DEI is the Moral Imperative of our Time 

When the U.S. Supreme Court effectively outlawed affirmative action in college admissions, colleges and universities felt the pressure to end race-based scholarships programs, and roll back diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. Recent events have highlighted a stark reality: the fight for DEI is far from over. In fact, it’s under attack. 

The decision by Duke University to end scholarships for Black students and the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill Board of Trustees’ shortsighted move to cut DEI funding are not just isolated incidents—they are symptomatic of a larger, systemic problem. These actions threaten to roll back the progress we’ve made, undermine the principles of equality and justice, and perpetuate generations of injustice.  

But in the face of adversity, we must stand firm and resolute. Now, is the time to double down on our commitment to DEI initiatives. We cannot afford to be complacent or passive observers in this struggle. We must be vocal advocates, tireless allies, and unwavering champions for change. We must educate ourselves on the history of DEI and fight for a better future. Our first research report, Navigating the Terrain for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion presents practical recommendations for implementing effective strategies amidst the contemporary challenges posed by those who seek to undermine decades of progress. 

DEI is not a buzzword or a box to check—it’s the moral imperative of our time. DEI is crucial for fostering a fair and just society and creating a world where everyone, regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic background, has equal opportunities to thrive and succeed. It’s about building a community where diversity is celebrated, equity is the norm, and inclusion is non-negotiable.  

Considering historical inequities and ongoing challenges to DEI initiatives, there is a critical need to mobilize collective efforts to cultivate inclusive environments and advance diversity and equity. As members, friends, and allies of The African American Alliance of CDFI CEOs, we have a responsibility—to ourselves, to each other, and to future generations—to uphold these values and fight for a better tomorrow. We must use our collective voice and influence to demand accountability, challenge injustice, and drive meaningful change. 

Let us not be discouraged by setbacks or deterred by obstacles. Instead, let us be inspired by the courage and resilience of those who have come before us.  Let us draw strength from our shared vision of a more just and equitable world. And let us recommit ourselves to the work that lies ahead, knowing that together, we can and will make a difference.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s voice still reminds us: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.” 

EPA Selects Alliance Members for Solar for All Grant, Boosting Clean Energy Access for Low-Income & Disadvantaged Communities

The Environmental Protection Agency has announced 60 selectees under the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund Solar for All grant competition as part of the President’s Investing in America agenda. This initiative aims to deliver solar energy to over 900,000 low-income and disadvantaged households nationwide, shining a light on a brighter, more sustainable future.

Congratulations to two Alliance members and awardees:

Hope Enterprise Corporation (HEC) secured $93,670,000 in funding Arkansas Solar for All and $62,450,000 in funding for Mississippi Solar for All. HEC will utilize a multi-pronged approach to advance affordable and resilient solar energy access for low-income and disadvantaged communities.

Their innovative strategies include:

  • Developing a residential rooftop solar leasing market that ensures savings for every low-income household while enhancing the local solar installer ecosystem.
  • Implementing “Multifamily Behind-the-Meter Solar for Low-Income Tenants” in multifamily buildings to lower energy costs for low-income tenant households through strategic financial mechanisms and partnerships with local housing developers.

All strategies are built on the foundation of innovative financing, strategic partnerships, and HEC’s deep experience and expertise in serving disadvantaged communities.

Growth Opportunity Partners (Growth Opps) secured $156,120,000 to lead the Industrial Heartland Solar Coalition. Headquartered in Ohio, this coalition unites 31 communities across eight states, from the Midwest to the Rustbelt.

Led by Growth Opps, the coalition is dedicated to catalyzing a just and clean energy transition in America’s industrial heartland. Here’s what they plan to do:

  • The SFA (Solar Financing Assistance) program, centrally managed by Growth Opps and implemented locally by 18 coalition members, will drive significant household energy savings and cut greenhouse gas emissions.
  • They aim to empower communities through solar workforce development programs, enhancing skills and creating opportunities in the clean energy sector.
  • By mobilizing tax credits and SFA grant funds, the coalition plans to extend the benefits of residential rooftop solar installations to low- and moderate-income households.

Congratulations to the Hope Enterprise Corporation and Growth Opportunity Partners team for leading the way in sustainable and equitable energy solutions!

Justice Climate Fund Secures EPA’s GGRF Funding through Clean Communities Investment Accelerator Program

The Alliance to play key role in advancing environmental equity as a sub-awardee 

ORLANDO, FL – The African American Alliance of CDFI CEOs (The Alliance) announced today that the Justice Climate Fund (JCF) has been awarded $940M as part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Communities Investment Accelerator (CCIA), for which The Alliance will be a sub-awardee. As a founding member of the JCF representing over 78 Black-led Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), the funds will play a crucial role in advancing The Alliance’s mission to fight for environmental equity and close the racial wealth gap. 

“This monumental funding marks a significant milestone. It is a testament to the power of collective action and a clear signal that change is not only possible, but imminent. We congratulate the winners of both the National Clean Investment Fund (NCIF) and the CCIA and look forward to working with them on the important work ahead to ensure our members can access capital for the communities they serve,” said Lenwood V. Long, Sr., CEO at The Alliance and JCF Board Chair. 

The JCF was established by the Community Builders of Color Coalition (CBCC), led by The Alliance, which represents a national network of 18 financial institutions and advocacy organizations with leaders of color at the helm. The CBCC launched JCF just last year with the goal of ensuring that historically disadvantaged communities across the United States can equitably benefit from the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund and help eradicate the disproportionate impact of climate change in low-income communities. 

To this day, JCF represents an extensive network of 1,016 CDFIs, encompassing 500 credit unions, 120 community banks, and 177 loan funds and community trade organizations led by African American, Latino, Asian, and Native American individuals. These entities are pivotal in providing essential financial services and support to disadvantaged communities. 

“We are honored and humbled to be part of this transformative initiative. As we embark on this journey, our resolve is stronger than ever to leverage these resources for the betterment of our communities, ensuring that every voice is heard, and every dream is within reach,” added Long. 

To learn more about the announcement from the EPA, click here. 

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About the African American Alliance of CDFI CEOs 

The African American Alliance of CDFI CEOs, known as “The Alliance,” is a membership organization consisting of 76 CEOs from Black-led Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs). These institutions include loan funds, credit unions, venture capital firms, and non-profit developers. Since its establishment in 2018, The Alliance’s extensive network has provided services across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. To learn more about The Alliance and its programs, please visit http://www.aaacdfi.org.     

Media Contact:   

Alisha Brown  / [email protected] / 901-849-0820  

Response to Federal Judge’s Order on Minority-Business Agency

Recent legal developments continue to challenge Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives. A notable example is the case in Texas where the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) secured a permanent injunction against the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA). The lawsuit argued that the MBDA’s programming, which aims to support minority business enterprises, was racially discriminatory as it provided services based on race and ethnicity. This, they claimed, violated the Equal Protection Doctrine. The MBDA, created by the 2021 Infrastructure Act, supports businesses owned by individuals facing racial or ethnic prejudice or cultural bias. However, the court’s ruling emphasized that any racial classification by the government must be narrowly tailored to a compelling interest. This decision could have broader implications, potentially impacting other programs designed to assist socially or economically disadvantaged groups.

We strongly oppose the recent decision declaring MBDA’s programs unconstitutional. These programs are essential for addressing the systemic barriers and historical disadvantages that minority-owned businesses face. This is underscored by the harsh realities that only 29% of Black-owned businesses that apply for loans receive at least some portion of the requested amount, in stark contrast to 60% of white-owned businesses; that the credit denial rate for Black-owned businesses stands at a significantly higher 38%, compared to just 14% for their white-owned counterparts; and that loans granted to Black-owned businesses typically come with interest rates that are, on average, 1.4 percentage points higher than those offered to white-owned businesses. 

By providing targeted support and resources to bridge these divides, MBDA’s initiatives foster a more equitable and diverse economic landscape. Stripping away these programs not only undermines our collective efforts towards inclusivity and equal opportunities for all entrepreneurs in underserved communities but also weakens the overall economy by stifling the growth and innovation that diverse businesses bring.

We beseech the Justice Department to appeal this decision. Unfortunately, contrary to the views of some, economic and education opportunities are not equal for people of color in America, underscored by the fact that minority-owned businesses are three times more likely to be denied traditional bank loans than non-minority businesses.

In the News ABC11: Partnership announced between U.S. Small Business Administration and African American Alliance of CDFI CEOs

U.S. Small Business Administration and the African American Alliance of CDFI CEOs Forge Partnership to Ignite Small Business Growth

February 1, 2024   

U.S. Small Business Administration and the African American Alliance of CDFI CEOs Forge Partnership to Ignite Small Business Growth  

Partnership to Empower Small Businesses and Build Bridges Towards Economic Prosperity for Black Communities 

ORLANDO, FL – The African American Alliance of CDFI CEOs (The Alliance) and U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) have announced a strategic partnership aimed at boosting entrepreneurship and supporting sustainable growth for small businesses. This momentous collaboration was celebrated with a signing ceremony on February 1, 2024, at the Hayti Heritage Center, 804 Old Fayetteville St, Durham, NC 27701. 

The partnership between The Alliance and SBA is built on a shared mission; helping start, maintain, and expand small businesses. The Alliance, a dynamic network of Black-led Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), aligns with the SBA to build bridges towards economic prosperity for Black communities. The Alliance seeks to augment the capacity of its members, fostering further economic development.  

The partnership will focus on an integrated approach to provide Alliance members, and the communities they serve, with access to educational tools, technical assistance, and other essential programs for business expansion and scalability.  

Key areas of collaboration: 

  • Business Development Services: The Alliance and SBA will offer technical assistance and other essential resources needed to support the growth and expansion of small businesses. 
  • Education and Programmatic Support: Both organizations are committed to organizing and delivering training sessions and providing expert speakers for conferences and workshops. 

“We are excited to partner with the SBA in this historic agreement. Together we will harness the strengths and resources of our organizations in our continuing efforts to support small businesses and catalyze economic growth,” said Lenwood V. Long, Sr., President & CEO of the Alliance. “This partnership represents a significant milestone in our ongoing efforts to drive economic empowerment and provide impactful support to our members and the communities they serve, as well as solidifies an even stronger partnership in our work with the SBA. We aim to unlock new opportunities and create a more inclusive ecosystem for small business success.” 

“The SBA, under the Biden-Harris Administration, is proud to formalize our strategic alliance with the African American Alliance of CDFI CEOs (The Alliance) as we pursue our shared goals of equitably expanding access to capital, resources, and opportunity for the growing number of Black entrepreneurs,” said Administrator Guzman. “Under President Biden and Vice President Harris, Black business ownership is growing at the fastest pace in 30 years with the percent of entrepreneurial Black households doubling. This strategic alliance between the SBA and The Alliance will help us strengthen those new businesses, as well as the millions of established Black-owned businesses, so they can create jobs, innovate, and power our economy forward.”  

The strategic partnership between the SBA and The Alliance is set to ignite a new era of small business support and development. To learn more about The Alliance and its programs, visit https://aaacdfi.org/  

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About The African American Alliance of CDFI CEOs   

The African American Alliance of CDFI CEOs (The Alliance) is a coalition of more than 76 CEOs of Black-led Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), comprising loan funds, credit unions, venture capital firms, and non-profit developers. Since 2018, The Alliance’s network collectively services all 50 states and the District of Columbia. As a result, members are uniquely positioned to address issues related to housing and access to capital for African American populations and communities. Learn more about The Alliance and its programs at http://www.aaacdfi.org.  

About U.S. Small Business Administration 

The U.S. Small Business Administration makes the American dream of business ownership a reality. As the only go-to resource and voice for small businesses backed by the strength of the federal government, the SBA empowers entrepreneurs and small business owners with the resources and support they need to start, grow or expand their businesses, or recover from a declared disaster. It delivers services through an extensive network of SBA field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations. To learn more, visit www.sba.gov

Media Contact: 

Alisha Brown 

African American Alliance of CDFI CEOs 

[email protected] / 901-849-0820 

The African American Alliance of CDFI CEOs Receives $100,000 Grant from Melville Charitable Trust

Grant to Help the Alliance Address Housing Insecurities for Communities of Color 

ORLANDO, FL – The African American Alliance of CDFI CEOs (The Alliance) announced today a $100,000 grant from the Melville Charitable Trust (The Trust). The funding will support the Alliance Housing Initiative; a program designed to eradicate racial policies that perpetuate housing instability. 

The state of housing for Black America has been challenging. Systemic racism in housing policies has led to displacement and instability in Black neighborhoods, and lower rates of homeownership.  The Alliance Housing Initiative aims to address these disparities by creating equitable solutions that increase the percentage of Black and brown homeowners, prevent evictions, and ensure stability for communities that need it most. The Alliance and The Trust share a common interest in mitigating the hardships endured by minority and low-income populations. The grant will support the development of the Alliance’s housing strategy to empower members to advocate for anti-racist housing policy reform at the federal, state, and local levels, and to encourage members to adopt best practices that increase housing opportunity and improve housing stability in Black and brown communities. 

“Housing instability, especially in communities of color, remains a pressing issue that demands our attention and action. This grant is not just a financial contribution; it is a symbol of shared commitment towards eradicating systemic inequities within the housing market,” said Lenwood V. Long, Sr., CEO of the Alliance. “By focusing on housing stability, we can help communities build generational wealth and repair the harms of structural racism. We extend our sincere gratitude to the Melville Charitable Trust for supporting this crucial initiative.” 

“We believe that safe and stable housing is critical to ending homelessness. The Trust is committed to ensuring that all people have a home by focusing on systems change, policy and advocacy. Through collaborations with organizations like the Alliance we can ensure critical resources reach the communities that need it most,” said Alyia Gaskins, Senior Program Officer at the Melville Charitable Trust. Melville’s contribution brings the Alliance one step closer to creating a racial economic-justice ecosystem where Black-led CDFIs, and the communities they serve, can thrive. 

“There is an equity problem in the housing development system. Therefore, we need to strongly advocate for the communities that need affordable housing the most,” said Marshall Crawford, President and CEO of The Housing Fund. “I’m encouraged by collaborations between organizations like The Alliance and the Melville Charitable Trust because they foster a holistic approach to tackling homelessness.”  

By addressing inequitable systems and housing instability, The Alliance aims to improve the lives of people in marginalized communities, ensure equitable access to housing and close the racial wealth gap.  

To learn more about what’s next for the Alliance, please visit http://www.aaacdfi.org

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African American Alliance of CDFI CEOs  

The African American Alliance of CDFI CEOs, known as “The Alliance,” is a membership organization consisting of 76 CEOs from Black-led Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs). These institutions include loan funds, credit unions, venture capital firms, and non-profit developers. Since its establishment in 2018, The Alliance’s extensive network has provided services across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. To learn more about The Alliance and its programs, please visit http://www.aaacdfi.org.    

Media Contact:  

Alisha Brown / African American Alliance of CDFI CEOs  

[email protected] / 901-849-0820  

Amber Bond Appointed President of the African American Alliance of CDFI CEOs

amber-president

First Female President to Lead the Organization 

ORLANDO, FL – The African American Alliance of CDFI CEOs (The Alliance) proudly announces the appointment of Amber Bond as its new President. In assuming the role, Bond makes history as the first woman to lead the organization. Lenwood V. Long, Sr., who has been serving as President and CEO, will continue his role as CEO.

With over 17 years of dedicated service in economic development, Bond has proven herself a transformative leader. As Executive VP and COO, she has been instrumental in shaping the strategic vision and managing key initiatives for The Alliance over the past two years. Her expertise and innovative approach have been pivotal in enhancing the organization’s approach to operations, programs, strategic initiatives, and more. 

“Amber’s appointment as President marks a transformative chapter for The Alliance,” said Donna Gambrell, Alliance Board Chair and President & CEO of Appalachian Community Capital. “Her visionary outlook for the future of The Alliance brings immense excitement and we can’t wait to see the positive impact she will bring to the organization.” 

Lenwood V. Long, Sr., CEO of The Alliance and a renowned figure in the CDFI sector with over 30 years of distinguished service, will maintain his influential position as CEO. He remarked, “Amber Bond’s promotion to President is a testament to her extraordinary leadership and unwavering commitment to economic justice. Her vision and expertise are exactly what The Alliance needs as we prepare for the exciting future in supporting our members.” 

Bond’s appointment comes at a pivotal moment for The Alliance as it continues to champion initiatives that empower and build the capacity for Black-led community development financial institutions. In her new role she will provide general oversight to the Alliance and drive its strategic focus. She will also play a critical role within the broader stakeholder base, assisting the CEO with external relations between the board, community, and interagency partnerships.  

“I am deeply honored to step into the role of President at such a crucial time for our organization,” said Amber Bond, President of The Alliance. “My journey has been fueled by a passion for bringing equitable resources to black communities that level wealth building opportunities. In my new role, I am committed to expanding The Alliance’s impact, ensuring we continue to break new ground in service of our mission.”  

The Alliance had a remarkable 2023 of building partnerships and programs to serve Black-led CDFIs. Through collective efforts, The Alliance will continue to create pathways to prosperity for those who have been marginalized for far too long. 

To learn more about what’s next for The Alliance, please visit http://www.aaacdfi.org

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African American Alliance of CDFI CEOs  

The African American Alliance of CDFI CEOs, known as “The Alliance,” is a membership organization consisting of 76 CEOs from Black-led Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs). These institutions include loan funds, credit unions, venture capital firms, and non-profit developers. Since its establishment in 2018, The Alliance’s extensive network has provided services across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. To learn more about The Alliance and its programs, please visit http://www.aaacdfi.org.    

Media Contacts:  

Alisha Brown / African American Alliance of CDFI CEOs  

[email protected] / 901-849-0820  

CNO Financial Group Announces Corporate Donation to the African American Alliance of CDFI CEOs

2nd Year of $50,000 Gift to Continue Fostering Organization’s Black Leadership-driven Initiatives

CARMEL, Ind., Nov. 20, 2023 – CNO Financial Group (NYSE: CNO) announced today that for the second consecutive year, the company is donating $50,000 to the African American Alliance of CDFI CEOs (The Alliance). The national membership organization of 76 Black-led community development financial institutions (CDFIs) is committed to fostering social and economic justice for African American communities.

“CNO is pleased to once again provide our donation to The Alliance, which will enable meaningful advancements in support of its membership, including continued training and grant opportunities and increased staff to serve its members’ needs,” said Matt Zimpfer, general counsel and executive sponsor for CNO’s diversity, equity and inclusion program. “Importantly, we believe this donation renewal will further help The Alliance deliver increased access and benefit to its members – all in an effort to reach more unbanked middle-income Americans.”

The Alliance serves Black-led CDFIs nationwide, by supporting and empowering CDFI CEOs to lead and grow their institutional operations, teams, and social impact, while elevating the voices of these Black community leaders. The Alliance also supports African American and female CEO members – who systemically face racial and gender resource inequities that adversely impact their CDFIs and communities. In addition, the organization serves as a thought leader for CDFI public policy issues and engages in research that informs the need to continue its efforts toward helping Black communities achieve economic equity with all people. 

“We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the CNO Financial Group for once again choosing to invest in the Alliance’s pivotal mission to close the racial wealth gap,” said Lenwood V. Long, Sr., president & CEO of The Alliance. “Their ongoing commitment and generous funding for the second year running underscores their dedication to addressing racial equity challenges. We are deeply appreciative of CNO for being such powerful advocates and allies in our journey to empower African American communities and advance racial equity.”

Long noted the new donation will help further The Alliance’s CDFI 101 program, which helps emerging CDFIs to properly prepare and apply for CDFI certification – improving access to investment opportunities that can expand their impact on the community.

Last year’s financial donation from CNO was instrumental in enabling The Alliance to continue supporting such vital programs, including the African American Equity Impact Scorecard and the Alliance Women-Led initiative and its grant-making foundation.

CNO’s donation to The Alliance is part of the company’s long-standing commitment to support nonprofit organizations that address the health and financial wellness of middle-income Americans. CNO is also a signatory of the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion™ pledge, the Indy Racial Equity Pledge and a supporter of CEO Action for Racial Equity.

To learn more about CNO’s commitment to the community, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I), and corporate social responsibility, visit www.cnoinc.com/corporate-responsibility.

About CNO Financial Group

CNO Financial Group, Inc. (NYSE: CNO) secures the future of middle-income America. CNO provides life and health insurance, annuities, financial services, and workforce benefits solutions through our brands, including Bankers Life, Colonial Penn, Optavise, and Washington National. Our customers work hard to save for the future, and we help protect their health, income, and retirement needs with 3.2 million policies and $33 billion in total assets. Our 3,400 associates, 4,600 exclusive agents and more than 4,000 independent partner agents guide individuals, families, and businesses through a lifetime of financial decisions. For more information, visit www.CNOinc.com.

About The African American Alliance of CDFI CEOs

The African American Alliance of CDFI CEOs (The Alliance) is a membership organization of 76 CEOs of Black-led Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), comprising loan funds, credit unions, venture capital firms, and non-profit developers. Since 2018, The Alliance has represented all 50 states and the District of Columbia. As a result, members are uniquely positioned to address issues related to housing and access to capital for African American populations and communities. Learn more about the Alliance and its programs at http://www.aaacdfi.org.

Media contacts:

CNO Financial Group

Michael McNamara

[email protected]

(860) 549 6442

African American Alliance of CDFI CEOs

Alisha Brown

[email protected]

(901) 849-0820