Lynette Smith said she remembers being 7 years old and watching the historic March on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963, on television.
Smith, the new chairperson of the African-American Credit Union Coalition, recalled seeing people from diverse backgrounds converge on the nation’s capital to hear the many messages advocating for the pursuit of civil and economic rights. More than 250,000 attended the event.
Fast forward to 2013, like thousands of others, Smith and her husband, Aaron, gathered around the Lincoln Memorial last Saturday to memorialize the 50th anniversary of the march and reflect on the urgency in the iconic speech, “I Have a Dream,” delivered by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Among those who spoke on Aug. 24 was Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who is considered to be the only surviving speaker from the 1963 march.
“It was, in my opinion, very moving. There were people from all walks of life. It was a very peaceful event,” said Smith, president/CEO of the $89 million Washington Gas Light Federal Credit Union in Springfield, Va.
King’s message of collaboration and inclusion resonates with how credit unions play a pivotal part in helping to meet the financial needs of all Americans.
“We have come so far and yet, we have so much to do,” said Smith, a native Washingtonian. “It is our goal that the AACUC play a major role in helping America continues to reach its financial dreams. This will take the collaboration of all credit unions and the trade associations.”
Indeed, the AACUC continues to seek a seat at the table with the NCUA in ensuring that more minorities and women are represented in management and senior positions at credit unions.
(Click image for enlarged photo of Stone of Hope.)
Earlier this year, the AACUC released six recommendations for the NCUA to consider for its Office of Minority and Women Inclusion, which was mandated by the Dodd-Frank Act.
Among them was a suggestion to break down analysis of minority and women-owned business contractors and suppliers by separating minority-owned from women-owned.
The AACUC is hoping that the group and other stakeholders will get the opportunity to meet with the NCUA to share their perspectives
Hubert Hoosman, a former AACUC’s former board member, spearheaded a campaign to encourage credit unions to contribute to the building of the King Memorial on the National Mall in Washington. Collectively, credit unions, leagues, CUSOs and others in the industry raised $1.4 million towards the monument, which was unveiled in October 2011.
“I think as a movement, credit unions have served people of color very well compared to other financial institutions,” Hoosman said Wednesday. “My concern is the lack of diversity in leadership.”
Hoosman called on the industry’s national trade associations to make a “public commitment” to help promote more diversity. He said he’s not just referring to African-Americans, but all minorities.
The former president/CEO of the $718 billion Vantage Credit Union in Bridgeton, Mo., said in his home state of Missouri, he counts two people of color that head credit unions. The Sunbelt states have made more progress when it comes to minorities being president/CEOs, he noted.
“When you look at the leadership within the movement, I think we can do a better job of promoting diversity,” said Hoosman, who retired from Vantage in April.
Earlier Wednesday, a march and rally kicked off the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington event. More than 100,000 people are expected to attend the day-long event, according to some estimates.
President Barack Obama was to speak at 3 p.m. on the same spot where King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial.