M_e38531b4ab8102f0b79ce631d5c1100cRaised in Compton, California, and South Central Los Angeles, by two divorced yet almost perfect parents to me, and then homeless by age 18 (the direct result of bad business decisions based on my ego, not good business sense), by age 25 I was blessed by God to turn my life around, soon thereafter - after many, many fits and starts - ultimately growing a private banking business, from zero to $24 million, over 4 years time.

14 years ago I was seemingly a successful businessman in Los Angeles, but secretely in search of a larger and over riding purpose in my life. Making money, was simply not enough. And so, I decided that I wanted to not only "do well" for myself, but moreover to prove that it was possible, and indeed preferable, to “do well by doing good” too. On May 5th, 1992, immediately following the worse riot in U.S. history in Los Angeles, California, the Rodney King riots, I founded Operation HOPE as America’s first non-profit investment banking organization – with a mission statement of literally “banking on the poor.” Since that time, with a lot of help from my friends and a fine staff - from Rachael Doff, my long time chief of staff and confidant, to Lance Triggs, my long time leader of programs on the ground, in the community, to my sweetie, Mrs. Sheila Kennedy Bryant, always my chief cheerleader, encouragement and supporter, Operation HOPE has today developed into a premier, on-the-ground delivery mechanism of and for empowerment, and “silver rights” (a literal battering ram against poverty) operating in 25 U.S. cities and soon, in Africa too.

Choices that transform not only one’s physical condition in life, but a renewed and inspired recommitment of the individual to reclaim their hope, their spirit, and to live out their dreams.

The silver rights movement must illustrate clearly, much like the civil rights movement has done already, how literally our lives, and our futures in the 21st century - both haves and have nots alike - are all “bound up together.”

A movement that views “education as the ultimate poverty eradication tool (when you know better, you do better),” and that the ultimate goal was not the acquisition of “things,” but the spiritual, life sustaining acquisition of dignity and hope in one’s own life. And further, that this life altering reality could start now, right where you stand today, simply by each of us seeing ourselves and others differently, and then making different (and better) choices in and for our lives.

A belief that anyone can be anyone they decide to be….

That no one can hurt you, but you, and quoting my spiritual father, the Rev. Dr. Cecil “Chip” Murray, “it’s not what people call you, it’s what you answer too that’s important, and never, ever answer out of your name.” Or my retort, that “to argue with a fool proves there are two.”

Finally, that in the end, in the words of my personal hero and mentor Andrew Young, effectively a co-founder of the modern day civil rights movement, “while capitalism and the free enterprise system accomplished what Communism could not, in that it created a middle class, capitalism and the free enterprise system has yet to prove that it can be relevant to the poor. That it can be made to work for the poor.” This is the ultimate calling of a relevant "silver rights" movement of and for the 21st century today. And this is my calling. To make this promise real in the lives of those considered "other" in this world. Promise, beneficial to us all -- waiting to be born.

Onward, with HOPE

But just as HOPE was developed in response to and based upon my own personal experience growing up in the inner cities of Los Angeles, in a single parent household (loving as it was), and in the end homeless too for six months in my life by age 18, I have in the last few years come to the conclusion that more was needed to truly empower and lift our brothers and sisters – of  all races and places - out of their sad state of poverty, than merely solid programs, tools, services, and access to other people’s capital. That we had to in effect, “access our own capital” too.

That being “rich in spirit” (dignity) was much more important than simply the “acquisition of things,” without purpose.

That inspiring someone to take back their life, and their community too, on all levels, was more important than simply motivating them to get a better job, or to move to a better neighborhood, because in the end "there is indeed a difference between making a living, and making a life." Just like there is “a difference between being broke and being poor; that being broke is a temporary, economic condition, while being poor is a disabling frame of mind, and a depressed condition of one’s spirit, and we each had to vow never, ever to be poor again.”

That giving others a hand up was more important than a hand out. That when you extend dignity to others, you gain a measure for yourself.

That teaching a man to fish, and giving him the very real sense that one day -- some day -- he could own that lake himself, …was powerfully more important than simply giving him a fish, for the day.

That any serious effort to “eradicate poverty as we know it, in our lifetime” had to include not only a leveling of the playing field by mainstream America here at home, as well as the power structures the world over, all increasingly seeing it in their own enlightened self-interest to do so, but the poor too, and the wealthless too, and the under-served too, both here and abroad, had to begin seeing themselves as the real tools for change in their lives.

I see the poor, actively reclaiming their collective and individual destiny, and in the end, making powerfully different choices about their own lives, and who (irrespective of who “should”) was going to ultimately be responsible for making things better for them.

That civil rights was about correcting the bad choices made legal by others in the past, while silver rights is today principally about creating new and powerful choices, for ourselves, by ourselves.

Choices that transform not only one’s physical condition in life, but a renewed and inspired recommitment of the individual to reclaim their hope, their spirit, and to live out their dreams.

The silver rights movement must illustrate clearly, much like the civil rights movement has done already, how literally our lives, and our futures in the 21st century - both haves and have nots alike - are all “bound up together.”

A movement that views “education as the ultimate poverty eradication tool (when you know better, you do better),” and that the ultimate goal was not the acquisition of “things,” but the spiritual, life sustaining acquisition of dignity and hope in one’s own life. And further, that this life altering reality could start now, right where you stand today, simply by each of us seeing ourselves and others differently, and then making different (and better) choices in and for our lives.

A belief that anyone can be anyone they decide to be….

That no one can hurt you, but you, and quoting my spiritual father, the Rev. Dr. Cecil “Chip” Murray, “it’s not what people call you, it’s what you answer too that’s important, and never, ever answer out of your name.” Or my retort, that “to argue with a fool proves there are two.”

Finally, that in the end, in the words of my personal hero and mentor Andrew Young, effectively a co-founder of the modern day civil rights movement, “while capitalism and the free enterprise system accomplished what Communism could not, in that it created a middle class, capitalism and the free enterprise system has yet to prove that it can be relevant to the poor. That it can be made to work for the poor.” This is the ultimate calling of a relevant "silver rights" movement of and for the 21st century today. And this is my calling. To make this promise real in the lives of those considered "other" in this world. Promise, beneficial to us all -- waiting to be born.

Onward, with HOPE

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