Reported by Lucas Turner-Owens

On November 28th the Washington D.C. Financial Literacy Council welcomed Operation HOPE Founder John Hope Bryant as the keynote speaker at its first Town Hall event at the Hill Center.

The Town Hall attracted an audience of over 30 residents who had the opportunity to express their concerns and interests and to learn more about the council’s agenda.  Financial Literacy Council of D.C. (FLC-DC) Chair Tamara Haye Daufour opened the discussion by describing the primary focus of the FLC-DC through an acronym that was easy for residents to remember: Fairness, Leadership, Commitment, Diversity, & Community.

 Idrys Abdullah explained that the council has been divided into five committees, each with a unique focus: the Student Affairs Committee, Communications Committee, Resident Affairs Committee, Advisory Committee, and the Executive Committee to oversee the rest.  Each of these committees have a specific focus, but all of them are joined in sharing the Council’s three-pronged mission,“To empower residents to achieve short & long term financial goals; To assist and advise the Mayor & the Council in promoting financial literacy in the District of Columbia; and to facilitate the coordination of public and private financial literacy and education services.”

 After Idrys explained the structure and mission of the FLC-DC, the keynote speaker was introduced. Bryant, who also serves as Chair of the Subcommittee on the Underserved and Community Empowerment for the US President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability, stunned the audience, delivering a rousing and passionate speech that looked towards traditional indicators of urban blight with an optimistic eye.  “Where others see drug dealers, I see young entrepreneurs trapped in environments of joblessness and decay,” he shared. 

 By connecting the present struggle for financial dignity in low-income communities across the country to the Civil Rights movement struggles for equality under the law and human dignity, he made it clear that Dr. Martin Luther King came from a family in the upper-middle class with aspirational values and financial capability and that this helped lead King to understand the importance of spreading financial empowerment through the Poor People’s Movement. 

As Bryant spoke, audience members in the room who had been disengaged, began to rise in their seat as it was made clear to them that this was a moment in history, a moment where those who care about social justice could be empowered and empower others to rise out of the conditions of poverty and financial illiteracy.

Bryant left the audience with a sense of hope for the work the FLC-DC will do in their region. “Where others see drug dealers, I see young entrepreneurs trapped in environments of joblessness and decay,” he said.