What is systemic racism? How can we rise to today’s calls for equity and justice for Black lives? What role can and do CDFIs play in fixing long-established racist systems? These were among the questions OFN President and CEO Lisa Mensah and a panel of esteemed guests discussed during a recent conversation hosted by the Washington National Cathedral.
Guided by the Cathedral’s Dean Randolph Hollerith and Rev. Canon Leonard L. Hamlin, Sr., the 90-minute discussion, entitled “Where Do We Go from Here?”, featured Lisa, NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson, National Urban League President Marc Morial, and Thurgood Marshall Fund President and CEO Harry L. Williams. The dialogue, which fielded questions from viewers, called for people of all faiths and backgrounds to engage in change through community building, public policy, finance, education, and dedicated effort and attention.
Representing the CDFI industry, Lisa referenced Dr. Martin Luther King, who first raised the question “Where do we go from here?” In 1967, King said, “We must not be oblivious to the fact that the larger economic problems confronting the Negro community will only be solved by federal programs involving billions of dollars.” In the middle of 2020’s COVID-19 crisis and social uprisings, King’s call for federal funding rings louder than ever. Lisa put it in a contemporary context, encouraging people to support industry-wide advocacy for a $1 billion appropriation for the CDFI Fund. “Keep your watch eye on the Treasury and CDFI Fund… help us support an increase for the CDFI Fund.” She added, “Budgets are spiritual documents… they tell you where your values are.”
Watch the full conversation!