“Thank you very much for suing us. Keep that advocacy going.”
By Madison D'Ornellas,
Digital Communications Associate
More than 150 people gathered beneath the beautiful evening sky of Downtown Los Angeles on Thursday, Nov. 2 for Rise Economy’s annual Equitable Futures Awards — a celebration that offers advocates, bankers and allies an opportunity to network, connect and celebrate the work of three stellar difference-makers.
The Equitable Futures Awards recognize community leaders who are working to create a more just and sustainable economy in California. The event is held twice each year: first in the spring in Northern California and again in the fall in Southern California.
“This evening is a testament to the power of fearless and radical collaboration between advocates, the banking industry and elected officials,” said Rise Economy CEO Paulina Gonzalez-Brito to open the award ceremony portion of the night. “It serves as a vivid reminder that when we work together, we have the capacity to construct a fair and inclusive economy that serves all, not just a fortunate few.”
This year’s Southern California Alan Fisher Award honoree was long-time consumer financial protection juggernaut Grady B. Hedgespeth who delivered a touching speech while wearing his father’s favorite tie. He dedicated the award to his father and wife, which moved the crowd to tears and supportive hums.
“This is more than a movement,” said Hedgespeth, who urged the realization of the Section 1071 rule and advocated for data transparency as a vital tool in the fight against lending discrimination. “This is an intergenerational cause and work that we can all commit ourselves to.”
Hedgespeth, who served during the Trump Administration, added: “Thank you very much for suing us. Keep that advocacy going.”
The Alan Fisher Economic Justice Award is the highest honor given by Rise Economy to an individual who has demonstrated a lifetime of advocacy work that embodies the justice-forward spirit of Alan Fisher, Rise Economy’s founding executive director.
This year’s SoCal Equitable Futures Awards honorees were Assembly Majority Leader Isaac Bryan (CA-55) and the Esperanza Community Housing Corporation, a South Central-based nonprofit working to prevent displacement of low-income Californians.
Rabeya Sen, Director of Policy at Esperanza Community Housing spoke on the harsh realities of marginalized communities having to choose between “our homes or are health…our jobs or our health” in particularly poor environmental areas in Los Angeles County like South LA and the Wilmington district.
The speech was particularly salient as the event was held at Far Bar, a Little Tokyo landmark building that holds 16 affordable housing units, eight of which are units of permanent supportive housing for formerly homeless individuals.
“The communities most impacted by such systemic inequities are low-income communities of color whose lives, health and wellbeing have been devalued in a country and in a world that is still unfortunately shaped by historic and current forces of imperialism, of settler colonialism, the genocide of indigenous people, and anti-Black racism,” Sen said.
Asm. Bryan, whose remarks pointed to the need for investment in broadband and social services in Los Angeles’ marginalized communities said, “We’ve invested billions in broadband equity, but when the maps came out from the PUC [California Public Utilities Commission] South LA was prioritized after Beverly Hills. We have to raise the floor because when we live from the bottom we all rise, right? And we need to all rise because if California is going to lead the country…then we’ve got to make sure everybody has an opportunity to benefit from this economy.”
The 2023 Southern California Equitable Futures Awards were sponsored by BMO Harris, US Bank, Flagstar Bank, City National Bank, Cathay Bank, Mechanics Bank, East West Bank, PNC Bank, Banc of California, CCEDA, California Bank & Trust, Pacific Premier, Western Law Center on Law and Poverty, Clearinghouse CDFI, and Momentus Capital.