Under the leadership of Lance Triggs, our executive vice president and chief of the HOPE Financial Literacy Empowerment Center Network, I was thrilled to join my friend Steve Bartlett (who recently received our Chairman's HOPE Award for his efforts to rally founding support for the HOPE Center at Ebenezer) and the newly minted HOPE Center at Ebenezer Advisory Board for its founding organizing meeting in Atlanta, Georgia. Represented on the HOPE Center at Ebenezer Advisory Board include founding investment partners SunTrust Bank, State Farm Insurance, LPL Financial, Wells Fargo, and MasterCard. Other investors in the HOPE Center at Ebenezer include the U.S. Economic Development Administration and the Coca-Cola Company.
What follows is my vision for the HOPE Financial Literacy Empowerment Center at Ebenezer (at The King Center Complex).
In 1994, two years after the founding of Operation HOPE (HOPE) immediately following the 1992 Rodney King riots, HOPE created and launch the first HOPE Center, then called the HOPE Banking Center. Today there are 9 HOPE Centers, now called HOPE Financial Literacy Empowerment Centers, operating nationwide, along with one Virtual HOPE Center (a call center). The HOPE Center at Ebenezer is the 10th HOPE Center.
The HOPE Center at Ebenezer, an embodiment of the 5-year national Framework Agreement signed between HOPE and the FINANCIAL SERVICES ROUNDTABLE (FSR), is presently supported by FSR inspired commitments from SunTrust, State Farm Insurance, LPL Financial, Wells Fargo and MasterCard, as well as other significant commitments from the Coca-Cola Company and the U.S. Economic Development Administration. A total of $4.6 million has presently been committed to the HOPE Center at Ebenezer initiative, with a goal of $10 million over 5-years.
Rainbows After Storms: Capitalism for the People
In the midst of a global economic crisis and its response, there is a very real risk that the public will begin to pull back from the concepts of “business as good,” and the sense that free enterprise and capitalism are good and health things in and for their life, and society overall. Some already feel, particularly those in the struggling class, the working class and lower middle-class strata, that capitalism and free enterprise is a system somehow “rigged against them.” This is not good for society, or for anyone for that matter.
The one thing that has the potential of bridging the gap between those who have and those who believe they “have not,” is financial literacy empowerment, or what we at HOPE call “the language of money” or “capitalism for the people.” Rainbows, after storms.
From the perspective of Operation HOPE, the Four Points of financial literacy empowerment, or “capitalism for the people,” are:
- Financial Education
- Financial Literacy
- Financial Capability
- Financial Empowerment
HOPE and its partners seek to utilize this new and innovative HOPE Center at Ebenezer initiative as a living, breathing, operating example of the next generation of financial literacy in America, which we believe to be financial literacy empowerment. HOPE believes that financial literacy is the new civil rights issue for this generation, and the first silver rights empowerment tool for all.
This initiative ties the education about money, and how the system works, with practical life choices, and individual and community aspirations for life itself.
From Civil Rights to Silver Rights Empowerment
What society knows about the Dr. King legacy is mostly limited to the traditional story of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his historic “I Have A Dream” speech on the Mall in Washington, D.C. What most people do not know is that without Martin Luther King, Sr., or “Daddy King” as he was better known, there would never have been a Dr. King.
Daddy King was a pastor (co-pastoring Ebenezer Baptist Church with his son Dr. King throughout the whole of the civil rights movement), a businessman (in other words, a responsible capitalist), and an educator. Daddy King promoted civil rights and social justice, but also education, and homeownership and business as “pathways to freedom.” It was Daddy King that many times bailed young Dr. King out of jail, and it was Daddy King that paid the taxes on the Nobel Peace Prize money that Dr. King subsequently donated to 10 non-profit civil rights organizations. But Daddy King was also a ”banker.” Daddy King served on the board of a bank for nearly 40 years; Citizens Trust Bank of Atlanta, Georgia.
Through the visionary lens of "Daddy King," Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr., HOPE seeks to reshape, re-imagine, re-frame and essentially re-tell the story of responsible capitalism and free enterprise for all, in 21st century America and around the world. This is an invaluable framework, post global economic crisis.
The Vision for the HOPE Center at Ebenezer
The anchor for the new (under construction) Martin Luther King, Sr. Community Resource Center, located next to the famed Ebenezer Baptist Church, the HOPE Center at Ebenezer represents one of few outside nonprofit organizations ever invited to operate within the greater King Center complex in more than 30 years.
The HOPE Center at Ebenezer, the new national flagship HOPE Center location and "the new moral center" for Operation HOPE, will serve as a local empowerment center, a national model, and because of its association with the King legacy, a global symbol for good post global economic crisis.
With the help of partners such as SunTrust, State Farm Insurance, LPL Financial, Wells Fargo and MasterCard, the HOPE Center at Ebenezer will feature a series of on-the-ground operational pilots of financial literacy-centric financial products, tools and services, both relative to the under-served, as the middle class.
Proven in this (localized pilot) environment, and under the care and lead from HOPE, there is potential for resulting “best practices” to be scaled up and potentially adopted by other FSR members, and possibly the financial services industry overall.
The HOPE Center at Ebenezer is one of the most important initiatives for Operation HOPE overall, in 2011 and beyond.
John Hope Bryant is founder, chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE, bestselling author of LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass), and a member of the U.S. President's Advisory Council on Financial Capability for President Barack Obama