YMI Cultural Center will host “Communities of Color” Town Hall Forum focused on Exclusionary Housing

YMI Cultural Center will host “Communities of Color” Town Hall Forum focused on Exclusionary Housing, The Unbanked and Underbanked.

A “Communities of Color” Town Hall Forum held at the YMI Cultural Center in recognition of Black History Month will emphasize extra territorial jurisdictions – ETJ’s (unbounded lands and communities) that exist throughout the State of North Carolina from its report entitled “The Inclusion Project.” This report, authored by UNC Chapel Hill’s Civil Rights Center, takes a statewide perspective of areas where ETJ’s exist and are areas where one can commonly find the Unbanked or Underbanked. The Town Hall Forum will place a closer lens on ETJ’s that exist in the City of Asheville and Buncombe County. The panel will also discuss the federally funded Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8) recently adopted by Asheville’s Housing Authority drawing correlates between stable, affordable and reasonable housing as method of promoting self-empowerment, reliance, and making more socially responsible decisions about one’s future in the economic majority.

The FDIC 2013 National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked revealed an alarming pattern among this population, including characteristics and reasons for this troubling trend. The Survey also shows that one of the root cause of being Unbanked or Underbanked is related to certain populations not having sufficient understanding of or lack of confidence in banking products; and cited a need for financial institutions to take more proactive measures to educate consumers about financial products and services such that more informed and reasonable decisions could be made to participate responsibly in the financial mainstream. The Underbanked/Unbanked population represents a $65 Billion dollar industry for subprime lenders, check cashing outlets and others who prey on those who do not participate in the economic mainstream. Research shows, however, that low-income families do want to save money and if offered bank accounts are more likely to make positive gains not only in savings but also establishing a positive net worth.

Mr. Rodrick Banks, Senior Vice President of Community Banking, Wells Fargo, one of the five panelists for the forum noted “We are proud to support the YMI Cultural Center and their focus on housing and financial education. Investing in our communities is one of the most important things we can do as a company. At Wells Fargo, we believe that we’re responsible for promoting the long-term economic prosperity and quality of life for everyone in our communities. If they prosper, so do we.”

Dr. Dwight Mullen and Dr. Gwendolyn Whitfield of UNC Asheville will share the social, political and economic impacts on the community as result of exclusionary housing, the Unbanked/Underbanked and underscore the need for immediate and comprehensive community action. Mr. Mark Dorosin, Managing Attorney at UNC Chapel’s Civil Rights Center where “The Inclusion Project” was researched and authored will share GIS mapping data which documents the legacy of segregated communities in North Carolina. Mr. Gene Bell, CEO of Asheville’s Housing Authority will share the upside of the Section 8 Program and its ability to offer low income residents their own choices about where to live and how this has and will continue to impact the City of Asheville. Mr. Rodrick Banks, Community Investment Banker from Wells Fargo will share insights about the bank’s “Hands-On Banking” program and other financial literacy products. The Communities of Color Town Hall Forum will be moderated by UNC Asheville’s Dr. Darin Waters, Associate Professor History.

Of this Town Hall Forum, Sharon West, Board Chair of the YMI Cultural Center notes “Over 50 years ago, the YMI introduced its first tag line – ‘The Gathering Place.’ This name was appropriate in that it reinforced the YMI's role as a safe place for all to come together to share, to discuss, to take action, to encourage, to affirm. This tagline remains true today. The YMI Cultural Center is pleased to host the Communities of Color Conference: Exclusionary Housing, the Unbanked and Underbanked" Town Hall Forum? This is a topic of great interest to all and should prove to be the catalyst in leveraging change in the lives of the unbanked and underbanked community.

While raising awareness of housing and banking, the YMI Cultural Center will work with its partners to host workshops to help those who are excluded obtain free, no to low minimum balance checking accounts, financial literacy programs, credit repair, health & wellness, and the like. These programs will complement UNC Asheville’s IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program which offers free tax preparation on site at the YMI Cultural Center during tax season. The IRS VITA Program offers federal and state tax preparation assistance at no cost to those who make $50,000 or less. This program host’s tax assistance annually at the Housing Authority of the City of Asheville’s Central Office, the Pack Library and the YMI Cultural Center and has been an invaluable asset since its inception. UNC

The Communities of Color Town Hall Forum will be held at the YMI Cultural Center on February 26, 2015 from 6:00 PM – 8:30 PM. A small reception will be hosted for participants following the event. The event is being sponsored by the YMI in partnership with Wells Fargo, Mission Health, UNC Asheville and the Asheville Chapter of the Links, Incorporated.

To RSVP or for more information, please contact Annie Burton at 828.620.6502.