Prosperity Connection’s long-standing, yet unofficial, motto has been that we do what we say we’re going to do. Our Board and staff reliably execute upon our mission by delivering programs aimed at promoting the economic success of everyone in the St. Louis region through education and connections to safe financial products and services. And while we work with anyone willing to make a commitment to living a financially healthy life, the reality is that the overwhelming majority of our clients and customers are African-American.
In St. Louis, as in every corner of the United States, African-Americans are disproportionately impacted by the negative effects of chronic illness, unemployment, hunger, violence, and more. Our community has been deemed a Persistent Poverty County, meaning that 20% or more of the population has lived in poverty for three or more consecutive decades. In 2018, the poverty rate for African-Americans in St. Louis was 26.7% compared to 7.4% for white individuals. Numerous factors account for these disparities, but at the root is inequity.
Economic and racial inequity are intertwined. They continue to drive different outcomes for different sections of our community. Historically, access to credit for homes and businesses was not available for African-Americans because race-based, discriminatory federal policy and practices of financial institutions made getting a loan impossible. Instead, payday lenders, absentee landlords, rent-a-centers, and others have created their own market to exploit a community historically denied access to mainstream options. The individual financial and opportunity costs are astronomical, but the collective impact on the African-American community has resulted in generations being denied the ability to build wealth.
The preponderance of these negative impacts on communities of color is due to systemic and long-standing racism.
Members of our Board and staff, as well as many volunteers, advocates, and donors have lived the reality of disparate treatment simply because of the color of their skin. Their commitment, as well as the commitment of Prosperity Connection’s white allies, to serving the community is not based on pity or charity, but a conviction to be the positive change that they want to see in the world around them. Accordingly, Prosperity Connection’s vision is of an equitable community where everyone has the access, skills, tools and confidence to achieve their financial aspirations.
Over the last four years alone, our team has assisted clients in purchasing 42 homes and 19 cars, saving and investing a total of $140,000, and paying down nearly $1 million in debt. Our payday loan alternative has saved borrowers more than $4 million in interest and fee charges. We stand by the side of our clients and customers as they navigate adversity and overcome a biased system. These are successes to be celebrated and accelerated for many others.
We all play a pivotal role in the direction of our community and nation. We must find our place in both dialogue and action to tear down the walls of economic and racial inequity. We must acknowledge privilege and create prosperity for all.
Prosperity Connection will continue its mission to open doors to economic success. We invite you to recommit yourself to this purpose or join us in this work.