This week, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, November 11, 1918–commonly called Armistice Day, when troops lay down the weapons.
It reminded me of a woman I once knew, the late Armistice Powell. Like many people, I was puzzled when I first heard her name. I soon learned she had been born on November 11, 1918–fittingly, her parents named her Armistice.
I met Ms. Powell in her capacity as a board member of the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions, which I joined as staff in October 1980. Ms. Powell could be intimidating. She was a no-nonsense African-American woman from a tough part of Oakland, California. What brought her to the federation was this.
For years, unwillingly, banks were a prime outlet for the distribution of Food Stamps–this during the days when this food assistance actually came in paper form, decades before Electronic Benefit Transfer. Around the first of every month, she saw the lines stretching out from bank branches into the parking lot. She decided that people deserved more dignified, respectful treatment. And she organized the East Oakland Credit Union to serve the needs of the people unloved by the banks.
The credit union was small, and like many, struggled to survive–ultimately, unsuccessfully. But her determination to make a difference in people’s lives has always stayed with me. It was the driving force of community development credit unions–CDCUs–the movement to which I devoted my career.