Still Reaching For The Dream

On the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington we acknowledge all we have achieved, but bare in mind the many hardships we still face.


We have no future in a society in which 6 million black and white people are unemployed and millions more live in poverty. Nor is the goal of our civil rights revolution merely the passage of civil rights legislation. Yes, we want all public accommodations open to all citizens, but those accommodations will mean little to those who cannot afford to use them

-A. Philip Randolph, president of the Negro American Labor Council

The above passage is an excerpt from a speech given at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, one of the nine speeches in addition to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s stirring I Have A Dream Speech. Randolph and I are both from North Florida, but given that our birthdays are almost exactly 100 years apart, you can assume we grew up in very different worlds. And we did, but the hardships Randolph and blacks all over the South endured have not yet been overcome. And the goals Randolph laid out in his speech have not yet been accomplished.

Progress has been made. Today blacks have equal access to public accommodations, there is a law against racial discrimination in employment, and there are laws to ensure blacks have the right to vote.

But economically there is still great disparity in our country and that racial disparity is outlined in a recent paper by Algernon Austin, director of the Economic Policy Institute’s Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy (PREE). Some key points from Austin’s findings:

·         Today, nearly half of poor black children live in neighborhoods with concentrated poverty; however only a little more than a tenth of poor white children live in similar neighborhoods.

·         In the 1960s, 76.6% of black children attended majority black schools. That percentage has only gone down to 74.1% in 2010.

·         In 2012, the black unemployment rate was 14%, about two times higher than the white unemployment rate (6.6%) and higher than the average national unemployment rate of 13.1% during the Great Depression.

·         Blacks make up nearly 40% of the population living in homeless shelters although they make up only about 13% of the U.S. population.

We have a long way to go. Although Martin Luther King and A. Philip Randolph may have passed on, their dreams have not. Credit unions are in a unique position to help change the bleak statistics listed above.

The African-American Credit Union Coalition organizes the credit union movement’s strongest black leaders. You can learn more about the AACUC in our 2013 Black History month post. Also, in our 2012 Black History post, writer Aaron Pugh explains how the AACUC helped fund the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial in Washington, D.C. by raising $1.4 million from credit unions across the country.

Last week, writer Rebecca Wessler shared the work of Hope Federal Credit Union in Jackson, MS. The designated community development credit union is reaching out to under-banked communities, predominantly minority communities and students, to deliver financial services and offer a better option than pricey payday lenders.

“To suggest that credit unions shouldn’t provide services when people need them is hard to comprehend,” William Bynum, CEO of Hope Credit Union says in the piece.

The goals may be difficult to attain and there still may be a long way for us to go, but as more institutions take up the responsibility to serve we get closer and closer to Randolph’s dream.


Aug. 28, 2013

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