A few years ago I would have thought someone silly to suggest that Operation HOPE -- a vision I made real some 20 years ago in the backdrop of the worst civil unrest in American history, the Rodney King Riots of Los Angeles -- would be building a HOPE Financial Dignity Center on the sacred ground of the King Center, in partnership with Dr. King and Daddy King's church. But this is precisely what is happening and well under way right now in Atlanta, Georgia, on the broader King Center grounds and next to America's freedom church, Ebenezer Baptist Church.
In honor of Martin Luther King, Sr., more commonly known as Daddy King to those who knew and loved him, HOPE was honored to be selected amongst all nonprofit organizations in the nation to stand up a first ever partnership with a house of faith; a HOPE Financial Dignity Empowerment Center at Ebenezer, serving the people of Ebenezer, the surrounding community, and even the rural parts of Georgia (which is comprised of mostly a poor and working class white population). Our mission today, and moving forward at this historic site, is nothing short of transformational change. We see...
A return of Auburn Avenue near the King Center as the Black Wall Street.
A continuing of the work of Dr. King and our HOPE Global Spokesman Ambassador Andrew Young around the Poor People's Campaign.
An amplification of the dual ministry of Daddy King during his time as co-pastor of Ebenezer Church with his son Martin Luther King, Sr.; that of spiritual salvation on the one hand, and capitalism through a moral lens on the other. Encouraging members and citizens to recognize the Glory of God, while at the same time registering to vote, receiving as much education as they could secure for themselves, becoming home owners and small business owners too. Finding ways to live their lives where they "did well and did good too."
The HOPE Center, Ebenezer will focus on creating a 700 Credit Score Community over a 5-year period of time; moving a four square block area surrounding Ebenezer from a 500 or 550 credit score community to more like a 650 or God willing, a 700 credit score community. Doing this, we believe, changes everything. Liquor stores in time become convenient stores, and check cashiers and payday lenders and title lenders become credit unions and banks. A poor neighborhood in time begins to look like an emerging market.
HOPE Center, Ebenezer will ultimately have satellite operations reaching deep into Alabama and Mississippi and other bordering states, and the work we do there, in active partnership with Ebenezer, the Casey Family Foundation the FINANCIAL SERVICES ROUNDTABLE and it's funding members, including Suntrust Bank, State Farm Insurance, LPL Financial, Wells Fargo, MasterCard, along with the likes of the Coca-Cola Company, the United Way of Greater Atlanta and the U.S. EDA, will serve as a national model and a global symbol of "capitalism through a moral lens." Or free enterprise and capitalism that actually works for the poor and least of these God's children, to quote my hero Ambassador Andrew Young. If we really do our jobs well, we can become a positive and affirming answer to the Occupy Movement too.
This is more than a building being built next to the historic Ebenezer Church, now pastored by the visionary Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock, the fifth pastor of historic Ebenezer in its 125 year history. That said, it starts with this building next to historic Ebenezer. A vision well on its way to becoming real for a new generation. A generation who respects and honors civil rights, but who now want a generation of silver rights too.
Onward and with HOPE,
John Hope Bryant is an entrepreneur, thought leader, founder, chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE and Bryant Group Companies, Inc. Magazine/CEO READ bestselling business author of LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass), the sole African-American bestselling business author in America, and a Member of the U.S. President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability for President Barack Obama.