Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s civil rights movement was not limited to "saving Black Americans," nor was it limited to halting Black oppression of the 20th century. The civil rights movement as seen through Dr. King's eyes, was about "redeeming the soul of America from the triple evils of war, racism and poverty." In other words, he saw the success of a nation wrapped up in the same cause that engulfed Black America.
Dr. King believed, and I believe rightly so, that America could never achieve her full potential until Black America and other minority groups, as well as other low-wealth communities and left-behind populations, had an equal shot at the American dream. In short, America needed every oar in the water, rowing the boat marked American future prosperity.
Dr. King substantially achieved his mission of and around civil rights, and history shows us that Dr. King was substantially correct on the Vietnam War. But the reality is that Dr. King never really achieved lift off with his poverty eradication agenda. Even his sole financial and economic empowerment legislative success, which came with the passage of the federal fair housing bill of 1968, under President Lyndon Johnson, came only after Dr. King's assassination in 1968.
The housing legislation passed on April 11th, 1968, was in effect a tribute to the man that had championed open housing marches in Chicago since 1966 -- the year I was born. Dr. King was killed in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4th, 1968, during his first march of the Poor People's Campaign, and the fair housing bill was signed into law on April 11th, 1968, or seven days after the assassination.
Continuing the Poverty Eradication Work of Dr. King, Introducing Project 5117
With the formal launch of Project 5117, HOPE seeks to pick up where Dr. King left off on the economic agenda.
Whereas the civil rights movement was a 12-year endeavor under Dr. King's leadership, focused on reversing 100-years of essentially, bad things (taking down "whites only" signs, for instance), Project 5117, co-chaired by civil rights icon Ambassador Andrew Young, Dr. Bernice A. King, CEO of The King Center and the daughter of Dr. King and myself, will be a seven-year campaign focused almost exclusively on teeing up and advancing the aspirational agenda of our low-wealth urban and rural communities, nationwide throughout America. Between now and year 2020, we plan to help with the healing of America, by helping to advance a practical prosperity agenda for all Americans. That means for us, an agenda:
Focused on restoring hope and a sense of personal self-confidence.
Focused on teeing up a generation of positive role models and practical business internships, and a return of the "apprenticeship generation."
Focused on pointing the way toward real and practical opportunity, viewed through the prism of individual, group, and community aspirations.
Project 5117 is our new Marshall Plan for our times (the Marshall Plan of 1945, was what America did following World War II to help rebuild Germany and Japan, two nation's that had attacked us, thereafter creating two of the largest economies in the world today, and two lifelong friends to and for America in the world). I will be saying much more about Project 5117 in the weeks, months and years to come (mostly through regular "report-outs" on the results we generate in real places, for real people, in and for real lives), but below is our Project 5117 framework outline, shared publicly by me for the first time here:
The mission of Project 5117 is to strengthen the economy by focusing on empowering those who earn less than $50,000 a year. It is a mission that is supported by a broad range of services, from homeownership counseling, to credit card debt management, a program that helps those with low credit scores raise their score to 700 and a comprehensive entrepreneurship-training course called HOPE Business in a Box.
Project 5117 stands for:
* 5 million youth empowered with a new level of financial literacy through unique financial dignity education programs, that have successfully been taught in 3,500 schools across the country. The program ensures basic consumer protection education for a generation, while making smart cool, so they stay in school.
* 1 million of these empowered youth will have an opportunity to become future entrepreneurs and local job creators through HOPE Business in a Box Academies, supported by a 100-year partnership with the Gallup Organization. This effort powerfully reconnects education with aspiration in the lives of our youth. By the year 2020 there will be 2,000 HOPE Business in a Box Academies across the United States, in both urban and rural communities. 2013 Pilot Results.
* 1,000 first-ever bottom-up empowerment centers, branch banks with HOPE Inside units spread through out America and 5,000 certified locations (non-banks) containing "HOPE Inside +" units. This plan is consistent with the long-term growth strategies of top regional and money-center banks, and appreciates the under-utilized, 100,000 unit branch banking network across America.
* 700 Credit Score Communities will be attained through the expansion of HOPE Inside and "HOPE Inside +" locations. These communities will have access to credit counseling, education on credit and money management, and debt management, offered in an individual or group setting.
With the launch of this next phase of Operation HOPE's work, which operates at the level of national scale, and measurable local impact -- community-by-community and across the country -- we are now injecting into society a pragmatic and tangible plan of action, which everyone can play a meaningful role in.
It is our way of answering some of the questions posed by Dr. King in the Poor People's Campaign, in both word and deed.
See more of Project 5117 itself, by joining Project 5117. At the new Project 5117 site, you can now make your own personal commitment to help change America, wherever you live and work.
Every Project 5117 commitment made by you will subsequently be featured as part of our larger CGI (Clinton Global Initiative) Commitment for financial inclusion empowerment in America, and recognized as such.
From civil rights justice, to silver rights empowerment for all.
Mr. Bryant's newest book, due out May, 2014, is entitled HOW THE POOR CAN SAVE CAPITALISM, and will be published by Berrett Koehler Publishing.
Follow John Hope Bryant on Twitter: www.twitter.com/johnhopebryant