b&b195 Building wealth for African Americans in the Pacific Northwest w/ Cat Goughnour of Prosperity Now

Cat Goughnour is the Senior Program Manager at Prosperity Now. She runs the African American Financial Capability Initiative, working to build innovative pilots to increase financial stability and bridge racial wealth gaps in five states in the Northwest. In addition to being a certified Community Health Worker, racial justice facilitator, published researcher and staunch advocate for the underserved and excluded, Cat has been recognized for affordable housing and human rights advocacy for her work on the gentrification-mitigating Right 2 Root Campaign.

She works in the Northwest where these communities tend to be smaller and newer, and therefor organizations that help them need to offer all the services they need instead of a specialized part–something which deters many would-be helpers.

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Music featured in this episode:
Take One by Press Lee
Be The Change by Masta X-Kid
#CollectiveGraves by Tory North

Episode Highlights:

Cat Goughnour: Disparities are pretty similar across the United States for African Americans as well as other communities of color, but what we also know is the institutions are a bit newer in the north, we also know that many of them are full service organizations because of the multi-systemic issues African Americans face, and so I wouldn’t say the disparities are different but the communities are also much smaller and the infrastructure in those states is smaller, so this initiative really works to help build the capacity of those institutions to work collectively. And they are Black led Black serving organizations. To really come together in a collective impact strategy, to almost create a stronger safety net for African Americans who have been clients or are clients through their non-profits.

Cat Goughnour: The first year of this three year initiative was research and development. Really trying to understand the needs of the client from the client’s perspective.

Cat Goughnour: Financial capability traditionally focuses a bit more on individual well-being, and we know African Americans are a collectivist communitarian people, and so a lot of us rely on each other for support, and resources, and the human and social capital. So really understanding how do we preserve and support the development of culture as an asset, and not necessarily forcing people to assimilate into a financial model that might not serve them properly, but then also how do we make the landscape more supportive of communities as they’re trying to grow neighborhoods?

Cat Goughnour: People are really hungry for solutions given all that’s going on in this country, and I’m just so proud of these groups for being on the forefront of solution making.

Cat Goughnour: Oregon has a different history than many states. It’s the only state in the union admitted with a racial exclusion clause in it’s state constitution, and it prohibited African American and mulattoes from coming and entering into contract or owning land…they rewrote the constitution in 2000.

Cat Goughnour: The people closest to the problem are closest to the solution.

Cat Goughnour: Wealth is something that’s accumulated over lifetimes…The notion of inheritance is interesting when you start looking back, specifically for African Americans to 250 years of enslavement, another 100 years of sharecropping that people–property–couldn’t hold property, so it’s difficult also to own patents on ideas…We’re people who kind of have a deficit attached to us because of the way we became United States Americans.

Cat Goughnour: Our purchasing power is $1.2 trillion, that there are 42 million African Americans. What would that money look like if it circled in our communities longer than the 6 hours they claim it does? If we were able to kind of make a bit of a circular economy while also participating in markets.

Pam: 80% of teachers don’t feel comfortable with their own finances and don’t feel comfortable with that content…If you’re expecting people to teach it, make sure they’re also feeling financially confident.