Preaching a message of financial education and financial freedom, John Hope Bryant is galvanizing America’s top business leaders in the battle for “silver rights,” a term he coined to describe the economic empowerment of minority and low-income communities.
“I don’t know about you, but I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired,” Bryant said earlier this month during the Hope Global Forums, an annual meeting for his nonprofit Operation Hope. “Our goal is that by the time your kids grow up, financial literacy is in school — kindergarten through college — as a requirement so that everyone learns the language of money.”
To that end, Operation Hope in 2021 launched Financial Literacy for All, a joint initiative with businesses such as Walmart, Bank of America, Disney and many others.
Walmart president and CEO Doug McMillon, co-chair of Financial Literacy for All and other initiative partners Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian, PayPal president and CEO Dan Schulman, billionaire investor Tony Ressler and civil rights icon and former U.S. Ambassador Andrew Young were among the business leaders joining Bryant on stage at the Hope Global Forums in Atlanta to talk about silver rights and the power of financial literacy.
Financial literacy is ‘a foundational issue’
“We want all of our associates to understand how to manage their money,” McMillon said during an exclusive interview with CNBC at the Hope Global Forums. “John Hope Bryant and I have come together to form Financial Literacy for All to take on financial education.
“We think it’s a foundational issue for families and for our country.”
On CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” ahead of the forums, Bryant described the event as “like the Davos for the working class, for the empowerment of the poor and the underserved.”
“We have the energy of making the economy work for all,” he said. “A lot of the attendees, the 4,000 delegates, are working-class folks with too much month at the end of their money.”
Operation Hope is focused on wealth inequality in the Black community and communities of color, and narrowing that gap. As of the second quarter of 2022, the average white family had $1.27 million in wealth; compared to $316,000 for the average Black family and $291,000 for the average Hispanic family, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
The nonprofit is also committed to creating 1 million new Black-owned businesses by 2030. Doing so is another avenue for economic empowerment and wealth creation.
Bryant said during the event that silver rights must be the next step in the civil rights and the global social justice movement which sparked after the killing of George Floyd.
“Social justice through an economic lens, you can do well and do good at the same time.”
‘In order to be something, we often need to see it first’
With a possible recession looming, it’s important to demystify money issues and encourage financial readiness, Troy Millings and financial advisor Rashad Bilal of the “Earn Your Leisure” podcast told forum attendees. The duo have more than 1 million followers on Instagram, many of them new investors in the Black and brown communities.
“In order to be something, we often need to see it first,” Millings said. “When people see us creating brokerage accounts and investing in entrepreneurship and creating businesses, they look at it like this is an opportunity and we can do it.
“The mission is to educate people, but also show them how to do it.”
They encouraged a long-term perspective on the value of financial knowledge.
“Look five years, 10 years, 20 years from now,” Bilal said. “That’s going to stop you from spending money frivolously, that’s going to make you have emergency funds, that’s going to force you to save money for your retirement and your children’s education.”
During a fireside chat with Bryant, Bishop T.D. Jakes, senior pastor at Dallas-based megachurch The Potter’s House , discussed the need for faith leaders to be prominent voices in both the civil rights and silver rights movement.
Jakes is a strong advocate for real estate investing, especially for younger Black Americans.
“Home ownership is my Bible,” Jakes told CNBC before the fireside chat. “You can accrue wealth in an appreciating asset.”
“The problem in our community is we are consuming depreciating assets,” he said. “The young people today are not interested in home ownership because they want mobility.
“We are not trying to fix you so you are immobilized, we are trying to fix you so you are empowered economically and aggregate wealth to pass to your children.”