Thursday, March 29, 2012

America’s Future: “Show Me The Money”

By Stephanie and Eric Stradford

AMWS, March 29, 2012, Virtual -- Did the name of your personal banker change? What about the name of your bank? Who are the people managing that .02% interest rate on your FDIC Insured bank account? What should a community of believers expect from their partners in the Community Reinvestment Act? How do you partner with your bank?

The federal investigation into the death of Trayvon Martin, U.S. Citizen, is rallying diverse communities to higher expectations for “One Nation Under God.” Demonstrated interest by the Florida Council of Churches is compounding daily by believers across the United States and around the world. U.S. President Barack Obama’s call for “soul searching” presents an opportunity for ensuring “that everybody pulls together -- federal, state and local…”
Pulling everybody together requires a plan, a process and some people who care enough to PAY ATTENTION! Youth Achievers USA Institute, co-sponsor of the, a collaboration of church and state, seeks to add value to American children, without discrimination.

The initiative examines a perceived value, assessed in a moment, by gunman George Zimmerman. Most Americans agree that a young African American life holds no less value than any other human. What about the American institutions? Is an African American mind still a terrible thing to waste? Are federal investments in the economic security of historically disadvantaged Americans actually reaching the people in need?

Federal investigators will need to look beyond Justice at the state-of-the-art Sanford Police Station on 13th Street, and into the adjacent historically underserved business zone (HUBZONE) for an historic perspective on “exactly how this tragedy happened.” Everybody pulling together means taking a closer look at causes, effects, and some unlikely threats to economic security.

Partners in are being asked to call on their bank, asking on behalf of America’s future to, “Show me the money.” Some banks are being asked directly based on federal funding they received on behalf of disadvantaged Americans.

Fifth Third Bank received a U.S. Treasury award of $6,000 for its support of Louisville Community Development Bank. Fifth Third Bank is a state-chartered bank with $53 billion in assets.

Fifth Third New Markets Development Company LLC (“5/3 New Markets”) promised to use a $100 million U.S. Treasury allocation to “invest in housing projects, educational facilities, health care facilities, senior care facilities, and business financing for economic growth and job creation (e.g., grocery stores, hardware stores, department/clothing stores).” With its U.S. Treasury allocation, 5/3 New Markets promised to provide a number of flexible and concessionary financial products, including debt with interest rates between 350 and 45 basis points below market. 5/3 New Markets will also dedicate a significant portion of its NMTC investment profits to finance grants to non-profits, businesses and developers in low-income communities.

SunTrust Community Development Enterprises, LLC (Enterprises) promised to use a $45 million U.S. Treasury allocation to make loans and equity investments to for-profit businesses, community-based organizations, non-profits, CDFIs and real estate projects including retail, industrial, office space, historic renovation, mixed-use, for-sale housing and community facilities. These transactions will be structured with non-traditional rates, terms and conditions, providing funds to businesses that primarily serve low-income communities and may not have access to traditional sources of capital. These products were not offered by the controlling entity prior to the Treasury allocation. The entirety of Enterprises’ allocation award was promised to be deployed into areas of higher distress.

PNC promised (twice) to use $70 million of a U.S. Treasury allocation to “advance its strategic approach to community development, providing innovatively-structured loans and equity investments to finance real estate projects, operating businesses, social service agencies, charter schools, early childcare centers, community facilities, and other CDEs with similar missions resulting in catalytic and sustainable impacts in Low Income Communities (LICs).” PNC’s QLICI’s will be the critical piece of financing necessary to complete a financing package, with flexibility to allow each transaction to be tailored to meet the unique community and economic development challenges facing our LICs (Low Income Communities).

Regions Bank was selected to receive from the U.S. Treasury, a Bank Enterprise Award of $22,459 for providing affordable housing development loans and project investments in distressed communities in Louisiana and Alabama. Regions Bank is a state chartered bank with $1.28 billion in assets.

First Fidelity Bank, N.A. was selected to receive, from the U.S. Treasury, Bank Enterprise Award of $112,500 for its support of MetaFund Corporation. First Fidelity Bank , N.A. is a federally chartered bank with $1.13 billion in assets.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

America Under The Hoodie’s Hood

Regional Banks Sought to Invest in America’s Future

By Stephanie and Eric Stradford

AMWS, March 27, 2012, Atlanta -- Banks and credit unions in the Atlanta Federal Reserve Region are getting a closer look at some causes and effects behind the murder of Trayvon Martin. They are being asked to join forces on community reinvestment that adds value to historically disadvantaged Americans.

President Barack Obama has called on the nation to do some soul searching. “…And when I think about this boy, I think about my own kids. And I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this, and that everybody pulls together -- federal, state and local -- to figure out exactly how this tragedy happened.” Rapidly increasing support, sparked by a statement from the Florida Council of Churches, points to actions and attitudes that tend to undervalue some American children.

A “thorough investigation” of “every aspect” is likely to be a painful but necessary process. Such an investigation might have begun by arresting the alleged gunman. According to George Zimmerman, he shot Trayvon Martin in self-defense during his neighborhood watch duty. It might be looking into an alleged cover-up by the Sanford Police Department, uncharacteristic outrage from the faith community, the resulting “temporary resignation” of Police Chief Bill Lee, Jr., and the self-extraction of Seminole County State Attorney, Norman R. Wolfinger. But, a thorough investigation to include “soul searching” calls for increased interest by church as well as state.

George Zimmerman perceived Trayvon Martin to be a threat to his neighborhood, his physical or economic security. A transparent “thorough investigation” of “every aspect” means examining Zimmerman’s perception of the victim as a fully endowed citizen of the United States of America – a celebrant of all rights and responsibilities.

Is an African American youth endowed with the inalienable right to walk or run to the store for Skittles and iced tea? Does that right protect him and others like him if he is wearing a hood? Zimmerman’s perception of reality, whether it was isolated or inherent, offers some insight for scoping a “thorough investigation” of “every aspect.”

In 21st Century America, the reality of a “thorough investigation” of “every aspect” means assessing a value, funding budgets, and a putting enough money behind the rhetoric of American justice to get to the truth. The authority for such an investigation is vested in the president. However, the responsibility for “soul searching” is shared by every citizen of the United States. is a regional Capacity Building Initiative which seeks to add value to all American children, without discrimination. Healthy eating is as good a start as any in getting America on track. As civil rights advocates call for America to do something,, a collaboration of church and state, must assess its needs and means, to figure out exactly how this tragedy happened.” Banks and financial institutions are being asked to demonstrate support through their obligations under the Community Reinvestment Act.

Political candidates for national office are likewise being asked for an inclusive vision statement on America’s Future. The potential for America working together is likely to be measured by corporate, community and government investments to economically secure America’s future.

The Capacity Building Initiative expands technical assistance and training opportunities and significantly boosts the ability of trust-worthy Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) to deliver financial products and services to underserved communities.

Local Community Asset Mapping, conducted by Youth Achievers USA Institute, seeks financial, faith-based, corporate, government and community partners to identify needs and means for a sustained Economic Security Demonstration.

The White House is being asked to provide leadership for pulling everybody together -- federal, state and local -- to “figure out exactly how this tragedy happened.” No political campaign for national office can ignore an issue sitting so heavy on America’s heart. Healing America requires substantive engagement by All Americans. Efforts to occupy Wall Street, reduce the National Debt, run for president, or restore trust must address issues on Your Street, USA even if you live, learn, work or worship in “Across-the-Tracks, USA.”

The national investigation into Trayvon Martin’s murder should include “federal investments of interest” such as Amtrak in Sanford. Who is impacted when the train tracks divide a community? What about the abandoned and boarded-up Youth Build housing project divided by Amtrak’s tracks? How much did or will Americans invest in economic programs for youth in Sanford? What is the strategy for historically underutilized business zones (HUBZONEs) such as the one at the center of this national demonstration? How much of U.S. federal investment targeted for underserved Americans is sustaining Disney World in nearby Orlando? What about the new Amway Arena, home for the NBA’s Orlando Magic? What happens to the “hoodie” whose temporal economy can’t afford admission?

If Trayvon Martin’s life and others who look like them are to be valued as Americans, “One Nation Under God” will need to look beyond the call for soul searching and start PAYING ATTENTION to America under the hoodies’ hood.

Friday, March 23, 2012

What is the value of a young life?

Countering economic security threats on Our Street, USA
By Eric and Stephanie Stradford

Police presence, barricades, unused  reserved  parking, and private closed parking lots might have motivated more marching for thousands who peacefully pressed to Rally for Trayvon Martin.
Digital image courtesy The American Mentor Wire Service.

The Christian Recorder, March 23, 2012, Sanford, FL – In just a few days, a family will mark one month since the senseless shooting and death of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year old African American. In just a few days more, a billion Christians around the world will mark another historically senseless murder and outcome upon which they base their faith.

Local pastors, calling for calm behind a pattern of state-sanctioned actions, believe that Lenten Season can help more of Sanford’s 54,000 residents minister inevitable change for 1,342,946,000 believers worldwide. But, what's the story behind the story?

Depending on the news one chooses to believe, 5,000 to 25,000 people gathered for Reverend Al Sharpton’s “Enough is Enough” rally. Behind the headlines, a last minute change in venue, prompted by routine security intelligence, moved television lights, cameras and crews from the Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church to Sanford’s waterfront Fort Mellon Park.

Last night, change came to Sanford. “In the interest of the public safety,” Norman R. Wolfinger, state attorney for Seminole County, removed himself from the case. Wolfinger’s retreat was the second sign of change. Earlier, Police Chief Bill Lee Jr. tapped press assets to announce his “temporary resignation” as head of the Sanford police. Lee came into office less than a year ago on the heels of another scandal that forced out his predecessor. Having lost faith and trust with Americans here, there is probably little hope that he will ever serve Sanford again.

But, for believers, ALL THINGS are possible. Good News of a resurrected Savior inspires and compels believers to increase their interest in kingdom assets. The same Good News mapped assets for independence in Christ’s prophetic assessment, “for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

Historically, and in some cases statutorily, America has assessed the value of a young African American as less than that of a whole citizen. Some describe the all too routine profiling of African Americans and rules of engagement, such as Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, as a threat to national security.  "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon," said President Barack Obama.  "All of us have to do some soul searching."

Many in the crowd gathered here wore t-shirts bearing the phrase, “I Am Trayvon,” demonstrating solidarity with the cause. "I feel that we need an arrest," said Sybrina Fulton to supporters at the rally. Fulton is the mother of Trayvon Martin. "The temporary step-down of Bill Lee is nothing," Tracy Martin, Trayvon's father told the rally. "We want an arrest, we want a conviction, and we want a sentence for the murder of our son."

For the record, Trayvon Martin is one in a lineage of young African Americans profiled and sentenced to death before they could graduate from high school, vote, serve their country in the military, or go to college. For Trayvon’s family, the tremendous loss can only be felt by someone who has lost a loved-one to a violent crime. Unfortunately for them and their compassioned community, there has not been much time to grieve.

For Martin’s family, the nightmare began on February 26 when he reportedly walked to a nearby store for some Skittles and an ice tea. As of today, no one has been arrested for the crime. According to George Zimmerman, he shot Martin in self-defense during his neighborhood watch duty.

A capacity crowd gathered earlier this week at Allen Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church for a town hall style meeting. According to Reverend Valarie J. Houston, pastor, “several ministers have come together with civil rights leaders and community activists to plan a series of peaceful events advocating justice for Trayvon.”

Last night, Sharpton called for a “Rally for Justice.” Local, county and state law enforcement responded by deploying multiple helicopters in the air and troops on the ground. During the rally, demonstrators learned that Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee would "temporarily" step down as head of the department, which has been criticized for its handling of the fatal shooting.

"We did not come here for a temporary leave of absence," said Sharpton. "We came for permanent justice -- arrest Zimmerman now!" The national president of the NAACP, Benjamin Jealous, said, "The reality is that this chief had probable cause to lock up a man who shot a boy in cold blood and he failed to do his job." Martin Luther King III, while speaking at the rally, urged the crowd to pray for Sharpton and his family, in the loss of their mother, Ada Sharpton, who passed earlier in the day.

In his statement earlier in the day, Bill Lee told reporters, "I am aware that my role as a leader of this agency has become a distraction from the investigation. It is apparent that my involvement in this matter is overshadowing the process. Therefore, I have come to the decision that I must temporarily remove myself from the position." He added, "I do this in the hopes of restoring some semblance of calm to the city, which has been in turmoil for several weeks." Lee's decision came a day after the city commission voted 3-2 in favor of a nonbinding measure of no confidence.

Tonight, Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church, Sanford, will once again open its doors for a “One Hour Prayer Vigil.”

Reverend Dr. Jamal Bryant, pastor, Empowerment Temple A.M.E. Church, Baltimore, MD, with Stephen Green, a former resident of Florida and student at Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA are coordinating national leaders for a Monday, March 26 “March and Rally for Justice.” Bryant and Green are sons of Bishops in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. The march will begin at the First United Methodist Church and end at Sanford City Hall. The week will culminate with a “March Rally and Protest” coordinated by the NAACP on Saturday, March 31. Many other efforts are being planned, including a visit to Washington, DC on April 10—the day the grand jury is scheduled to meet.

In another case, according to the Justice Department this week, three white Mississippi men pleaded guilty to federal hate crimes in connection with the 2011 death of James Craig Anderson, an African-American man in Jackson, MS.

Deryl Dedmon, John Aaron Rice and Dylan Butler each admitted to conspiracy and violating the 2009 federal hate-crimes law in last June's killing of Anderson. The 19-year-old Dedmon pleaded guilty to state murder and hate-crime charges and was sentenced to life in prison. Rice, 19, and Butler, 20, made their initial appearances in federal court Thursday morning. They face sentences of up to life in prison and $250,000 in fines.

The men are among the first defendants to be prosecuted under the federal hate-crime statute that President Barack Obama signed in 2009 and the first to be prosecuted in a fatal attack. Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez commented, "The Department of Justice will vigorously pursue those who commit racially motivated assaults and will use every tool at our disposal to ensure that those who commit such acts are brought to justice."