Muhammad Yungai’s “We Shall Always March Ahead” mural is displayed on the side of the Privado Grooming Barbershop in Atlanta’s Vine City neighborhood.
Raymond Boyd | Michael Ochs Archives | Getty Images
Legendary civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. grew up and preached in Atlanta’s former Fourth Ward.
Soon, this neighborhood will also be the site of a new Guaranteed Income Experience named in his honor.
The program is expected to provide more than $13 million in transfers over the next two years to 650 black women in this neighborhood and other suburban and rural areas of Georgia.
Its name – In Her Hands – was inspired by a quote from King.
In a 1967 speech, “Where do we go from here?” given in Atlanta, King said: “The dignity of the individual will flourish when the decisions concerning his life are in his hands, when he has the assurance that his income is stable and certain, and when he knows that he has the wherewithal to seek improvement.”
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In Her Hands is the result of a task force including local community leaders, including Pastor John Vaughn, executive pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King once co-pastored alongside his father. and where his funeral took place, following his assassination in April. 1968.
When the task force was formed two years ago, it wasn’t clear that guaranteed income would be a recommendation from participating community leaders, said Hope Wollensack, executive director of the Georgia Resilience and Opportunity (GRO) Fund, which has partnered with non-profit organization GiveDirectly to launch the initiative.
Since then, however, monthly child tax credit payments and stimulus checks have helped change the conversation about direct income, Wollensack said. In addition, the task force recommendation was clear about the potential benefits of this type of financial assistance.
“Not only does this put money in the hands of women, but greater agency and choice in the hands of women and their families,” Wollensack said.
Guaranteed income programs inspired by King’s legacy are on the rise.
Mayors for Guaranteed Income has over 60 participating cities across the country. It was founded in 2020 by Michael Tubbs, then Mayor of Stockton, who started the first program in that city.
Separate guaranteed income programs have also been set up to specifically target mothers, including the Magnolia Mother’s Trust in Jackson, Mississippi, and more recently, the Bridge Project in New York.
Magnolia Mother’s Trust is the only program to include only low-income black mothers. It provides $1,000 a month for 12 months to women living in federally subsidized housing in Jackson.
Results after the second cohort of beneficiaries revealed that mothers’ ability to pay their bills on time increased from 27% to 83%; those with emergency savings rose from 40% to 88%; and their ability to pay for food increased from 64% to 81%.
After Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is released from prison on a $2,000 appeal bond, he is greeted by his wife Coretta and children, Marty and Yoki, at Chamblee Airport, in Georgia.
Bettmann | Bettmann | Getty Images
Georgia’s new In Her Hands program plans to provide guaranteed income specifically to black women and study the impact of money on their lives.
Half of the 650 participants in the program are expected to receive an initial lump sum payment of $4,300, then $700 per month for 23 months. The other half will receive $850 per month for 24 months.
The program will begin in the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood of Atlanta and then expand to other predominantly black suburban and rural areas of Georgia.
The first payments should be made in the second quarter.
The distribution of the money will be handled by GiveDirectly, which has delivered money to recipients through programs in the United States and other countries. The non-profit organization is currently leading the world’s largest universal basic income experiment in Kenya.
“Our research supports the fact that when people have large lump sums, they use them to build assets or reduce debt,” said Sarah Moran, US country manager for GiveDirectly.
“When people have guaranteed recurring payments, they use it to reduce month-to-month revenue volatility,” Moran said.
Erica Brown, 41, of Jackson, has been receiving monthly checks through Magnolia Mother’s Trust since last April and said the monthly income was a blessing. The extra money allowed him to quit his second job as a security guard at a hospital, giving him more time with his children, aged 20 and 5. She was also able to pay all her bills and accumulate savings, which she says will still be there at the end of the program.
A key measure of the success of the In Her Hands program will be whether it helps reduce poverty among black women in Georgia.
Black women in the state are twice as likely to live in poverty as white women, according to a 2019 report from the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute. Yet black women participated in the state labor force at higher rates than white women for centuries, due to bonded labor and sharecropping, the research found.
The stakes are high because the In Her Hands program works both to help change the legacy poverty issues that black women face and to live up to King’s legacy of fighting for justice, Wollensack said. .
“I think it was really in many ways like Dr. King was watching,” Wollensack said. “What choices are we going to make and who are we going to make and how are we going to live up to our values?”