Activism

Q&A with Howard E. Covington Jr., Author of Lending Power

Covington, Howard photo cred Joe Rodriguez.

Photo by Joe Rodriguez

Howard E. Covington Jr. is a freelance historian and biographer and the author or coauthor of several books, including Terry Sanford: Politics, Progress, and Outrageous Ambitions, also published by Duke University Press; The Story of Nationsbank: Changing the Face of American BankingHenry Frye: North Carolina’s First African American Chief Justice; and Favored by Fortune: George W. Watts and the Hills of Durham. An award-winning newspaper reporter and editor, Covington received the Ragan Old North State Award for nonfiction in 2004. His latest book is Lending Power: How Self-Help Credit Union Turned Small-Time Loans into Big-Time Change, the compelling story of the nonprofit Center for Community Self-Help, a community-oriented and civil rights-based financial institution that has helped provide loans to those who lacked access to traditional financing while fighting for consumer protection for all Americans.

Lending PowerWhat drew you to write about Self-Help? How did you become involved in this story?

This is an unusual story that doesn’t follow the normal theme of the life and times of an up-and-coming NGO. I was drawn to the improbable. How did a credit union initially funded by the proceeds of a bake sale become the largest lender for low- and moderate-income home borrowers in the nation?

Martin Eakes and Bonnie Wright founded the Center for Community Self-Help to assist displaced factory workers in North Carolina become worker-owners in the plants where they once worked. They were savvy enough to learn from the experience, which did not work, and shifted their strategy. They didn’t change the mission—to assist those trying to make it on the margins of the economy—but they found a new way to give folk a hand up. Home ownership replaced worker-owned business as the way out.

Most NGO founders fail to learn as they work and eventually come to a dead end. Self-Help adjusted to meet reality. That’s a good story with lessons for many in public service work.

Eakes and others at Self-Help cooperated with me on this project, but not all met it with enthusiasm. Eakes rebuffed my first attempt to do this book. He later agreed to my work on the condition that it not become his biography. That was hard to manage, but I believe I honored the spirit of that request.

 Who does the Center for Community Self-Help serve in North Carolina? What impact has it had not just for individuals, but for communities?

Self-Help now provides financial services for large segments of the nation’s unbanked population from California to Florida. Those who benefit most are African Americans, single mothers, Latinos, and underemployed workers who have not had ready access to home loans or other financial services at a cost they can afford.

Communities have benefited from Self-Help’s partnership with larger institutions, such as Duke University, in the rehabilitation of entire neighborhoods. Self-Help has helped neighbors work with neighbors since the mid-1980s. It continues to provide technical support and funding for neighborhoods across the state.

In Chicago, Self-Help saved a community bank that had long served the city’s large Latino community. Borrowers facing foreclosure were assisted with loan modifications that allowed them to stay in their homes. Likewise, the financial strength of a local financial institution was restored and today continues to serve its customers.

 What made Self-Help so successful?

It was nimble and willing to adapt. It also developed sources of income independent of foundations or government agencies. It has been able to dance to its own tune, not that called by someone else.

It was creative and willing to take risks, moving into segments of financial services that traditional banks had either ignored or disregarded. Opportunity lay in the space between the feet of the big elephants in the marketplace. It then took what it learned and shared it with others.

Throughout the years, it remained true to its mission and recruited a staff, willing to work for low wages, that believed the organization could make a difference in the lives of those it served.

What are some of the biggest challenges that Self-Help has faced? How did it overcome those challenges?

Five to eight years on, Martin Eakes and the Self-Help staff wrestled with Self-Help’s future and determined that there were multiple ways to serve. This willingness to adapt to lessons learned allowed Self-Help to expand into other areas of work. It also resulted in growing confidence of the ability of Self-Help staff members to deal with multiple opportunities and move beyond a narrow range of options.

What relevance does your book hold for readers who might not be familiar with Self-Help? What lessons can readers take away?

The principles that have guided Self-Help can be applied to any NGO. Focus of mission, sustainability, adaptability, resilience, and adherence to fundamental business practices are tenets that will aid any organization. They do not have to limit the mission or dampen the passions of those called to serve.

The book also provides a broader understanding of the causes of the Great Recession, a financial catastrophe that was driven by the greed and arrogance of Wall Street, not the low-to-moderate income borrowers who got caught up in the tidal wave.

How do you see the role of Self-Help moving forward, especially in the current political climate?

Self-Help continues to use its creative lending to restore historic properties and revitalize communities. Financial services—loans at reasonable rates, savings accounts, small loans—are part of a portfolio at credit unions in California, Illinois, North Carolina, and Florida. The network will continue to grow, especially in the Southeast.

Self-Help has avoided partisanship, but has not avoided dealing in areas rife with controversy. It has one of the largest lending programs for charter schools in the nation. Its clients are carefully selected to insure soundness of the program and relevance to the communities served.

Over the years, Self-Help worked with Republicans and Democrats in the state legislature to pass North Carolina predatory lending law, which helped the state avoid the worst of the Great Recession. It does draw heaps of criticism from segments of the financial industry—payday lenders, title lenders—for its work at the Center for Responsible Lending, its advocacy and policy development shop.

You can order Lending Power from your favorite local or online bookstore (print and e-editions available) or save 30% when you order directly from Duke University Press. Use coupon code E17LEND at check out to save.

New Books in October

October is upon us, and we have a number of new books to introduce to you this month. Be on the lookout for these exciting titles at bookstores, online, or at academic meetings later this fall.

978-0-8223-6918-9In The Right to Maim, Jasbir K. Puar continues her pathbreaking work on the liberal state, sexuality, and biopolitics to theorize the production of disability, using Israel’s occupation of Palestine as an example of how settler colonial states rely on liberal frameworks of disability to maintain control of bodies and populations.

Jennifer Terry, in Attachments to War, traces how biomedical logics entangle Americans in a perpetual state of war, in which new forms of wounding necessitate the continual development of treatment and prosthetic technologies while the military justifies violence and military occupation as necessary conditions for advancing medical knowledge.

978-0-8223-6973-8Life in the Age of Drone Warfare, edited by Lisa Parks and Caren Kaplan, explores the historical, juridical, geopolitical, and cultural dimensions of drone technology and warfare, showing how drones generate ways of understanding the world, shape the ways lives are lived and ended on the ground, and operate within numerous mechanisms of militarized state power.

 

Tracing the college experiences of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans in her new book Grateful Nation, Ellen Moore challenges the popular narratives that explain student veterans’ academic difficulties while showing how these narratives and institutional support for the military lead to suppression of campus debate about the wars, discourage anti-war activism, and encourage a growing militarization.

978-0-8223-6941-7.jpg

The Extractive Zone by Macarena Gómez-Barris extends decolonial theory into greater conversation with race, sexuality, and Indigenous studies; and traces the political, aesthetic, and performative practices of South American indigenous activists, intellectuals, and artists that emerge in opposition to the ruinous effects of extractive capital.

Essays, interviews, and artist statements in Collective Situations —many of which are appearing in English for the first time—present a range of socially engaged art practices in Latin America between 1995 and 2010 that rethink the boundaries between art and activism. The collection is edited by Bill Kelley Jr. and Grant H. Kester.

In Never Alone, Except for Now, juxtaposing contemporary art against familiar features of the Web such as emoticons, Kris Cohen explores how one can be connected to people and places online while simultaneously being alone and isolated. This phenomenon lies in the space between populations built through data collection, and publics created by interacting with others.

Originally published in 1939, Aimé Césaire’s Cahier d’un Retour au Pays Natal is a landmark of modern French poetry and a founding text of the Négritude movement. Journal of a Homecoming, a bilingual edition, features a new authoritative translation, revised introduction, and extensive commentary, making it a magisterial edition of Césaire’s surrealist masterpiece.

978-0-8223-6949-3In Neoliberalism from Below, Verónica Gago provides a new theory of neoliberalism by examining how Latin American neoliberalism is propelled not just from above by international finance, corporations, and government, but by the activities of migrant workers, vendors, sweatshop workers, and other marginalized groups in and around the La Salada market in Buenos Aires.

Kristen Ghodsee, in Red Hangover, examines the legacies of twentieth-century communism on the contemporary political landscape twenty-five years after the Berlin Wall fell, reflecting on the lived experience of postsocialism and how many ordinary men and women across Eastern Europe suffered from the massive social and economic upheavals in their lives after 1989.

978-0-8223-5884-8Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork and his experience trading derivatives, in The Social Life of Financial Derivatives, Edward LiPuma theorizes the profound social dimensions of derivatives markets and the processes, rituals, mentalities, and belief systems that drive them.

In Monrovia Modern, Danny Hoffman uses the ruins of four iconic modernist buildings in Monrovia, Liberia as a way to explore the relationship between the built environment and political imagination, showing how these former symbols of modernist nation building transformed into representations of the challenges that Monrovia’s residents face.

Steeped in Heritage, by Sarah Ives, explores the racial and environmental politics behind South Africa’s rooibos tea industry to examine heritage-based claims to the indigenous plant by two groups of contested indigeneity: white Afrikaners and “coloured” South Africans.

In Tropical Freedom, Ikuko Asaka examines emancipation’s intersection with settler colonialism in North America, showing how emancipation efforts in the United States and present-day Canada were accompanied by attempts to relocate freed blacks to tropical regions, thereby conceiving freedom as a racially segregated condition based upon geography and climate.

Never miss a new book! Sign up for Subject Matters, our e-mail newsletter, and get notifications of new titles in your preferred disciplines as well as discounts and other news.

The Politics and Challenges of Achieving Health Equity

djhppl_42_5_coverThe most recent issue of the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law,  “The Politics and Challenges of Achieving Health Equity,” edited by Alan B. Cohen, Colleen M. Grogan, and Jedediah N. Horwitt, is now available.

The existence of health inequities across racial, ethnic, gender, and class lines in the United States has been well documented. Less well understood have been the attempts of major institutions, health programs, and other public policy domains to eliminate these inequities. This issue, a collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Investigator Awards in Health Policy Research Program, brings together respected historians, political scientists, economists, sociologists, and legal scholars to focus on the politics and challenges of achieving health equity in the United States.

Articles in this issue address the historical, legal, and political contexts of health equity in the United States. Contributors examine the role of the courts in shaping health equity; document the importance of political discourse in framing health equity and establishing agendas for action; look closely at particular policies to reveal current challenges and the potential to achieve health equity in the future; and examine policies in both health and nonhealth domains, including state Medicaid programs, the use of mobile technology, and education and immigration policies. The issue concludes with a commentary on the future of health equity under the Trump administration and an analysis of how an ACA repeal would impact health equity.

Read the introduction to the issue now, freely available.

After #Ferguson, After #Baltimore: The Challenge of Black Death and Black Life for Black Political Thought

ddsaq_116_3The most recent issue of South Atlantic Quarterly, “After #Ferguson, After #Baltimore: The Challenge of Black Death and Black Life for Black Political Thought,” edited by Barnor Hesse and Juliet Hooker, is now available.

Drawing primarily on the US #blacklivesmatter movement, contributors to this issue come to terms with the crisis in the meaning of black politics during the post–civil rights era as evidenced in the unknown trajectories of black protests. The authors’ timely essays frame black protests and the implications of contemporary police killings of black people as symptomatic of a crisis in black politics within the white limits of liberal democracy.

Topics in this issue include the contemporary politics of black rage; the significance of the Ferguson and Baltimore black protests in circumventing formal electoral politics; the ways in which centering the dead black male body draws attention away from other daily forms of racial and gender violence that particularly affect black women; the problem of white nationalisms motivated by a sense of white grievance; the international and decolonial dimensions of black politics; and the relation between white sovereignty and black life politics.

Read the introduction, made freely available.

Read to Respond Wrap-Up

R2R final logoSeveral months ago we launched our  “Read to Respond” series to highlight some of our most groundbreaking scholarship engaged with today’s pressing issues. Each topic, from student activism to racial justice, is highlighted with a reading list that encourages students and teachers alike to join the conversation surrounding these current events. 

Revisit your favorite “Read to Respond” topics so far and share these resources in and out of the classroom. These articles are freely available until December 15, 2017.

Read to Respond: Racial Justice

R2R final logoOur “Read to Respond” series addresses the current climate of misinformation by highlighting articles and books that encourage thoughtful, educated debate on today’s most pressing issues. This post focuses on racial justice, diving deep into topics such as racial identity, the Ferguson trial, and black activism. Read, reflect, and share these resources in and out of the classroom to keep these important conversations going.

Racial Justice

 

 

 

 

Read to Respond: Labor

R2R final logoOur “Read to Respond” series addresses the current climate of misinformation by highlighting articles and books that encourage thoughtful, educated debate on today’s most pressing issues. This post focuses on labor, worker’s rights, and neoliberalism. Read, reflect, and share these resources in and out of the classroom to keep these important conversations going.

Labor

These articles are freely available until December 15, 2017. Follow along with the series over the next several months and share your thoughts with #ReadtoRespond.

Read to Respond: Migration Studies

R2R final logoOur “Read to Respond” series addresses the current climate of misinformation by highlighting articles and books that encourage thoughtful, educated debate on today’s most pressing issues. This post focuses on immigration in commemoration with World Refugee Day, an international movement that supports families forced to flee and honors the strength, courage and perseverance of millions of refugees. Read, reflect, and share these resources in and out of the classroom to keep these important conversations going.

Migration Studies

These articles are freely available until December 15, 2017. Follow along with the series over the next several months and share your thoughts with #ReadtoRespond.

 

Read To Respond: Feminism and Women’s Rights


R2R final logoOur “Read to Respond” series addresses the current climate of misinformation by highlighting articles and books that encourage thoughtful, educated debate on today’s most pressing issues. This post focuses on feminism and women’s rights with articles tackling topics from abortion laws, maternity leave, Islamic feminism, and more. Read, reflect, and share these resources in and out of the classroom to keep these important conversations going.

Feminism and Women’s Rights

These articles are freely available until December 15, 2017. Follow along with the series over the next several months and share your thoughts with #ReadtoRespond.

Recent Issue of Tikkun Addresses the 50th Anniversary of the Israeli Occupation of the West Bank

btn_header_tikkun_logoIn the most recent issue of Tikkun, editor Rabbi Michael Lerner and contributors address the Israeli occupation of the West Bank as it reaches its 50th year. “The Occupation At 50” includes an editorial by Rabbi Lerner calling for momentum in the One Person/One Vote movement.

From the editorial:

With sufficient sensitivity, empathy and generosity of spirit, we could accomplish a powerful change of consciousness!

This is the real challenge—not headline grabbing, but the day-to-day, neighborhood and community group organizing around a vision of the world we want, not just what we are against. We at Tikkun and the Network of Spiritual Progressives can play our part, but this will take the participation and support of all those who really want to achieve the kind of liberation from Occupation that will benefit the Israelis, the Palestinians, the Jews, and all others on this planet.

In this issue of Tikkun we invited a broad swath of people, including many who disagree with us to our left and to our right, to comment on what the Occupation has meant to them and/or their ideas about how to end it.

The issue includes articles on topics such as:

Browse the table-of-contents to the issue and read Rabbi Lerner’s editorial, made freely available.