January 15th, 2007 05:26 EST
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson today marked Martin Luther King, Jr
WASHINGTON - Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson today marked Martin Luther King, Jr. Day by delivering the keynote address at the John Wesley A.M.E Zion Church's ninth annual MLK, Jr. Drum Major Awards Breakfast in Washington, DC. Jackson discussed his personal involvement in the Civil Rights Movement, recognized Dr. King's impact on HUD's mission of equal opportunity in housing, and said King's actions "helped America acknowledge its shameful past, and opened a door for a brighter future."
"Dr. King and the other great leaders knew the values they stood for. They knew those values would be just empty ideals unless somebody was willing to suffer for them. These leaders rose to prominence through hard work and a sense of purpose, and they got results because their cause was just," said Jackson, who at a young age participated in voter registration drives with Dr. King and marched across the Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama - an event that is famously known as "Bloody Sunday."
Speaking to more than 120 members of the church congregation, the Secretary highlighted President Bush's call to close the minority homeownership gap over eight years and create 5.5 million new minority homeowners by 2010. The Census Bureau reports that halfway through that eight-year period, half the goal has been achieved, with more than 2.6 million minority families already taking out a mortgage on a new home, and minority homeownership increasing to 51 percent.
"Owning a home is the surest path we have toward self-sufficiency. If more black Americans put their money toward homes and other lasting assets, we would see a
renaissance among our brothers and sisters in the black community... Homeownership might not be a good idea in every situation. But as I travel throughout the country, I have seen its positive effects. I see that families who own their own homes tend to have greater stability; they tend to be more involved in their neighborhoods and churches. And their children tend to do better in school," added Jackson.
In addition to inspiring civic responsibility, homeownership offers children a stable environment that influences their development in measurable ways. According to a Harvard University study, children of homeowners:
- Score 9 percent higher in math;
- Score 7 percent higher in reading;
- Are 13 percent more likely to graduate high school; and
- Have a 5 percent lower teenage pregnancy rate
The Secretary also noted that Dr. King's dreams of equality and justice are deeply woven into HUD's history and ongoing work, specifically the Department's fair housing and faith-based programs.
"Just one week after Dr. King's assassination, Congress passed the landmark Fair Housing Act, which continues to be one of the cornerstones of our shared dream. Today, our programs further the goals of Dr. King by providing safe, decent, and affordable housing free from discrimination," said Jackson.
"In addition to Fair Housing, I also want to share with you a HUD program that works to help churches like this one continue its mission. HUD has awarded $258 million dollars to faith-based organizations last year, and there are more funds to come. No other federal agency comes close to the percentage of competitive grants that we distribute to faith-based groups," Jackson concluded.
The Department is in the process of streamlining its faith-based grant-application process. To encourage more groups to apply, he said HUD's Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives is training grass-roots organizations about the grant-writing process. Over the last three years, HUD has taught more than 30,000 people how to compete for public and private grant dollars.
HUD No. 07-003