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John Hope Bryant — From Civil Rights to ‘Silver Rights’

Operation Hope Founder, Chairman and CEO John Hope Bryant will be honored at the March 29 “Power Luncheon 2023,” hosted by


Recognized for community development and financial literacy efforts

Operation Hope Founder, Chairman and CEO John Hope Bryant will be honored at the March 29 “Power Luncheon 2023,” hosted by RISE Financial Pathways and its CEO Forescee Hogan-Rawls. Bryant will receive the group’s top award, the TrailBlazer Award, as RISE celebrates 30 years of community economic investment.

RISE (Reach. Invest. Succeed. Earn.), a nonprofit, serves communities within Los Angeles County, particularly South Los Angeles, a region that is suffering from some of the highest unemployment in Los Angeles County as well as the nation. The organization’s event, themed “RISE: The Reunion, The Resurgence!”  will also honor Business owners Bianca Vobecky, Brian Carr and Michael Banner.

A reception and silent auction will start the event at 11 a.m. at The City Club, 555 Flower St., downtown.

Bryant’s entrepreneurial journey began with the visit of a well-dressed banker to his elementary school in Compton, who informed the youth that he made loans to entrepreneurs. At that time, John did not know what an entrepreneur was but decided that he was going to be one.

From that day forward, Bryant has been involved in business. Starting his first venture, a neighborhood candy store, at the age of 10 with a modest $10 investment from his mother. The lifelong entrepreneur has built more than 40 organizations, entities and companies.

Through the nonprofit Operation Hope, Bryant, 57, envisions creating a whole new approach to community uplift, rooted in economic empowerment and combating financial illiteracy.

“The most dangerous person in the world is one with no hope,” Bryant is quoted as saying. “Business growth and success require innovation and creativity. Without them, you grow stagnant, stale, and eventually die.”

“Hope” is not actually the middle name given to Bryant at birth, but it became his nickname when Bryant worked with the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who noticed his positive attitude.

“He called me Mr. Hope,” Bryant said, noting the handle stuck, and it became a problem when plane reservations were made and his ticket and ID didn’t match. “For legal reasons, I changed it about 20 years ago.”

He started Operation Hope immediately following the Rodney King Riots. Since then, Operation Hope has grown from a Los Angeles entity to service more than 200 locations in 46 states across the nation.

“My goal is a thousand,” Bryant said. “We will become the Starbucks of financial inclusion and the Walmart of financial literacy.”

The organization has served more than 4 million individuals and directed more than $3 billion in economic activity into disenfranchised communities. The goals: Turning check-cashing customers into banking customers; renters into homeowners; small business dreamers into small business owners; and minimum wage workers into living wage consumers.

Bryant has received many posts and honors, including becoming a founding member of President Barack Obama’s Advisory Council For Financial Capability For Young Americans.

In his Facebook Live podcast “Straight Talk with John Hope Bryant,” he actively promotes the “Silver Rights” movement — advancing from the Civil Rights movement. The post has received more than 40 million viewers tuning into the discussions on financial inclusion and social uplift.

On March 16, Bryant was presented with a resolution in the Georgia House chamber. State Representatives applauded him for his ongoing efforts to empower underserved communities through financial literacy and other programs to help build generational wealth.

Operation Hope and Bryant are a permanent part of the Smithsonian African American Museum in DC.

He thanks his early mentors for getting him started years ago, namely the Rev. Dr. Cecil Murray and Bishop Charles E. Blake, Sr., for their assistance and protection as he was starting off at the tender age of 26. Bryant calls them protectors because they shielded him from some politicians who felt his efforts were a distraction and irritant in the city.

“They are the reason I actually felt confident in founding Operation Hope in 1992,” Bryant said. “I was trying to figure out how to help. The problem was, I was not a politician.”

Days after the riots, while the religious leaders met with then-Mayor Tom Bradley, Peter Uberroth, and others from L.A.’s “who’s who” list, Bryant felt he didn’t fit in. Murray reminded him of the difference.

“‘But you’re a capitalist. You’re a businessman,’ he told me,” Bryant remembers. “‘You can do something. This is what you do — take your business deals and put them to use for our communities.’”

Bryant then organized a bankers bus tour the next week through South Central LA. Afterward, the group met to discuss what they saw and what they could offer for help. One of the stops was at Handler Pharmacy.

“We stood on that rubble,” he remembers. “I figured if everybody chipped in a little bit. They rebuilt that pharmacy. While others were talking, we would be building. It’s a ‘Ph DO focus, with PhD success.”

Some local politicians thought his actions rash and were especially miffed when Operation Hope became national and then international.

“They thought this effort would fold up and fall away, but we are the largest nonprofit of its kind in America today,” he said.

Bryant’s actions about doing things have earned him the Robert A. McNeely Trailblazer award at the RISE event. The award was named after one of the organization’s cofounders, who educated local banks on how they could invest in the community and profit at the same time.

“He persevered,” RISE CEO Forescee Hogan Rawls said of McNeely. “He was one of the few high-level Black executives in the banking community.”

McNeely was a leader in the enforcement of the Community Reinvestment Act of 1978, a federal law that had not been properly implemented in low income communities. The act was designed to get banks to invest profits in the communities they served. He and then-Mayor Tom Bradley were determined to make that act work in LA and have banks serve the unmet needs in the city.

“John Bryant exemplifies those characteristics of perseverance, determination, trailblazing work and sort of going where no one else has gone before,” Hogan-Rowles said.

Operation Hope coaches across the nation are assisting communities with strategic programming and financial literacy.

“We’re really proud of the work he’s done,” Hogan-Rowles said of Bryant. Both RISE and the operation were founded following the 1992 riots. “We both came out of the ashes. We’re old comrades.”

Over the years, Bryant has been honored by five US Presidents from both political parties and both races.

“I’m not a republican or democrat,” he said. “I’m a capitalist. My blood is not black or white, it’s green.”

Yes, Bryant is proud to be a capitalist and of having partnerships with banks across the country. And there are a number of capitalists who feel proud of their work with Operation Hope.

“Some of the biggest CEOs in the country have come to start calling me the conscience on capitalism,” Bryant said. “I think that’s really cool. That plus me being reasonably comfortable in my own skin, are two of my greatest accomplishments. Having them call me the ‘conscience on capitalism’ is akin to me of a Nobel Peace prize.”

Since the pandemic, Operation Hope has partnered with banks to add 165,000 plus new Black businesses in the country. That’s approximately 5% of all Black businesses in America.

Bryant believes his mission is to make capitalism work for all of God’s children and he works to mentor others, both formally and informally, so that work will spread.

“I am God’s child, who took an idea and grew it from nothing,” Bryant said. “That’s who I think I am.”

In his Facebook Live podcast “Straight Talk with John Hope Bryant,” he actively promotes the “Silver Rights” movement — advancing from the Civil Rights movement. The post has received more than 40 million viewers tuning into the discussions on financial inclusion and social uplift.

Next week’s RISE event will raise financial support to assist in pursuing its mission, providing micro-business entrepreneurship opportunities, access to capital and financial education to underserved communities throughout Los Angeles County.

RISE’s unique programming has withstood the test of time, serving 67% women and 96% African-American and Latino populations. Since its founding in 1992, RISE Financial Pathways (formerly Los Angeles Community Reinvestment Committee dba Community Financial Resource Center (CFRC)) has served over 108,000 local residents and delivered over $10.4 Million in micro and small business loans.

For more information on the luncheon, visit