake in it." That an individual is not usually interested in tax policy unless they have a job, home or business, and quoting late Commerce Secretary Ronald H. Brown, "the best family value is a job." That voter participation and civic participation increases in wealthless communities, when homeow
nership increases in wealthless communities.

The authors of the Silver Rights Movement believe, quoting Operation HOPE founder John Bryant, "that there is a difference between being broke and being poor. Being broke is an economic condition, while being poor is a disabling frame of mind, and a depressed condition of one’s spirit. And the wealthless in America must vow never, ever to be poor again…" Accordingly, there is strong support for an active partnership with and collaboration between faith-based institutions.

The Silver Rights Movement, by John Bryant, as presented at the NAACP Self-Help Summit, Oakland, California, January 10th, 2003, at the invitation of Shannon Reeves, chapter president.

Good morning. I am indeed honored to be here before you today as your keynote speaker. Thank you Shannon Reeves and all the others that comprise the Oakland NAACP, for the kind invitation.

On my way into Oakland today, crossing the Bay, I had a vision; I saw a great city. A city on a hill, nestled in a valley. A city sparkling with opportunity, and value unrealized. I saw a city with an impassioned citizenry, a mayor, congressional representative and other local officials with a vision of future prosperity. I saw a city that sits on top of one of the most valuable pieces of property in America today; serving as the gateway for one of America’s most vital and financially significant ports.

I saw a city that is experiencing some challenges for sure, with crime, murder, education and other important stabilizers, or destabilizers, of a community. But I also saw a city brimming with future potential, and significantly unleveraged assets. What did you see on your way to the downtown Marriott today? The Bible says "where there is no vision, the people perish." Again I ask, …this is your city, and at the end of the day, it must grow and prosper because of your vision for it; …what did you see on your way here today?

I have a vision for Oakland, and all of the Oaklands, in all of the under-served regions of America, and it is called the Silver Rights Movement. From the strong roots of 20th century civil rights, grows the foundation and strength of and for 21st century silver rights.

If the 20th century was marked, both here and abroad, by issues related to race and the color line, then the 21st century will be marked by issues of class and poverty. -John Bryant.

Let me frame the issues, as I see them.

Today’s indicators strongly suggest that in spite of the destabilization of the stock market, the lingering recession and what appears to be a jobless (economic) recovery, the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, and it is harder for the average person, simply to remain "middle class." 30 short years ago, middle class meant one parent working, and one parent raising our children at home, as a sort of "domestic engineer." Today middle class most often means two parents working, and the television set and popular culture is raising our children, in our place.

According to a 2001 study by CNN, half of all Americans, be they black, white, red, brown or yellow, are living from paycheck to paycheck. Effectively one paycheck away from poverty. Against this backdrop we have another phenomena of the 21st century. The penta-millionaire. According to USA Today there are 600,000 penta-millionaires in America today (individuals with a net worth of $5 million or more, not including their primary residence), and according to their data, there will be four million penta-millionaires by 2004.

An estimated 65 million Americans have no traditional banking relationship. According to new Census Bureau data for 2001, 33 million Americans are dirt poor in this, the richest nation in the world. That’s more than the combined population of the District of Columbia plus 21 states: Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming.

According to the 2001 Census, child poverty rates were 16.3 percent (one out of six children) in 2001. In contrast, child poverty rates were 14.4 percent in 1953, and a low of 14 percent in 1969. Median incomes are going down. Median pre-tax household income fell by more than $900 from $43,162 in 2000 to $42,228 in 2001. In fact, income dropped everywhere but the top. The average income of the top 5% of Americans actually rose from $259,445 in 2000 to $260,464 in 2001; and respectfully, this number is understated because the Census Bureau excludes capital gains income, for example, which goes disproportionately to the wealthy.

According to the United Nations, five billion of the more than six billion individuals inhabiting and sharing our planet live on less than $1 dollar per day. And then you have, our children.

According to the Jump$tart Coalition, more than one million Americans file for bankruptcy each year. In year 2000 150,000 young adults aged 18- 25 filed for bankruptcy. This was a 10 fold increase in just five years. In my opinion, these are not principally minority youth, but middle-class, white college students. Young people who also were not given any economic literacy education growing up in fairly affluent families; and today they unfortunately believe that credit card limits equate to "free money," and a check is a form of credit. They are paying for the pizza with a credit card, and are increasingly graduating with a masters’ degree in psychology, and an under-graduate degree in bankruptcy.

In a year 2000 study conducted by the Jump$tart Coalition, students in all fifty states, of all races and socio-economic standards, were asked 30 multiple-choice questions on money management, savings, investment, and credit. The compiled results confirmed an average failing score of 51.9 percent. Of all students polled, only 6.7 percent achieved a "C" or higher. Based on the results of the test, it was concluded that the majority of America’s young adults are not prepared to make sound financial decisions.

At Operation HOPE we call the economic empowerment work that is directly linked to and with this new era, the "Silver Rights Movement." The Silver Rights Movement is a movement of empowerment for the wealthless in America.

A movement reflective of all people and all races, because without strong, consistent and positive intervention, all the major trend lines suggest a large and growing economic disparity gap; and "any nation is at its greatest risk by those who have no stake in it." But with positive intervention, consistency and a spirit filled with HOPE, we can realize the rebirth of the American dream of equality for all.

An era of economic prosperity in America and justice, instead of "just-us." An economic era where all boats truly rise. An economic era where selfishness is replaced with enlightened self-interest, and where "doing well and doing good," truly grows and develops into a business ethic of "doing well by doing good."

An economic era where people make a choice of the permanent wealth associated with promoting good selfishness (where I benefit and everyone else benefits more), over the temporary and shortsighted gains of bad selfishness (where I benefit and everyone else pays a price for it). An economic era giving birth to the stakeholder class. Lodged between the working class and the middle class, the stakeholder class doesn’t necessarily make more money, but makes better decisions with the money they make.

An era that links our past gains with our future purpose. Of course, we all well know of the pioneering and important work of Dr. Martin Luther King’s in our nation around issues of civil rights. But what most Americans don’t seem to know, is that in 1968, the year he was assassinated, Dr. King was focused on something different; something called the "T
he Poor People’s Campaign." The Poor People’s Campaign was about moving poor Blacks, poor Hispanics, poor Asians, poor Indians, and yes, even poor whites, into the economic mainstream in America. It is a fact that there are more poor whites in America today, than poor anyone else. Dr. King realized what smart business leaders today also realize – that this is an American issue, and not just a minority issue.

Yes, Dr. King realized by 1968 that you could not legislate goodness in America, nor pass a law to force someone to respect you. That the only way to achieve the first rung of social justice in America, essentially a capitalist and consumer led country, was through economic parity. Translation: ownership. That any society was at its greatest risk by those individuals that had no stake in it.

But the connection between social justice and economic progress for all, was not born by way of Dr. King nor the civil rights movement of the 50’s and 60’s. If you reflect back on America’s civil war, you can see clearly the parallel and connection even then. The north of that era was focused on modernizing and diversifying, and seemed, to many, to be "open for business," so to speak, and to new ideas. The south of that era was, shall we say, very "comfortable with the way things were."

The result: according to a report by the Council on Foreign Affairs in Washington, D.C., America’s northern states began attracting a broader and more "diverse" cross section of America’s new immigrant population, mostly from less affluent parts of Europe. I guess the Italians, the Jews and others newly arrived from Europe, said, "hey, …well ah —- while I’m not Black…why test my luck, …and headed north!"

Issues of social justice were bound up and inter-connected, with issues of diversity, markets, growth and money, even then. And even politics were inter-connected with issues of social justice, dating back to the civil war. Every country goes through four major economic transformations during its evolution and growth as a nation.

The agriculture age leads to the industrial age, which in turn leads to the technology age, and finally, the age of information, which is where America finds itself today. But the America during the time of the civil war was indeed split. The south, locked in an agricultural model, utilizing "free (slave) labor," resisted northern economic domination, as fostered by its transition into a more progressive, and inclusive, industrial economic model.

As a direct result, we had a civil war involving the northern and southern states. But the civil war was principally about money, power and position, and not (so much) about freeing the slaves.

Following the success of the north, and the abolition of slavery as we knew it at the time, Blacks became Republicans en mass. No mystery here; Lincoln was president, he was a Republican, and he signed the law that granted Blacks their freedom. It was not a love fest that caused the wave of Blacks into the Republican Party, it was an issue! An issue, relevant to people’s lives.

Fast forward to the civil rights movement, as led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as other heroes and she roes of the time. The majority in Congress in the 1950’s and 60’s did not undergo an immediate spiritual conversion to Black love and brotherhood, causing the successful vote of crucial civil rights legislation, no different than the civil war was not about saving me. I am very clear that, while there were many, many well-meaning Americans citizens that dearly wanted the abolition of slavery during this time, at the end of the day America did not go to war exclusively to save my Black rear-end.

Civil rights legislation, most notably the Voting Rights Act, was passed into law because King and others were brilliant in bringing the photos of a "free and democratic America" waging a one-sided whipping campaign on unarmed senior citizens, women and children, into worldview. These shocking photos of violent abuse, often at the hand of officers sworn to protect and to serve, increasingly damaged America’s image, both home and abroad. To many, "made in America" began to take on a completely different, and often-uncomplimentary, meaning. In short, America’s image, and ultimately her economy, started to feel the strong backlash of its backward and hypocritical position with regard to its Black citizens; and this is what ultimately moved a recalcitrant Congress into positive action, and ultimately the passage of sweeping civil rights legislation.

Once again, the issues of money, power and position in the world, took center stage. Once again, Black America responded to this fundamental (positive) shift on key "issues" effecting and impacting their lives, by shifting, en mass, to the Democratic Party. After all, the man sitting at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, credited with signing this sweeping civil rights legislation into federal law, was President Johnson. A Democrat. Again, it wasn’t a love fest that changed the face of politics for most African-Americans, but an issue.

I believe that "at issue," as is most always the case, is "an issue" of key concern to someone; be they black, white, brown or yellow.

Believe it or not I am not "Black for a living."

I am an American, I am in love with my people, and unreasonable challenges notwithstanding, I genuinely love being an African-American. But at the end of the day I am not Black for a living, and neither is any other reasonable person.

What I want is what most everyone else wants from this country; a genuine opportunity to live the American dream to the extent we are willing and able, and to experience the full spectrum of available opportunities, tied back to my abilities, hopes, dreams, aspirations and desires.

A hand up, and not a hand out.

This is not a Black dream, but everyone’s dream, be they black, white, brown or yellow. And, it should also be everyone’s reasonable expectation from the richest nation on the planet as well.

And so, today I have hope for America.

As we enter the 21st century, we see a bold and proud America, which is the lone super power in the world today — and the only nation in the world where every race of people is within its borders.

To find the two leading economic engine-states in the nation today, one must look to New York and California, with California checking in as the 5th or 6th largest economy in the world today, based on pure economic output. That means that the great state of California is a larger producer than Italy. California and New York – the two largest economic engines in America, and the two most diverse states in America. Accident or coincidence? I don’t think so.

I would make the case that America is the leading economy in the world today, and that California and New York are the two leading economic engine-states in America today, not by accident, but by insight.

Some of us know and act upon what others, both here and abroad, for some reason don’t even want to acknowledge; that diversity is a strength. One of America’s greatest strengths.

Simply put – "you cannot do business with people you don’t respect, reflect, or understand" And "unless you want a larger and larger share, of a smaller and smaller marketplace, we all need to better understand how to do business with folks who are Black, brown and different." It’s enlightened self-interest, and "doing well by doing good" at its very best.

When I have the opportunity, as I do now, I advise CEOs of growing, leading edge banks, savings institutions, financial service companies and major corporations, "don’t put Blacks, Latinos, women, and others on your boards, and in key positions within senior management, because it looks good, …do it because it IS GOOD." Good for business, and good for your bottom-line too.

>And for the skeptics, here are a few helpful statistics. The largest condiment seller in the nation, for generation after generation, as you well know has been ketchup. It’s now Salsa – go figure! I tell my Black brothers and sisters all the time…. "you better learn how to put some salsa on that bar-b-que."

And African-Americans are an economic force to be reckoned with as well. According to a recent university report, African-Americans represent a $600 billion plus per year annual consumer spending force, or the 9th largest spending force in the free world.

We represent 25% of all movie ticket sales, yet we are only 11% of the U.S. population. THAT is why the ever so wise Earvin Magic Johnson partnered with Sony Corporation to build a movie theater in South Central Los Angeles. Investing in that movie theater, which is now a chain, wasn’t charity – it was simply good business. It was "doing well by doing good." Enlightened self-interest. A way forward, and a viable vision for the future.That theater, in South Central Los Angeles, is now one of the top 10th best performing theaters in the entire Sony chain.

My message for you here today, is a message of vision, for the Bible says "where there is no vision, the people perish…"

The communities you have been told about for years, and advised to effectively write off, are the last bastions of lost capitalism here in America, and untapped markets – for you and your institutions.

These are not Black communities, or brown communities, but under-served communities, and Operation HOPE has proven through its work that these communities, and the people who live within them, make for a much better partner than protestor.

The people who live in this community are not dumb or stupid, no more than anyone in this room here today. They are uninformed or misinformed, at worst. They want to get ahead, but "it’s what they don’t know that they don’t know that’s killing them" and "in a blind town a one eyed man is king" someone once said.

In short, our experience tells us if most folks knew better, they would do better.

No rational person wants to be consciously ignorant or stupid.

And so, once again, we come back to the issue of education as the ultimate poverty eradication tool.

Starting with a mere $61,000 operating budget a decade ago, founded immediately following the worst urban civil unrest in U.S. history, with one employee and a vision to change the world and to eradicate poverty as we know it. And more than a decade later Operation HOPE is still here.

Today Operation HOPE has a $5 million annual operating budget ($8 million in 2005), more than 40 full-time employees (100 today), offices in Southern California, Northern California, Chicago (thank you Oprah), New York, Washington, D.C. and Virginia (17 markets today), 120 bank partners (250 today)with combined assets of $2.6 trillion dollars between them (now well over $3 trillion), more than $120 million in lending commitments and $90 million in funded loans, we have served more than 500,000 individuals since our founding 10-years ago, and in partnership with countless institutions in this room today, we have embarked upon our most ambitious mandate yet – teaching every youth in America economic literacy by the time they leave 8th grade!

Banking on Our Future, our economic literacy program which has the only national urban delivery platform in the nation, has already taught more than 104,000 youth (145,000 today), in more than 350 schools, with more than 1,100 trained volunteer banker-teachers (2,500 volunteer HOPE Corps members today), the basics of a checking account, a savings account, and the importance of credit and investment in their young lives…. …And we have only just begun! Banking on Our Future is the official national partner with the FDIC and their Money Smart program, in educating the entire family in economic literacy.

Banking on Our Future has also entered into national economic literacy partnerships with America’s Community Bankers and the American Bankers Association Education Foundation.

Thinking global and acting local, Banking on Our Future has also entered into local partnerships with the William Jefferson Clinton Foundation in Harlem, to educate every child in Harlem in economic literacy within 5 years, with the Department of Banks and Financial Institutions in Washington, and the New York Bankers Association in New York City, amongst others.

At Operation HOPE we believe in a hand up, and not a hand out. We believe in the James Brown version of affirmative action – "open the door, and I’ll get it myself."

At Operation HOPE we believe in the three-legged stool of government, community and the private sector working as collaborative partners. At Operation HOPE we believe in the power of conversion. We believe in converting check-cashing customers into banking customers. And that is why we partnered with Union Bank of California to acquire an interest in Nix Check Cashing, the largest and best run check cashing operation in South Central Los Angeles, with 47 locations and more than 600,000 customers. If you can’t beat’em, buy’em – and our conversion rate of new customers is approximately 40%. More than 10% of all new checking accounts for Union Bank of California in 2002 came through the conversion of check cashing customers into banking customers. Building on the success of this partnership, we have now moved the HOPE Alliance into a one-stop location in the Watts/Willowbrook area of Los Angeles, in order to focus the power of conversion.

We believe in converting renters into homeowners. More than 3,000 structures damaged in the civil unrest of April 29th, 1992, and not one was a home. Because you do not burn that which is your own. Enlightened self-interest. 35% of the residents of South Central Los Angeles owned their own home in 1992, while 65% rented for the same cost as a mortgage statement. Now, why would 65% rent – for the same cost as a mortgage payment? It must be a combination of a lack of education, low self-esteem, and access to capital and credit. But here is the miraculous part – 35% of the residents of South Central owned a home in 1992, and the voter turn out rate in 1992 was 38%. That told us that the same dynamics apply in the inner city as in the suburbs. Enlightened self-interest. Ownership made the difference.

That you weren’t really concerned with tax policy, unless you had a job. That you weren’t really concerned with the bond issue for infrastructure investment, unless you owned a home or business.

That at the end of the day, one was not nearly as concerned with black, brown or white, as they were with green!

According to the non-profit Greenlining Institute, we made more loans in South Central, East Los Angeles and Watts, California, for individuals making under $35,000 annually in 2000 and 2001, than the top 8 banks in combined. …And IN EIGHT YEARS NOT ONE HOME LOAN HAS EVER GONE BAD.

We believe in converting small business dreamers into small business owners. Again, partnering with many institutions in the audience today, we created approximately 100 new minority small business enterprises. After all, more than 70% of all new job creation comes from small business, and women owned businesses employ more people than the Fortune 500 combined!

We believe in converting unbanked communities into communities of choice. And that is why we decided to partner with Hawthorne Savings Bank, Wells Fargo, Union Bank of California and Washington Mutual, to build HOPE Centers in the inner city.

And so, in 1996 and 1998 we build an Operation HOPE Banking Center and Inner City Cyber Cafe in South Central, Watts and the Southeast city of Maywood, California. Six short years later we have 16,000 customers a month, $130 million in total lending commitments, and in 2002, as reported on the front page of the Los Angeles Times Business Section, as well
as the front page of the American Banker, we became the first non-profit in U.S. history to build a bank branch – and SELL IT TO A BANK!

Hawthorne Savings Bank and California National Bank saw real emerging market opportunities, and decided to make a long-term commitment to these communities, building full-serve bank branches where we started fledgling HOPE Centers, …and we will be standing right there with them.

We believe in converting minimum wage workers into living wage workers with modern economy job skills. And so, we partnered with UCLA Extension, which made each of our inner city cyber cafe locations official UCLA Extension satellite facilities – and now we provide 16 college credits, a UCLA Extension certificate in Basic Information Technology, and even a job to those who are the most ambitious, to individuals with no more than a GED degree out of high school. A little more than 18 months since the start of this program, we have 800 committed students, and we have a waiting list that lack only partial tuition sponsorship, but not ambition.

And so, my request of you today is a "call to action." Together, we CAN make a difference. Together we can help to change the world.

Onward, with HOPE

2 Comments

  1. what does “tanzy” mean? as in Tanzy Chair

    Reply
  2. Hi, After seaching through the web looking for student loan foregiveness programs, I saw your web site and I am really thankful to have someone like you to help those who are in need. I am a head start teacher and have been for the past 28 years and have acquired a student loan debt 0f $60,000. There are nno programs out there for a hard-working head start teacher like myself and who only makes about 35,000 a year here in California. I am constanly praying that head start programs will become apart of the student loan cancellation programs like the department of education. Thanks for all the hard work that you do and may God continually bless you and those who are there to lend a hand.

    Reply

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