NAACP Financial Freedom Center Celebrates One Year Anniversary
Posted on April 17, 2012 by Nicole E. Kenney, Economic Program Specialist
For the NAACP, April is a historic month. April 4, 1968, civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated while advocating against economic injustice, a fundamental tenet of his Poor People’s Campaign. The Campaign called on the federal government to provide a stronger safety net for the poor because Dr. King recognized economic justice as intractably linked to racial justice. He famously stated, “Depressed living standards for Negroes are not simply the consequences of neglect. Nor can they be explained by the myth of the Negro’s innate incapacities, or by the more sophisticated rationalization of his acquired infirmities. They are a structural part of the economic system in the United States.” Continuing this call for economic justice, the NAACP re-affirmed economic issues as central to advancing equality and on April 4, 2011, the NAACP opened the Financial Freedom Center (FFC), the headquarters for the NAACP Economic Department. The FFC was birthed out of an agreement between Wells Fargo and the NAACP to work constructively to improve fair credit access, sustainable homeownership and to provide financial education resources to communities of color and other historically disadvantaged communities.
The NAACP Economic Department’s work is informed by its three advocacy pillars 1). Empowering local communities with the necessary education, resources and partnerships to develop sustainable economic models that advance diversity and equity; 2.) Ensuring that government and industry are knowledgeable, and committed to bridging racial inequality particularly as it relates to employment, wealth, lending practices, and business ownership; and 3.) Growing a movement of concerned citizens and organizations who work together to produce an inclusive and strong middle class for the 21st century economy.
Over the past year, the NAACP Economic Department staff has grown to include nine full time staff members, several interns and four program areas 1) Economic Education; 2) Fair Lending; 3) Diversity and Inclusion and 4) Community and Economic Development. The NAACP’s Economic Department has successfully trained 21 NAACP units nationwide to provide yearlong financial education workshops in their communities. The Department will be inaugurating a new group of units (including youth and college chapters) this Spring. The NAACP Economic Department participates in the NAACP national, regional and state conferences presenting on issues such as racial economic inequality and financial education, as well as facilitating brainstorming sessions around economic issues to mobilize communities into action. The Department has participated in external conferences including the Bennett College Invisible Woman Conference, the Color of Wealth Policy Summit and the White House Youth Jobs + Summit. The NAACP Economic Department has also helped organize events like the We Are One Conference and the Gulf Financial Counseling Fairs. Most recently, the Department launched the Financial Advocacy and Community Tour (F.A.C.T.) at regional conferences throughout the country. F.A.C.T. provided local residents with access to hands-on expertise through financial planners, HUD certified counselors, representatives from financial institutions and non-profit economic advocacy organizations. F.A.C.T. is a continuation of our work to help families and individuals know the facts about racial economic inequality, today’s structural economic challenges, repairing credit, increasing and maintaining homeownership and building wealth.
Also, the NAACP Economic Department has strengthened and enhanced its communications tools. The Department’s official website, (www.Naacp.org/Econ) is live and highlights our work as well as provides economic resources including reports, PowerPoint presentations, recommended economic websites and much more. We are on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. Also, we release our economic update, “The Angle”, the 15th of every month and regularly contribute to the Crisis, NAACP’s quarterly publication.
For assistance in executing our mission and extending our reach, the Department has developed working relationship with many different national organizations/institutions including: Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Capital Area Asset Builders, Center for Responsible Lending, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Department of Labor, Financial Planning Association, Federal Trade Commission, Foundation for Financial Planning, National Community Reinvestment Coalition, Neighborworks America, National Foundation for Credit Counseling, and Operation Hope. We look forward to expanding this list over the next year.
The Department is also excited to announce its newest project with NAACP Connect called “Wealth Matters”. “Wealth Matters” will consist of a series of blogs and webinars for young adults about racial economic inequality, economic education and wealth building. As we celebrate Dr. King’s legacy, the one year anniversary of the Financial Freedom Center and the month of April as Financial Literacy Month, we are not only reminded about the ongoing struggle for economic justice ; but also the need to pass the torch to younger generations to keep the movement alive. It is our hope that this blog series will do precisely that by educating our younger activists about the importance of investing and saving for their future; educating them about structural and institutional forms of economic injustices and motivating them to continue Dr. King’s fight to create a world that is economically fair and equal for all.