From The Coordinators
Beginning in June 2006, the G. W. Carver Agricultural Experiment Station at Tuskegee University, and with technical assistance provided by the Center for Social Development at The Brown School of Social Work, Washington University in St. Louis, is currently working to mobilize key stakeholders in the Southern Black Belt States and Gulf Coast Region to come together and participate in the development of a multi-state asset building coalition. Alabama Arise, the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, the Florida Family Network, Florida A & M University, and the Mississippi Association of Cooperatives have served as the conveners of statewide meetings. Collectively, these organizations, with the support of the Ford Foundation, have organized to create an asset building coalition in states and in the hurricane affected regions with a focus on the inclusion of organizations with vested interests in supporting an asset building policy and program agenda for victims of recent hurricanes in the southern Black Belt region, for states, and for traditional limited resource land-based communities and farmers.
Meetings have been held in several venues throughout states that are participating in the coalition development process. Specific meetings were held in Alabama at the 11th and 12th Booker T. Washington Economic Summits (October 2006, 2007); in Florida at Florida A&M University (February 2007) and in West Palm Beach (January 2008); in Mississippi at the 2007 Small Farmers Conference; and Louisiana in June 2007. The overall goal of each meeting was to disseminate information and raise awareness on asset building initiatives, programs, policies and trends while building partnerships that supported the development of the Asset Building State and Regional Coalition and the realization of coalition goals. The meeting on February 10-12, 2008 in Gulfport, MS, gathered all the partners and key participants in order to focus on the need to develop a regional coalition.
This developing coalition, tentatively termed the "Asset Building State and Regional Coalition of the Black Belt States", works to advocate for diversity as a key element for the "inclusion" necessary to yield effective assets policy discussions, designs, and implementation. The coalition's intent is to facilitate the sharing of many diverse perspectives on key asset-building policy and practice issues, based on a variety of backgrounds. Examples of such possible initiatives include but are not limited to: new strategies to deliver asset building programs, unique partnerships and collaborations, children's savings accounts, state-level earned income tax credit (EITC), state sponsored individual development accounts (IDA), anti-predatory lending laws, savings accounts for education & small business development, housing and homeownership projects, micro businesses, cooperatives, and financial education programs. The State and regional coalition-building approach is needed because victims of recent hurricanes were already disadvantaged due to living under persistent poverty in the southern Black Belt. In addition, the results and outcomes of individual and sparse efforts vis-à-vis policies intended to rebuild the assets and lives of affected families have been very poor at best.