Economic seminar focuses on building wealth; NAACP and NationsBank educate black investors


Charles and Silvine Dett of Woodlawn are not civil rights activists or NAACP members, but first thing yesterday they went to NAACP national headquarters ready for action.

They've repaired their credit rating and are ready to buy their first home.

They were two of about 100 Baltimore-area residents who gathered yesterday at the NAACP's Economic Empowerment Summit to learn about strengthening their financial lives through homeownership, personal investing and business loans.

The educational workshops, which are free, are part of a larger program organized by the civil rights organization and financial institutions to teach people the ins and outs of building personal wealth.

"I'm really trying to leave my family something," said Evelyn T. Beasley, a former principal in Baltimore and now a Realtor who wants to get into property investing. "This is another way of doing civil rights -- another way of marching, if you will."

Yesterday's summit -- which included a talk by city Comptroller Joan M. Pratt -- was the first such workshop sponsored by the Baltimore-based National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and NationsBank.

The two joined forces in 1992 to help make bank services more accessible to African-Americans. Yesterday's seminar went further than previous homeownership sessions to include other means of building personal wealth.

The two organizations also run seven other NAACP Community Development Resource Centers (CDRC) -- in Georgia, Florida, Virginia, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina and Indiana -- and have joined with the Small Business Administration and Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) to help minorities buy houses and build businesses.

According to data compiled by the National Urban League, the average white person has 12 times the net wealth of the average black person. Overall, blacks earn 62 cents for every dollar whites earn, yet blacks tend to pay higher interest rates on home loans.

"One of the reasons disparities exist between black communities and whites is lack of education and discrimination, and we address both of those through this program," said Jennine Auerbach, CDRC director.

Last year in Baltimore, the program helped small business owners get loans worth $400,000 and helped 45 new homeowners get $3.8 million in mortgages.

The Detts hope to include financing for their new home in this year's data. Although undecided on where to buy -- she wants the county, he likes the city -- the newlyweds are saving for a down payment on a home.

The CDRC helped Karen Hinton buy a condominium in Laurel in 1997, and she couldn't be happier.

"It's gorgeous," said Hinton, a social worker in Baltimore. "The difference between renting vs. owning is the freedom. I know that at the end of the year, I'm going to see some return on my investment."

Saying she is glad to see the NAACP addressing financial issues, she added, "Self-sufficiency is their mission; that's the struggle: doing for ourselves."

The CDRC's next session will focus on home-buying. The workshop will be held at at 9 a.m. Saturday at NAACP headquarters, 4805 Mount Hope Drive.

Pub Date: 2/28/99

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