The 2019 OFN Annual Conference closed with a roar! Three fierce CDFI leaders ended the Conference as part of a closing plenary — Lending Where it Counts: The Fight Ahead — that energized a crowd of Conference-goers tired (but exhilarated) from three days of learning and networking.
Sharing stories of how they entered the CDFI field and what keeps them going were Noel Poyo, Executive Director & CEO, National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders, Robin Danner, Founder, Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, and Martin Eakes, Co-founder & CEO, Self-Help and the Center for Responsible Lending.
The three distinct voices riveted the audience — bringing many of us to tears — as they spoke personally and powerfully about their lives, the communities they represent and serve, and how CDFIs can heal historic and deeply painful American injustices and fractures. While they also laid out challenges ahead, they inspired us to meet these challenges head-on.
Noel: “I have chosen capital as my tool, as my shield. And that’s how I want to address the needs in my community and the investment that my people represent.”
Robin: “[Native communities] are under that water. We’re choking, not having oxygen. And when I look at this room, you’re like a huge oxygen tank. You’re like a huge blood bank. There is no community — I don’t care whether it’s ethnic, cultural, [geographic]… that can survive without capital, without the bloodline of capital flowing through it.”
Martin: “Frederick Douglas… [said] ‘It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.’ Easier to build strong children than to repair broken men. This is a challenge of our time, whether it’s in the villages of Iraq and Syria or in the inner cities of LA, Chicago, or Baltimore. If we turn our backs on young men and women aged 14 to 30 and leave them to languish in poverty and unemployment. If we leave them without purpose, without economic means to provide for a family and for children, the result will be inevitable, and it will not be pretty for them or for those nearby. Those abandoned will find affiliation and purpose in a gang or in an armed group. Violence and destruction take root when we fail to build young men and women with hope and purpose.”
This is a video to watch again and again and share far and wide. It’s about what CDFIs do and why we persist.
See more 2019 OFN Conference highlights — speaker videos, session materials, photos, and blog recaps — at conference.ofn.org!