Ground broken in Atlanta for Ebenezer Baptist Church financial literacy and economic center
In the segregated South, the Rev. Martin Luther King Sr. knew that the path to equality in America was through economic empowerment, and as pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, he encouraged his congregation to have savings accounts and own homes.
His son, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., was also focused on the wealth gap as a barrier to full access to the American Dream. At the end of his life, the younger King was committed to ending poverty and opening opportunities for all citizens.
On Wednesday, two of King's children helped break ground on a center for financial literacy and economic empowerment at Ebenezer, where the elder minister and his son co-pastored from 1960 until King was assassinated in 1968. The Martin Luther King Sr. Resource Facility will be the flagship for Operation HOPE, a Los Angeles-based non-profit organization that educates underserved and low-income Americans about personal financial responsibility.
Operation HOPE founder John Hope Bryant said the center, to be one of 11 nationwide, will also be an extension of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream of economic equality.
"Today, financial literacy is a civil rights issue," Bryant told a crowd gathered at a ceremony for the $5 million, 30,000-square foot facility scheduled to open early next year. "If you don't understand financial literacy, you're an economic slave."
The center will offer hands-on financial case management, wealth building through homeownership and small business ownership and mainstream banking services. The Rev. Raphael G. Warnock, senior pastor of Ebenezer, said that locating the center at the historic church is appropriate, given its mission of social justice.
"We believe that access to capital … is a critical component in the next phase of the freedom movement," Warnock said. "A community cannot rebuild its walls without access. We need this kind of hope. Today is one day, but it's part of a mighty movement."