WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com)- During a Sept. 25 press conference at the Renaissance Hotel, Rev. Dr. Charles E. Koen, director of the United Front Inc. (UFI) announced the “marriage” of the UFI Carpenter’s Training School and with the United Brotherhood of Carpenters (UBC) Union and an association of 62 community development banks.

The “marriage” is realized in the fact that the school and factory are union shops–every student who graduates enters the union–and the goal of building one million homes across the country in five years has the financial backing of the banks, Rev. Koen said.

In 1963, the Civil Rights Movement was building a relationship with the unions, Rev. Koen said, explaining that unions helped to finance the March on Washington through the efforts of Bayard Rustin of the A. Phillip Randolph Institute.


“But we did not have the kind of relationship that we now have through the United Brotherhood of Carpenters Union. We did not have a bank–Black or White–that was willing to work with (us). The word ‘community development’ was not even conceptually known at that point. Now, Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) banks are available to assist in redeveloping the urban and rural communities that are in need of development.”

Dr. Koen said the UFI school/factory concept of economic and community development complements the Congressional Black Caucus’ WOW (With Ownership, Wealth) Initiative, which has a goal of placing one million buyers in homes in five years.

Rev. Bevel, a chief organizer for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., reflected on Dr. King’s challenge to the nation to end oppression of Blacks and his discussion with WOW director Dayna Wilkinson.

“Ms. Dayna Wilkerson explained to us the infancy of the WOW program and how it had to grow to maturity. As she talked, I thought of Dr. King’s urgent request (for voting rights) and how that request very quickly grew into the Right to Vote Act, signed into law by (President Lyndon) Johnson on Aug. 6, 1965.

“Just as Dr. King’s cry for political freedom was soon joined by millions, so will the Congressional Black Caucus’ cry for economic freedom soon be joined by the whole nation, because our mission is still to right wrong, to do justice, and to serve man.”

Speaking on behalf of Earl J. Oliver, the UBC president, Richard Albrecht described the relationship as a “solid, solid foundation” for economic and community development and jobs in urban America.

“I’m here today to share the commitment of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters that we are unwaveringly going to support this program with the United Front, unwaveringly support the Congressional Black Caucus and the WOW program to put one million new first time homeowners in homes that carpenters will build in this great country of ours,” he said.

“We have pledged our commitment, our support, our financial ability to work with United Front to make this dream happen,” said Robert Klamp, CEO of the International Bank of Chicago. “We will take it across the country to the presidents, the owners and the chairmen of the other CDFIs. We will bring forward additional banks, we will bring forward the capital that is needed to make the reverend’s vision not only a reality, but prosperous throughout all our communities across the country,” he said.

-James Muhammad