Notes from the Field: Building Prosperity in the South
Program Officer Michelle Parker attended the Southern Regional Prosperity Summit in New Orleans
On November 9, 2017, our friends at Prosperity Now (formerly CFED) along with Alabama Asset Building Coalition, Raise Florida Network, Louisiana Building Economic Security Together (LABEST), Coalition for a Prosperous Mississippi, and the North Carolina Assets Alliance kicked off the Southern Regional Prosperity Summit in New Orleans, LA, where executives, policy experts, government agencies, funders and practitioners came together to connect, learn and inspire each other as we take on a growing number of economic and social challenges in our communities.
Attendees gathered at the historic Ashe Power House Theater early that morning, starting the Summit with discussions about the racial wealth divide in the South. These included statistics on inequality in savings, income and wealth across various demographics. While sobering and stark, these numbers helped us gain an understanding of the full context in which we are working, and reaffirmed why strategic partnerships are critical now, more than ever.
Later we heard from panelists about strategies to increase household financial security in the South. These ranged from national efforts to drive growth in communities, to art education as a community outreach tool, to local initiatives that support business owners. Ed Sivak of Hope Policy Institute, the policy division of HOPE (Hope Enterprise Corporation and Hope Credit Union), described a powerful story of how moving into vulnerable neighborhoods like Moorehead, MS helped meet the needs of residents in new ways.
As the event came to a close, I was excited to take a brief tour with Ed and his team at Hope’s New Orleans branch on Old Gentilly Road, which is located right by the Ashe Theater. It was then that I realized these were the anchors of all anchors in the community through which we can stop the cycle of poverty, and find safe places to bank, congregate and build on hope.