It is said that every cloud has its silver lining; a hopeful or comforting prospect in the midst of difficulty. In America today, millions of Americans experience that difficulty in the form of poverty. With little or no resources available to them, those living in underserved communities are forced to amass heavy debt in order to keep up with today’s high cost of living. More importantly, as individuals, families and communities, this trend has serious implications on the future of our children’s mental, physical, and financial health. Enter Operation Hope, whose vision, mission, and purpose is to eradicate poverty as we know it here in America. This is to be achieved by utilizing education as the ultimate poverty eradication tool by providing the necessary tools to promote and foster economic empowerment in our low-wealth communities.
On the morning of April 12, 2005, at Jean Child’s Middle School in Atlanta, Georgia, I had the blessing to witness a movement whose intention is to one day help the sun shine on our communities through the eradication of poverty. I am proud to say that I am now part of the Silver Rights Movement spearheaded by Operation Hope which has launched a national campaign to provide minorities with the financial tools to end the generational cycle of poverty. On this day, in front of millions of television viewers, Operation Hope and Atlanta Public Schools announced a citywide commitment to educate every middle and high school student prior to their 12th grade graduation in financial literacy. As I sat there listening and watching the children eagerly participate during their Banking On Our Future teaching session hosted and presented by John Bryant and Andrew Young, I could not help but think reflect on the lack of financial literacy that was never provided by my schools. This understanding of financial literacy was augmented by John Bryant’s recounting of his own personal story as he grew and developed his own economic and social opportunities and eventual ascent into working with the public and private sectors to bring about a sense of empowerment, responsibility, and above all, a message of hope.
As the energy grew in that room, the children were definitely being encouraged and motivated to take control of their financial lives by learning about checking, savings, credit, and various forms of investing. Additionally, the children were being exposed to the various political and banking institutions that play such an integral role in their lives. This made a tremendous impact on me since prior to the day’s event, I had read a report commissioned Operation Hope about the state of financial literacy of young African-American adults in America.
The statistics were indeed depressing and alarming. The report concluded that across the economic board, African-Americans have lower levels of financial literacy among all income groups and as a result, place more emphasis on spending rather than on saving. The problem lies in the fact that there is no real sense of ownership. Furthermore, part of this crisis may be attributed to the lack of financial education in money management that the population faces in contrast to their White counterparts who clearly have more ownership, independence, and access to wealth.
As the day’s event came to a close, the Silver Rights Movement relocated to Georgia State University, where members from the academic, political, business, and civil rights spectrum came together to discuss the importance of the Silver Rights Movement and the need for financial literacy throughout the country. This was a very important venue where students and citizens alike engaged in the hope of bringing a spirit of revitalization to our underprivileged cities. It is clear and evident that the plight of the poor, constantly reminded about the outsourcing of jobs and slow economic “growth”, has been an important and difficult issue to tackle since the advent of globalization. In the 21st century, let us never waiver in our civic duty and responsibility to help those who find it difficult to obtain the resources to assist them in becoming self-sufficient. I firmly believe that Operation Hope and her affiliates will continue to bring about economic and social justice in its march to end poverty because of its advocacy and outreach to countless men, women, and children.