Robbery has got Memphis under control. Let’s work on undoing the damage.
Dr. Rev. J. Lawrence Turner
- Dr. Reverend J. Lawrence Turner is the Founder of the Black Clergy Collaborative of Memphis (BCCM) and Senior Pastor of Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church (DOC).
The predatory payday loan industry was born in East Tennessee 30 years ago.
His death knell has now been rung in West Tennessee by a group of black pastors and a philanthropic credit union determined to kill in that state for good financial debt bondage.
The Black Clergy Collaborative of Memphis (BCCM) and the HOPE Credit Union have launched a micro-credit program to combat both. With an initial fund of 100,000 US dollars, we want to help solve the short-term debt problems of the ailing Memphians and to establish good habits in financial management in the long term.
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We were dealing with the practice and politics of greed
Here’s how it works: someone in need of a small loan of up to $ 1,000 can be referred to HOPE by a participating church. The person gets instant access to half of the loan amount. The other half goes to a savings account and collects interest there.
As soon as the borrower has repaid half of the loan at an interest rate between 6 and 18%, the savings amount plus the accrued interest is available. The borrower is rewarded rather than gouged. HOPE also offers all program participants individual financial advice to move them towards tax solvency and security.
In contrast, loans that fall into the payday, auto title, or installment categories – also known as “small face loans” – are deliberately structured to do the opposite, charging up to 450% interest on loans offered by the working poor effectively entangled in the web of long-term debt.
The devastating spiders in the industry are successfully campaigning for federal and state governments to keep spinning on the grounds that people have the right to trap themselves.
So far they have prevailed.
In fact, Tennessee lawmakers recently passed industry-backed bill increasing fees on loans that are typically marketed to low-income customers.
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We intend to destroy their networks
Our $ 100,000 safety net loan program may not look like much compared to the power and influence of an industry that sucks out millions of troubled tennis fans every year. But it is a much-needed start, and we intend to grow it – across Shelby County and across the state.
Moral Memphis, we can do it because there are more of us than there are of them. Yes, Tennessee has the most predatory lenders in the country.
The industry’s roots go back to 1991 when the first national payday chain opened an office in Cleveland, Tennessee. So it’s no wonder.
Today, Shelby County has the most in the state – more than 230 storefronts, mostly located in the Black and Brown neighborhoods. But there are more than 2,000 churches in Memphis. Many of them serve poor and minority communities.
If we all become members of the BCCM and HOPE programs, we can offer those we serve an alternative to financial slavery at a time when it has never been so difficult to make ends meet.
In addition, the Memphis business community can join forces with us and help us grow the fund. More than 60% of Memphis’ residents are African American, and half of them have no or no bank account. They are the main targets of payday lenders.
Many are also employed by – and the customers – of local companies. If they are financially healthier, so will the Memphis economy.
Unless we get together and offer the Memphians one more option to live on the payday network, this cycle will get worse – and quickly. Tennessees lost their federal unemployment benefits earlier this summer.
On August 26, the Supreme Court rejected the Biden government’s eviction moratorium and paved the way for landlords to drive desperate tenants into the spider web just to keep a roof over their heads.
Our working poor deserve better. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that the weight of a crisis rests most on the shoulders of those who can least bear it. At the same time, it showed us that our most important workforce is the people we pay the least. The working poor of this city, this state and this country need our help by giving them access to credit that does not blind them.
Let’s create a city full of loan-and-savings sanctuaries instead of loan-and-slave storefronts.
Shelby County churches and businesses should contact the BCCM at [email protected] or 901.701-7842 extension. 901 to find out how to participate in our campaign.
We need to usher in a new era of fairness in lending and bury the payday industry in a nameless grave.
Dr. Reverend J. Lawrence Turner is the Founder of the Black Clergy Collaborative of Memphis (BCCM) and Senior Pastor of Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church (DOC).