Self-Help exists to create and protect ownership and economic opportunity for all, especially people of color, women, rural residents and low-wealth families and communities—a mission that seems particularly relevant as we mark the 87th birthday of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Our founding in 1980 was greatly influenced by Dr. King and the unfinished business of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. In essence, the work of Self-Help is our sincere effort to fulfill the dream of Dr. King.
Toward the end of his remarkable life, Dr. King became increasingly more vocal in addressing economic injustice in America. Unfortunately, more than 50 years after the pivotal 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, our nation continues to grapple with many of the same concerns, including these:
- Homelessness and hunger. In North Carolina alone, more than 55,000 children are homeless, and more than one in four don’t get enough to eat.
- Mass incarceration. More than 2.2 million people now crowd America’s prisons; 60% of them are African-American or Hispanic.
- Wealth disparities. Before the housing crisis of 2008, the wealth and homeownership gap between whites and people of color was gradually getting smaller. But in recent years the share of black homeowners has dropped by nearly 20% and, overall, people of color have lost all the economic ground previously gained, plus more.
- Poverty and low wages. According to the U.S. Census, 46.7 million Americans live in poverty, many of them working for a minimum wage that has not kept up with today’s cost of living.
There is no one solution to all these problems, of course, but we believe that expanding ownership and economic opportunity makes a difference. Since Self-Help’s start, we have made nearly $7 billion in loans, often to people overlooked by mainstream lenders. We continue to work hard every day to make loans that create new jobs, new ownership and new possibilities for building stronger communities.
Thanks to all of our members, partners and supporters who, like us, are deeply invested in making Dr. King’s dream a reality for communities everywhere. As you celebrate his life and work during this holiday, consider drawing extra inspiration by listening to one of his many great speeches—two provided here.