During February 2022’s Foundation Dinner, the African-American Credit Union Coalition (AACUC) will receive the prestigious Anchor Award. This rare accolade stands apart from the Herb Wegner Memorial Awards and is given by the Foundation Board of Directors to individuals and organizations that have shown incredible leadership through moments of great adversity.
As the nation reeled from George Floyd’s murder and saw the revitalization of the Black Lives Matter civil rights movement; in the middle of a pandemic impacting communities of color, women and young people at a disproportional rate; with political division reaching boiling point – the AACUC was a unifier.
Their international vision and system-wide leadership over the past few years anchored the credit union movement to its true purpose, at a time when everything was in flux.
AACUC has been able to rally and align industry and political leaders, creating a forum for uncomfortable but necessary conversation, and influencing strategies to make real change happen.
Perhaps the change with the deepest legacy was the adoption of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) as the eighth cooperative principle. First suggested by Maurice Smith (himself an Herb Wegner Memorial Award recipient) the cause was driven over the line through the AACUC.
Establishing DEI as a core principle of the credit union movement was the keystone for the AACUC’s Commitment to Change Credit Unions Unite Against Racism initiative. The Commitment to Change initiative inspired the DEI Collective to create a pledge in support it has been signed by credit unions, leagues, associations and system partners alike – places an unflinching eye on the systems and processes that negatively impact people of color, and compels industry leaders to eradicate them.
“There is no other industry that serves people as passionately as ours,” said Renée Sattiewhite, AACUC president/CEO, announcing the program in June 2020.
“I am convinced more now than ever that the credit union industry can lead the nation in eliminating racial discrimination. Credit union people do not have all the answers, but as practitioners of financial institutions we have a commodity that everyone needs. Our Cooperative Principles, Credit Union Motto (Not for Profit, not for charity, but for service) and the Credit Union Philosophy of ‘People helping people,’ provide the agreed upon tenets to help us eradicate racism.”
AACUC’s leadership in fighting racial inequality is not new. Since their inception in 1999, they have laid the groundwork (and compelled those around them to walk across it) for a deeper understanding of the nation’s diverse populations, greater investment in meeting those needs, and assurances that there will be opportunities for people from those communities to be successful in the credit union system.
“We believe getting people to talk about difficult subjects is an important part of moving forward as a community and a nation,” said Renee.
“We not only need to see things from a different perspective, but we also need to engage at a personal level. That means we need to encourage asking tough questions, accepting frank answers, and developing empathy for alternate points of view — on both or multiple sides of the debate.”
Congratulations to the African-American Credit Union Coalition.