Hip Hop Caucus — Civil and Human Rights for the 21st Century

Hip Hop Caucus LogoThe Hip Hop Caucus is a civil and human rights organization whose vision is to create a more just and sustainable world.

The Hip Hop Caucus came to my attention while reading and writing about 350.org and the Forward on Climate rally being held in Washington D.C. on Sunday, February 17, 2013. The Hip Hop Caucus, 350.org, and Sierra Club are organizing and leading what they hope will be the largest climate rally in U.S. history.

Hip Hop Caucus Organization

Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr. founded the nonprofit Hip Hop Caucus in September 2004 as a civil and human rights organization for the 21st century.

“The mission of the Hip Hop Caucus is to organize young people to be active in elections, policymaking and service projects. We mobilize, educate, and engage young people, ages 14 to 40, on the social issues that directly impact their lives and communities.”

Art, entertainment, sports, and cultural expression is an integral part of how the Hip Hop Caucus connects with and inspires their constituency.

Hip Hop Caucus Campaigns, Projects, and Events

Gulf Coast Renewal

Hip Hop Caucus' Rev. Yearwood Leads March in New Orleans - Photo Credit: DCLThe Hip Hop Caucus formed the Gulf Coast Renewal campaign to advocate for the rights of Hurricane Katrina survivors. They met and worked with elected officials, community members, and Hip Hop artists on finding solutions to help the people hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina.

Make Hip Hop Not War

The Make Hip Hop Not War campaign was launched by the Hip Hop Caucus in response to the billions of dollars being spent on war while communities at home suffer economic hardships. This effort is intended to bring young people into the movement for peace overseas and at home.

Respect My Vote!

Hip Hop Caucus Respect My Vote! LogoHip Hop Caucus’ Respect My Vote! is a non-partisan voter registration, education, and mobilization endeavor to get young people involved in the election process and get out the vote. Hip Hop celebrities and artists help deliver the message.

Green the Block

Green the Block is a Hip Hop Caucus collaborative effort with Green for All to ensure that low-income communities and communities of color have job opportunities in the green economy and a share of green projects are completed in their communities. It also serves as a call to action for green community service projects in underserved areas.

Clean Energy Now!

The Hip Hop Caucus’ Clean Energy Now! bus tour was a partnership with the Alliance for Climate Protection Repower America campaign. The tour began in New Orleans and ended in Washington D.C. Events were held along the 2,000-mile route at churches, colleges, job training centers, and nightclubs. The intent was to listen to young people and advocate for clean energy and green jobs.

Check out this CBS News article, John Legend, MC Lyte honored at Hip-Hop Inaugural Ball, about the Hip Hop Inaugural Ball held at the Harman Center for the Arts in Washington D.C. on January 20, 2013.

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Microfinance Institutions and Organizations

Microfinance institutions (MFIs) provide financial services, involving small amounts of money, to poor clients. Services include savings deposits, loans, payment transfers, insurance, and other financial services.

Microfinance Institution Challenges

Delivering financial services to poor people, especially in rural and undeveloped areas, presents some unique challenges.

High Transaction Costs

High transaction costs have been a major barrier. A for-profit bank must cover operating costs and generate a profit. If a client only has $5 to deposit in a savings account, the bank loses money on that transaction. If that same client with $5 to deposit must pay $0.25 to take a bus to the nearest bank, they lose 5% of their capital going to the bank. As far as loans go, the cost of administering 500 loans of $100 each versus 1 loan of $50,000 is substantial.

No Credit History or Collateral

Traditional banks typically require a credit history and collateral from borrowers seeking a loan. Poor people generally do not have either so are viewed as high-risk clients.

Lack of Access

Many poor people do not have access to mobile banking, nor do they live near a bank or ATM, so just getting to a bank uses precious time and money.

Diverse Financial Needs

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to what financial services poor people need and want.

  • Savings - Piggy Bank on Top of Stack of CoinsSavings – some people just want to earn a decent wage at a steady job and have a safe place to keep their savings.
  • Loans – not every borrower is an entrepreneur wanting to start an income-generating activity like raising chickens for eggs to sell, or to build a green microenterprise such as a solar cooker business. Some families need a loan because a sick child needs medicine.
  • Payment Transfers – others need a low-cost way to send money home (remittance) from jobs in the city or overseas.
  • Insurance – a farmer might want insurance to provide a financial safety net in case of crop failure.

Microfinance Institutions (MFI’s) and Organizations

Over several decades, microfinance institutions (MFIs) have been established all over the world. Some are nonprofit and others are for profit. Related organizations have emerged to support MFIs with research, data analysis, best practices, training, advocacy, and policy formation. I selected a few to investigate.

Grameen Bank LogoGrameen Bank – founded during the 1970s in Bangladesh, is possibly the first modern MFI and probably the most well known. Grameen Bank which means “village bank”, began as a small project, grew into a national organization and became a model for microfinance institutions in other countries.

There are some notable differences between Grameen Bank and a conventional bank: Grameen Bank has a stated purpose to help alleviate poverty, is owned by the poor women who use its services, and goes to the people instead of the people going to the bank.

Accion – is a nonprofit organization that helps build MFIs by providing management expertise, connection to commercial banks, development of industry standards, and participation on MFI boards.

Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) – is an independent group housed at the World Bank. CGAP provides MFI industry information, develops and promotes standards, and advises governments, MFIs, donors, and investors. One program, the Microfinance Gateway, contains an extensive online library. The Advancing Financial Access for the World’s Poor Annual Report 2012 is full of excellent information and some amazing photographs.

EcoMicro – is a program co-financed by Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF) and Nordic Development Fund (NDF) that works with MFIs in Latin America and the Caribbean to develop green financial projects.

Kiva – is a web-based nonprofit organization that collects money from individual investors and provides loans through an international network of Field Partners (MFIs).

Women’s World Banking Ghana (WWBG) – is an MFI in Ghana affiliated with the Women’s World Banking organization. WWBG services include savings, credit, remittance, and virtual banking.

Zidisha – is a web-based nonprofit organization that directly connects lenders and borrowers and administers the loans themselves.

Imagine and Take Action

For those of us who do have access to financial services, we most likely have checking and savings accounts, an ATM card, at least one credit card, ability to transfer money electronically, insurance, a 401k, IRA, or other retirement account, perhaps a car loan or mortgage, a bank or ATM nearby, and the ability, if we choose, to perform any financial Green Microfinance - Green Tree Growing out of Pile of Coinstransaction on a computer, smartphone, or tablet.

Imagine what it would be like if everyone had access to financial services. Want to take action to help bring financial services to all people and be green? Contribute money to a green MFI or MFI support organization, invest in a microloan for a green microenterprise, or spread the word. Be creative.

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