Q: What led you to the credit union sector and to the founding of Hope Credit Union?
A: Throughout my life, I have met so many people who did not have the resources or the relationships to access the financial tools so many rely on to get ahead. From an early age, I saw the value of pooling resources to bridge these gaps to help one’s neighbor. This approach benefitted both my family and me. After moving to Mississippi to start the Enterprise Corporation of the Delta, the opportunity arose to start Hope Community Credit Union at Anderson Methodist Church in Jackson, Mississippi. The pastor was looking for an alternative to high cost payday lenders and check cashers not far from the church and he tapped me to be a part of the founding team.
Q: What is your leadership style? How do you lead an engaged team?
A: Hire good people who agree on the direction set forth by the mission and vision of the organization. Then support their ability to execute.
Q: Why is community service and philanthropy important to you and Hope Credit Union?
A: The Racial Wealth Gap is both unsustainable and morally reprehensible. White households with children own $100 in assets for every $1 in assets owned by Black households with children. Likewise, 41% of Black businesses have permanently closed due to the impact of COVID-19, compared to 17% of white-owned businesses. In a country that is becoming increasingly diverse, we have no choice but to engage in work to change the systems that created these conditions.
Q: How do you prioritize diversity and inclusion, both within your credit union and in terms of the community you serve?
A: We are a reflection of the communities we serve throughout the Deep South. Eight out of ten Hope Credit Union members are people of color and 60% are women.
Q: What has the coronavirus pandemic revealed to you about Hope Credit Union’s strengths and challenges?
A: Hope has been battle tested. Whether responding to Hurricane Katrina, or navigating the Great Recession, we’ve learned that our greatest moments have been in response to a crisis. The pandemic has been no different. In any given year, Hope closes 50 small business/commercial loans. Last year, we closed nearly 2,800 loans through the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program. The majority of the businesses served were owned by people of color — many of them sole proprietorships — that were turned away by traditional lenders.
Q: As we begin to recover from the pandemic, what is the biggest opportunity you see on the horizon that you’re excited to pursue?
A: More so than at any other time in my career, people are acknowledging that opportunity gaps and racial wealth gaps are unsustainable. Hope’s work is a critical building block in the solution to these systemic problems. We have new partnerships, new relationships, new sources of support and it is exciting to be in a position to significantly increase the services we provide to the people and communities of the Deep South.