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Where Do We Go From Here?

opening door

The current social climate in the United States is all too familiar for many like myself.

This moment reminds me of the Los Angeles riots in 1992, which spurred the creation of my nonprofit, Operation HOPE — and our work around financial dignity and inclusion. Today our communities are seemingly more divided than ever before, and for many it feels like there is no end in sight.

Here’s the simple truth of the matter: We’ve reached a tipping point, and it’s imperative that we come together and renegotiate our social contract and reexamine its terms and conditions.

We have an opportunity for a fresh start. But will we take it?

Better days ahead

We can and will overcome this if we realign ourselves with the values that intentionally offer opportunity to everyone at every level regardless of the color of their skin or socioeconomic background.

I often say that rainbows only follow storms, and 2020 brought with it the perfect conditions for the perfect storm. With the physical and economic fallout from coronavirus and the highly visible killings of Black Americans on the news, stress of every kind — emotional, spiritual, physical and mental — has been at an all-time high.

Yet, I choose to believe that better days are ahead for us if we all lean in together to wrap our arms around the problem and put our hands on the solution.

It begs the question: Where do we go from here?

John Hope Bryant, left, UPS Chairman David Abney, center, former U.N. Ambassador and Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, right. Photo courtesy Operation HOPE.

From civil rights to silver rights

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. asked this very question and addressed it at length in his final book, by the same name, before his assassination in 1968. He offered two choices to his readers, and the same options remain today. Which will we choose: chaos or community?

We have a choice whether to allow things to spiral out of control by continuing to talk at each other instead of to each other. Or we can come together as a community and lean into the solution from every possible angle.

At Operation HOPE, we seek to bridge the divide between civil rights and "silver rights" with the mission of making free enterprise and capitalism work for everyone and ending poverty for millions of low- and moderate-income families across the nation.

To do so, we establish partnerships with corporations, agencies and other entities to lay the groundwork for new financial opportunities. Then we install Operation HOPE financial well-being coaches in bank branches, government offices, grocery stores and other community locations to provide assistance, including credit and money management, homeownership preparedness and small business development programs, all offered at no cost to the client.

Only when we start to address such systematic inequality can we begin to make progress and heal what’s broken.

“We’ve reached a tipping point, and it’s imperative that we come together and renegotiate our social contract and reexamine its terms and conditions.”

Enacting real change

We must come together as a family, across racial, socioeconomic and political lines — and prioritize each other and make a choice to move ahead together with intrinsic change from the inside out as our collective focus and charge.

The solution requires action from our government to dismantle policies that create social and economic inequity, but the private sector has a responsibility to shepherd that change as well.

As a collective, businesses and their leaders have real power to provoke real change. UPS has already leveraged its power to create lasting change by demonstrating a commitment to financial dignity and empowerment for all of its employees through a partnership with Operation HOPE — HOPE Inside the Workplace at UPS.

UPS’s support of Operation HOPE’s mission of economic literacy and empowerment extends beyond its workforce. Since 2001, The UPS Foundation has provided more than $2 million in support for our programs, helping uplift individuals and communities. Leadership of this sort, leading with head, hand and heart, is both life changing and life giving.

It should not require societal upheaval or a life-threatening pandemic for meaningful change to come. Rather, the catalyst must be an intrinsic, philosophical conviction that doing for others is a high moral imperative.

“We must make a choice to move ahead together with intrinsic change from the inside out as our collective focus and charge.”

Building community

As we continue to adapt to changes in our lifestyles and business models due to the coronavirus pandemic, we must collectively resolve to change and actively work to build community.

Operation HOPE has been at the center of developing and building communities across the U.S. for nearly 30 years by empowering people to take charge of their financial futures. We are actively in the business of restoring hope and dignity in individuals and placing the power in their hands to not only change their own lives but the lives of their families and communities.

These aren’t radical notions nor a pipe dream — this is nearly three decades of enabling the American Dream for millions of people by being our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper.

But we haven’t been able to do it alone. The goodwill and financial backing of corporate partners who see value in making a difference in the lives of others — not in word alone but in action — enable our work.

As we move ahead as a community, we must all resolve to lean in and do our parts — whether on a collective level or individually. We must all spread radical love and appreciation for one another. Then, and only then, can we achieve the society that has eluded us for far too long.

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