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A call for fair and equal access to financial services

Charlene Crowell

Charlene Crowell

A call for fair and equal access to financial services

By Charlene Crowell, NNPA Columnist

      On Aug. 1, the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization began a journey that will cover 860 miles and last 40 days and 40 nights. Once completed, the NAACP-sponsored America’s Journey for Justice will have trekked across Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia before reaching its culminating stop in mid-September in our nation’s capital.

The Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) is joining in this multi-state march, adding its voice and influence to oppose financial injustices that people of color so often experience. CRL has already shared specific concerns with mortgage lending and student loans – two of the issues its champions in state houses and on Capitol Hill.

For Brandon Coleman, a CRL policy counsel, an Aug. 8 presentation in LaGrange, Ga. was as encouraging as it was exciting. Most consumers want to become better informed on the credit issues that affect their daily lives. The workshop series provides the opportunity to pose questions and receive answers in their own communities.

“CRL is frequently engaged with organizational advocates and elected and appointed officials working on these important policy issues,” noted Coleman. “The workshop was a great opportunity to share our research and insights with people who are directly impacted by the abusive practices we fight against and the protections we seek to secure.”

For example, CRL research on the nation’s foreclosure crisis found that from 2009 to 2012, people living near a foreclosed property in Black and Latino communities saw their home values drop by more than $350 billion – possibly suffering the same level of loss that occurred to Gulf States affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Further, from September 2008 when the foreclosure crisis began to May 2013, 4.4 million foreclosures were completed according to Core Logic, a leading property information and analysis provider.

“Events like America’s Journey for Justice are so important because the information presented across the country is exposing many of the unfair practices that drain millions of dollars from vulnerable communities each year,” concluded Coleman.

The workshop series will occur along the journey to our nation’s capital and also provides an opportunity to share in-depth analysis on how abusive lending issues undermine the ability of families of color to build long-term wealth.

In addition to advocating for greater mortgage credit access, a new four-part CRL series, titled Financial Fairness for All, addresses student loan abuse at for-profit colleges and universities; how payday loans place families in a financial debt trap; and how dealer interest markups in auto finance cost borrowers of color millions of dollars more for the loan than their credit profiles warrant.

“Economic inequality has long been a major concern in the civil rights community,” observed Nikitra Bailey, CRL executive vice president. “It is essential that lending practices are fair, transparent, and do not rob American families of their opportunity to exist securely in the middle class. There is no place for financial apartheid in our financial services sector.

“Charging excessive and sometimes discriminatory fees knock families off the upward mobility ladder, so we need strong enforcement action to stop these abuses. Enforcement of laws is just as important as getting the laws enacted.”

On April 18 in Athens, Ga., Bailey carried that message to a group of activists, including a few who started the journey in Selma. Part of Bailey’s remarks focused on student loans. According to CRL research, more than half of all Black families borrow to cover college expenses and more than 40 million people collectively owe $1.2 trillion on student loans.

Plans are now being finalized for additional CRL presentations at upcoming workshops in North Carolina and Virginia.

“As the group of marchers and I held a moment of silence for the late NAACP Chairman Julian Bond, we remained committed to the ideals his life’s work embodied,” said Bailey. “Chairman Bond was steadfast in championing against financial abuses starting out very early in his career in the Georgia State Legislature. Those of us at CRL who worked with him during his longtime service on our board of directors will continue to fight alongside our partners for greater economic justice for all Americans.”


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