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We all have our inspirations and they come in all forms. With the passing of Dr. Dorothy I. Height, the woman President Obama called the godmother of the Civil Rights Movement, and a friend to HOPE, we’ve lost one of our greatest “sheros.”


HOPE first developed a relationship with her, when she told Operation HOPE Founder, Chairman and CEO, John Hope Bryant, with a look that could comfort you and put a little fear in your heart at the same time, “John, you know what I like about you is that you’re not only a visionary, you’re a dreamer with a shovel, in your hands.”


To give a little perspective, some thirty some odd years before she’d helped to build a neighborhood of homes for underprivileged families in the Forrest Heights community of Gulfport, Mississippi. The venture was a success. Decades later, Hurricane Katrina struck destroying many communities, including Forrest Heights. That’s when she called HOPE.


She was determined to help the people she helped get homes, put their lives back together. Through her leadership HOPE responded, bringing in banks and industry to help rebuild the community.  The work ontinues there, but with Dr. Height's leadership we made a significant difference. 


In continuing and strengthening our alliance with Dr. Height and the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), Operation HOPE became a national partner around its economic empowerment agenda, focusing specifically on working with her on the beloved event she founded called "The Black Family Reunion on The National Mall in Washington, DC." The event was organized by Height in 1986 in response to the negative publicity regarding "the vanishing Black family.”  Height developed the idea for a positive, culturally-based event that would celebrate the strengths and traditional values of the African American family.   We were proud to stand with her and the NCNW at this historic event that has been taking place for 25 years now.


We paid tribute to Dr. Height in life, naming the conference room at the Operation HOPE Financial Literacy Empowerment Center Anacostia-Washington, D.C. and also we honored her earlier this April, dedicating the Shovel Ceremony for the new HOPE Center to be housed at the Martin Luther King Sr. Resource Facility in Atlanta, GA to her.


When John Bryant interviewed Dr. Height for his book, LOVE LEADERSHIP: A New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World, her answers were simple and profound. She explained, “You don’t always need to be ‘in-charge’ to be a leader. You may be in a group of twenty people, and you know something needs to be done… you’re going to give leadership to the group by responding in some way that you help it to move. You can open the gate for others to come in.”


Dr. Height opened the gate for many. The musical stage play If This Hat Could Talk, was based on her memoirs Open Wide The Freedom Gates. She served as President and chair emeritus for NCNW until her passing. In 1993 the NAACP awarded her the prestigious Spingarn Award. She was a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004. As advisor to every president since FDR, the Civil Rights Movement moved forward because of her. She helped to integrated communities separated by distrust and endemic racism. She brought a woman’s voice to leadership where they previously were not welcomed. She will be missed by many and she will be deeply missed by HOPE.


I love you Dr. Height, always.  Your "dreamer, with a shovel in his hands." I will make you proud.


John Hope Bryant


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