John Hope Bryant, CEO of Operation Hope in recently launched Financial Literacy for All, a national initiative that supports embedding financial literacy into American culture. 

Through this initiative, Bryant has partnered with CEO’s of companies such as Walmart, Delta Air Lines, the NBA and NFL, Walgreen’s, Bank of America, and Disney to infuse this initiative in their business plans for the next 10 years to help people with financial literacy and generational wealth.

Operation Hope was founded in 1992. Its mission and focus are financial dignity and inclusion, equipping young people and adults with the financial tools and education to secure a better future—coaching them through their aspirations and life’s challenges, and facilitating their journey to financial independence. There are offices in 30 states.

“There is evidence that this is a critical need. Financial literacy is a civil rights issue of the 21st century that is as important as voting,” said Bryant. “We are currently in the largest economic depression since we’ve seen during the depression in the 1920s. People don’t know where to turn. I want to make this a new civil rights movement for this generation. I’m building upon civil rights with what I call silver rights.”

Bryant says it’s connected when Blacks and the poor don’t have resources and financial literacy, they are preyed upon. Black and brown people experience racial discrimination, especially when they go to a bank and apply for loans Bryant says. This new movement is going to help turn that around. He is asking companies to sign on each month to be a part of the movement. To date, he has partnered with 45 CEOs. According to Bryant, half of African Americans have a credit score below 620 and because of this Blacks are locked out of free enterprise. They can’t get a mortgage, car loan, or small business loan which leads to creating wealth.

“You can’t do anything without access to credit. The culture of a 700 score is different than the culture of a 600 score,” said Bryant. “With my new initiative, we are going into banks to coach up the community, putting financial coaches in branches in the poor community.”

The financial and coaching services are free according to Bryant. He wants homeownership for Blacks and to help stabilize Black communities, raising the economic energy in underserved communities. Bryant wants to help communities, mainly Black communities, with financial literacy, where people are investing in stocks and bonds, investing in self and education and is working with employers to talk about financial literacy.

“I want companies to infuse this in their employee package like healthcare that will help neighborhoods and communities at school, at work, and in the communities,” said Bryant.

Growing up in Compton, California, Bryant decided to make this his life’s work at a young age when a white banker/entrepreneur came and spoke to his class about money when Bryant was in the 4th grade. He also learned about financial wealth, the dos and the don’ts from home watching his parents handle money.

“My parents divorced over money when I was five years old,” said Bryant. “My dad confused making money with building wealth. My mother loved me and taught me about money. I started my first business at age 10 selling candy, putting a liquor store out of business. This blew up my self-esteem, personal confidence and my belief in what I could do.”

Bryant wants to help Blacks with homeownership, small business ownership, generational wealth, access to capital, access to opportunity, education, job creation, and entrepreneurship, as he says is free and broke is not freedom. It’s about financial literacy, family resiliency, self-esteem and confidence, and environmental change in the Black community according to Bryant.

“We don’t have a business plan for our race. We have got to reach our people. I’m building an economic infrastructure for Black America. We have to take charge of our lives,” said Bryant. “If I get 10% of Blacks to change their mindset, then it changes the culture. We need to make this the everyday conversation in our communities. Set yourself up for success. This initiative and my company are offering resources.

(John Hope Bryant, CEO of Operation Hope. Photo Credit: Operation Hope)