WELCOME

Welcome to my dfree® blog. I hope these thoughts will help someone think new thoughts and take new actions toward their financial freedom. The proverb says that "the borrower is slave to the lender." (Proverbs 22:7) I have dedicated the rest of my life to helping people obtain spiritual and economic freedom.

Nonprofit works to help the Black community build long-lasting financial health

This article originally appeared here.

 

By age 32, Tamika Stembridge had conquered most of her career goals.

She had earned a law degree and an MBA, handled production and sourcing at a fashion house, worked in supply chain and human resources for a major corporation, and started an entertainment law practice. But she had higher ambitions.

When chatting about career ambitions with a woman she once mentored, Tamika shared her secret desire: “to be the president of Black people.” This wouldn’t be an elected position. It was simply someone who could improve the lives of individuals and groups in her racial demographic. In this ideal role, Tamika said she would use her education and experience to “help people better navigate the world knowing what I know about the systems, but at the same time, help to change the systems that exist.”

She would “represent, advocate for, and advance critical efforts for Black people” while paying heed to the unique struggles, history, and culture, she says.

One month after that conversation, Tamika got a chance to test her vision. She was offered an opportunity to work with dfree® Global Foundation, a nonprofit that fosters financial empowerment in the Black community.

Today, as executive director, Tamika fights for the economic prosperity of a population that has historically experienced higher unemployment rates, lower incomes, and less savings than their white counterparts.

“We have to understand the generational disadvantages that make the achievement of wealth more difficult for African Americans,” Tamika says.

“We have to acknowledge the historic and systemic barriers that arose with slavery and mutated into webs of discriminatory practices that we experience even today,” she says. “But at the same time, because nobody’s coming to save us, clearly, we have to take some level of personal accountability and responsibility to do things better.”

The organization uses a 12-step training program based on the premise of “no debt, no deficits, no delinquencies.” It helps participants eradicate negative actions and thinking patterns and instead take proactive steps to build wealth. Created by Rev. Dr. DeForest “Buster” Soaries in 2005, the faith-based program uses biblical principles to share lessons in areas such as budgeting, savings, investing, and giving.

Dr. Soaries’ premise is “debt is a form of slavery,” says Tamika, who as a child would sit in the church pew with her grandmother as he preached. He initially launched dfree® to help his Baptist church and parishioners in Somerset, N.J., free themselves from debt. In addition to focusing on the personal finance tools typically offered by banks and other institutions, he tapped into the emotional, cultural, and behavioral aspects of money management. Dr. Soaries encourages participants to examine the psychological reasons behind their spending and stresses the importance of creating a healthy mindset to break the habit of instant gratification.

The program, taught through both readings and classes, is distributed by churches, community groups, service organizations, and employers. More than 4,000 organizations have been trained in the dfree® method. In addition, dfree® shares course lectures digitally via the dfree® Online Academy.

Priscilla Rose discovered dfree® through her church in Vallejo, Calif. She has curtailed spending, increased her savings by $1,300, paid off $1,500 on her credit cards, and addressed other debt.

In 2012, dfree® launched its Billion Dollar Challenge to reduce $1 billion in Black consumer debt to achieve financial freedom. It provides tools and tips and aggregates the progress of users. To date, more than 10,000 participants have collectively paid off nearly $26 million in debt.

Tanetha Johnson joined the Billion Dollar Challenge in May 2019. Sixteen months later, she had paid down about $20,000 of her $25,000 credit card debt.

Now that she’s eliminated a big chunk of debt, she has a new goal: saving money to buy a beach house.

The challenge and dfree® program “gave me a different vision of what I can accomplish if I set my mind to it,” she says.

For participants of dfree®, doing things better not only means getting individual finances in order. It also means giving to others, helping the community, and supporting equality for all. The lessons taught by dfree® apply to anyone, but its focus is the Black community.

“We can’t undo what’s been done to us historically, but there are systems that have to change,” Tamika says. “We encourage people to vote. We encourage you, when you become more financially able, to give to causes and organizations that advocate on your behalf.”

The organization began with in-person meetings and has expanded to include a broad digital network comprised of a blog, e-newsletter, e-magazine, a podcast, and webinars. Once the coronavirus crisis took root in the United States, dfree® leaned on those channels heavily to keep its participants engaged and informed. In April, dfree® launched webinars on topics such as managing a budget, and managing stress, during COVID-19. More than 3,000 people registered for the first set of webinars, Tamika says. Since then, hundreds of people have continued to tune in each week.

The organization also worked with the #GiveTogetherNow campaign to disburse $500 cash payments to individual households hit hardest financially by the pandemic. The #GiveTogetherNow effort was spearheaded by Stand Together, which supports dfree® with funding and business management coaching, and the Family Independence Initiative.

For this campaign, dfree® identified 70 recipients in its network, and that process was incredibly eye-opening, Tamika says. The majority of dfree®’s community is in the middle-income bracket, so she was surprised to find so many struggling families. It made her realize that education and an individual’s best efforts sometimes aren’t enough to overcome hardship.

“Even with the best financial information, the best intentions, and the understanding of where your heart needs to be to manage your money well, there are some instances where knowing is not enough and there is a true financial need,” she says.

The spread of COVID-19 and the new focus on racial inequality in America have made Tamika even more aware of the need to foster change.

“We’re at a point in time where everything dfree® stands for is coming to a head,” she says. “We have racial and social injustice happening. We have the financial implications of COVID-19. When you talk about being built and prepared for a time, I think dfree® really stands at the crossroads of both of those things.”

In turn, dfree® will continue to double down on its efforts. “Our work is so essential to what it’s going to take to rebuild the country.”

The group hosted an all-digital conference in July titled “From Crisis to Clarity,” where leaders in the Black community discussed potential strategies and solutions for dealing with the spate of recent challenges. The organization will keep the advice coming. It’s “In the Black” webinar series will focus the rest of the year on helping its community navigate “what we’ve come to accept as our new normal,” Tamika says.

“As a community, we can’t fund change if we don’t have our personal financial houses in order,” Tamika says. “It’s why we work so hard to help individuals, families, and organizations to achieve financial stability — the well-being of our overall communities depends on it.”

 

dfree®’s Billion Dollar Challenge Helps Users Pay Off More Than $25 Million of Debt

Dr. DeForest B. Soaries, Jr., former New Jersey Secretary of State and founder of the dfree® Financial Freedom Movement, announced that its Billion Dollar Challenge money management tool has aided more than 10,000 African Americans pay off $25,663,715 of consumer debt. The Billion Dollar Challenge is the lead marketing initiative of the dfree® Movement to help people pay off consumer debt in an effort to transfer those payments to build insurance, investments and savings. The organization plans to hit the $27 million debt pay down mark by the end of 2020.“We are on a critical mission. It doesn’t make any sense to talk about closing the racial wealth gap or building wealth without focusing on the need to reduce consumer debt,” said Soaries, who has written books and given speeches about how he overcame his own struggles with paycheck-to-paycheck living. “Getting out of debt is the first step to achieving financial freedom. If we shift $1 billion of debt payments to savings, investments and insurance, we can create over $10 billion in wealth.”

At this point in history, it’s never been more crucial for Black Americans to have a strategy to progress as a people. To have true social justice and equality, healthy economics must precede. The Billion Dollar Challenge at its core basic level is an online tool that is used to help people manage their debts, make plans to pay them off using online calculators and planning tools as well as build our savings to establish a more positive financial position.

“The last few months have made it abundantly clear that we must control our own narrative,” said Soaries, who has worked on civil rights issues for the Urban League as a community organizer and Operation PUSH as the national coordinator. “Until we control what’s ours – our communities, our politics, our economics – we’ll never be truly free. dfree® is armed to combat social reform on behalf of Black people because real social justice is impossible without economic empowerment!”

A perfect way to introduce an economic conversation with its group functionalities, the dfree® Billion Dollar Challenge is used by Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., National Baptist Convention of America, Prudential’s Black Leadership Forum, the National Association of Real Estate Brokers and other national organizations.  Recognized as a national initiative, members of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated have paid down more than $6 million of consumer debt.

“The work that we do and the partnership we have with dfree® is vital because we provide it to our communities and also adopt it ourselves,” said Carmen McClendon, Chair of Economic Development Subcommittee of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. “This is something we’re doing! We have nearly 200 chapters involved and have paid off more than $6 million in debt collectively.”

The free, confidential, easy-to-use tool helps users determine the date they will be out of debt, or they determine the date and the tool calculates payments to meet that goal. The Billion Dollar Challenge also works for savings the same way. On the site, users are able to create profiles and begin their debt/savings plan. From day one, users can begin tracking and monitoring their progress. As an incentive, dfree® has a rewards program that allows users the opportunity to get paid for paying down debt.

Featured by CNN’s Almighty Debt: A Black in America Special and iHeartMedia’s The Breakfast Club, dfree® has trained churches, community organizations, corporations and individuals to lead financially richer lives. dfree® is the premier financial freedom movement designed specifically for African Americans that focuses on cultural, spiritual and psychological spending influences. Through training, content, curriculum, tools and resources, dfree® offers solid strategy on how to become debt free and provides the blueprint to build legacy and secure a positive financial future. Celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, the dfree® movement has grown globally and is used by more than 4,000 churches and organizations, and 200,000 individuals.

Learn more and sign up for the Billion Dollar Challenge here.

 

Black Financial Freedom Movement Hosts Nearly 2,000 Attendees with Virtual

Backdate: July 30th, 2020

From Crisis to Clarity: Last week former New Jersey Secretary of State, Dr. DeForest B. Soaries, Jr., and the dfree® Financial Freedom hosted nearly 2,000 attendees for its first ever virtual conference to offer clarity to the multiple crises Black America has experienced over the last few months. Between COVID-19 and racial injustices, it has become evident that African Americans need real strategy and solutions to move forward as a culture, starting with financial progression.

The day kicked off with Dr. Soaries appearing on iHeartMedia’s The Breakfast Club to talk about the overall strategy and goals of dfree® and how we cannot carry on as a culture, “being woke and broke.” Celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, dfree® is the premier financial freedom movement designed specifically for African Americans that focuses on cultural, spiritual and psychological spending influences.

“Despite the fact that many are trying to pull us back, we still have opportunities and the dfree® Movement is about exposing, promoting and celebrating those opportunities,” stated Dr. Soaries in his opening address. He is the Founder and CEO of the dfree® Financial Freedom Movement.

Dr. DeForest B. Soaries, Jr.

With more than 32,000 event engagement activity of the virtual conference space in one day, attendees heard from speakers such as nationally-syndicated media personality Angela Yee, media mogul Tarik Brooks of Combs Enterprises-Revolt TV, Shane’ Harris, VP Social Responsibility & Partnerships and President of the Prudential Foundation, as well as Michellene Davis Esq., EVP & Chief Corporate Affairs Officer of RWJBarnabas Health on the collective progression of Black America.

We can’t ‘entrepreneur’ our way out of poverty,” stated Brooks, who is second-in-command to Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs. “We need to make sure we’re thinking about how impactful we can be with our votes and our dollar!”


Tarik Brooks, Chief Operating Officer

Combs Enterprises

Angela Yee stated: “If there’s anything we can take from this time, let’s figure out how we can make demands for ourselves in the future!”


Nationally-Syndicated Media Personality Angela Yee


Dr. Soaries on iHeartMedia’s The Breakfast Club

Systemic issues require systemic solutions,” said Shane’ Harris, VP Social Responsibility & Partnerships and President of the Prudential Foundation who spoke on the company’s stance on the state of Black America. Prudential Financial was the Title Sponsor of the event.


Shane’ Harris

VP Social Responsibility & Partnerships and President of the Prudential Foundation

“Everything we’re going through takes a toll on us but I am not tired yet,” stated EVP & Chief Corporate Affairs Officer of RWJBarnabas Health Michellene Davis Esq. “However, I am concerned for individuals who don’t feel empowered enough to be able to stand in a room of injustice.” RWJBarnabas Health was the Platinum Sponsor of the event.


Michellene Davis, Esq.

EVP & Chief Corporate Affairs Officer of RWJBarnabas Health

Attendees also got the opportunity to hear from representatives from all Divine 9 Greek organizations. The major takeaway was unification of the organizations to make bigger strides in our communities as it relates to financial wellness and progression for the culture as a whole.


Other features of the virtual conference included a testimonial panel of community leaders who have led the dfree® strategy within their respective areas, a pastors’ panel to discuss the role of the church as it relates to civil rights issues, virtual networking amongst attendees, and an expo room of dfree® partners including Prudential Financial, RWJBarnabas Health, National Association of Real Estate Brokers, and more!

“Thank you for hosting and bringing this conference to us. Though delivered online it was delivered seamlessly. Lots of great content and looking forward to being part of this discussion.” – Conference Attendee

“This is a powerful and dynamic conference. Thank you Pastor Soaries, Prudential, guest speakers and everyone who made this possible. To God Be the Glory!” – Conference Attendee

Through training, content, curriculum, tools and resources, dfree® offers solid strategy on how to become debt free and provides the blueprint to build legacy and secure a positive financial future. Attendees left the dfree® From Crisis to Clarity Virtual Conference with solid steps on how to either start or continue their journeys to financial freedom. On August 19-21, 2020, the organization will host free training for community groups and churches interested in launching dfree®.

dfree® also offers its free Billion Dollar Challenge as a tangible first step in getting finances under control. The Billion Dollar Challenge is a fun, easy-to-use, confidential money management tool. Through this tool alone, dfree® has aided more than 10,000 individuals in paying down more than $25 million of consumer debt with the goal being to transfer those funds to build savings, investments and insurance to truly obtain generational wealth and close the racial wealth gap.

Another solid tool for attendees to continue their strides toward financial wellness is the dfree® Academy, a free online version of the dfree® curriculum. To date, more than 7,000 people have taken the dfree® Academy which has resulted in true life transformation.

To learn more about the dfree® Financial Freedom Movement and its strategies, please visit mydfree.org.

 

 

Media Personality Angela Yee and Media Mogul Tarik Brooks Added to dfree® Conference Lineup of Featured Speakers

Media Contact:Jasmine Walden
908-370-5196
jwalden@mydfree.org

For Immediate Release

 

 

The Revolution will be Televised: Pioneer of Black Economic Empowerment Dr. DeForest B. Soaries, Jr. to be Joined by Media Mogul Tarik Brooks, Media Personality Angela Yee, Shane’ Harris of Prudential Financial and Michellene Davis, Esq. of RWJ Barnabas Health for Virtual Event to Bring Forth Strategy and Solutions for Financial Progression of African Americans, July 24-25

 

Sponsored by Prudential Financial and RWJ Barnabas Health, Free Virtual Event Promises to Give Black Community Blueprint for Social Justice and Economic Empowerment for Long-term Success

 

SOMERSET, NJ – July 20, 2020 – Black America has again reached the height of social injustice and police brutality in the constant battle for racial equality. When the protests and social chatter subsides, the Black community will need real strategy and solutions to collectively move forward and progress as a people. And so, former New Jersey Secretary of State and community development leader, Dr. DeForest B. Soaries, Jr. and the dfree® Financial Freedom Movement present the free, dfree®: From Crisis to Clarity Virtual Conference, July 24-25, to bring forth concrete strategy and solutions for the evolution of African Americans. Joined by nationally-syndicated media personality Angela Yee of The Breakfast Club and entertainment executive and second in command to Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs, Tarik Brooks, COO of the billion-dollar Combs Enterprises, the event will tackle the role of Black media as it relates to social justice and economic empowerment.

Soaries promises that attendees will leave this live virtual experience with solid steps for collective mobilization and individual action items to begin or continue their journeys toward financial freedom. Also joining the conversations will be Shane’ Harris, VP Social Responsibility & Partnerships and President of the Prudential Foundation, as well as Michellene Davis Esq., EVP & Chief Corporate Affairs Officer of RWJ Barnabas Health to discuss the stances their respective corporations have on the state of Black America. Both Prudential Financial and RWJ Barnabas Health serve as sponsors of the virtual event.

“Black America is experiencing a catharsis moment and we’ve got to move!” said Soaries, CEO and Founder of dfree®, who has worked on civil rights issues for the Urban League as a community organizer and Operation PUSH as the national coordinator. “These two national crises – COVID-19 and the continuation of racial injustices – that we’ve experienced over the last few months have made it abundantly clear that we must control our own narrative. Until we control what’s ours – our communities, our politics, our economics – we’ll never be truly free. dfree® is armed to combat social reform on behalf of Black people because real social justice is impossible without economic empowerment!”

The dfree® From Crisis to Clarity Virtual Conference will include power-packed panels and discussions featuring change agents in the Black community, solid steps for attendees to begin their journeys toward financial freedom including access to the free dfree® classes and curriculum, resources and tools to help attendees achieve their financial goals and more. The event will feature special guests from different sectors of the Black community including leadership from national fraternities and sororities, major corporations, pastors and clergy, as well as dfree® Members who have adopted dfree® principles into their lifestyles and have had major success.

Highlights include:

  • An intimate fireside chat with Angela Yee of iHeartMedia’s The Breakfast Club on Black women in business and entrepreneurship and how she’s been able to maximize financial opportunities and obtain multiple streams of income.
  • A conversation with Combs Enterprises’ Chief Operating Officer Tarik Brooks on the role of Black media as it relates to social justice and economic empowerment.
  • A roundtable discussion with representation from the Divine 9 Greek Organizations on the roles of their organizations in helping the community navigate this era of change.
  • Insight from Prudential’s Shane’ Harris, VP Social Responsibility & Partnerships, President, Prudential Foundation, on their stance for progression for the Black Community.
  • A look at how Robert Wood Johnson Barnabas Health is on the frontline of both national crises featuring Michellene Davis, Esq., EVP & Chief Corporate Affairs Officer
  • And more!

Attendees will also be able to chat live with the dfree® Team on activating curriculum and principles into their personalize lives, community groups and churches. dfree® Partners from across financial and lifestyle industries will be on hand in the virtual exhibition hall with tools and services to help attendees achieve their personal goals.

“We’ve been led to believe that knowing more makes us do better. But when it comes to finances, having a plan and sticking to it is what makes us do better. Knowledge is power, but knowledge without strategy is just acquired information,” continued Soaries. “We are on a critical mission to annihilate the wealth gap statistics that have been placed on us as a race. And, that’s just what we’re going to do.”

dfree® is the premier financial freedom movement designed specifically for African Americans that focuses on cultural, spiritual and psychological spending influences. Through training, content, curriculum, tools and resources, dfree® offers solid strategy on how to become debt free and provides the blueprint to build legacy and secure a positive financial future. Celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, the dfree® movement has grown globally and is used by more than 4,000 churches and organizations, and 200,000 individuals. The organization’s strategies are effective and proven. More than 6,000 people have taken the free online dfree® course which has resulted in true life transformation. Through the dfree® Billion Dollar Challenge alone, the organization has guided more than 10,000 African Americans to rid themselves of nearly $25 million of consumer debt.

Admission to the dfree® From Crisis to Clarity Virtual Conference is free. For more information to reserve tickets, please visit mydfree.org.

About the dfree® Financial Freedom Movement:

As the only faith-based, wealth-building system specifically designed with the black community in mind, dfree® delivers access to financial freedom. dfree® uses a variety of tools to educate, motivate and support people who make the choice to achieve and sustain financial freedom. Featured in CNN’s Almighty Debt: A Black in America Special, dfree® began as a faith-based initiative to help stem an epidemic of overspending, particularly in the African-American community. dfree® has grown into a movement that gives participants the: ability to handle their own financial responsibilities; willingness to help others do the same; and, capacity to leave assets for future generations.

In the tradition of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., dfree® also is a movement to help achieve economic justice in America. Rev. Dr. King once said, “We must never let it be said that we spend more for the evanescent and ephemeral than for the eternal values of freedom and justice.” dfree® emphasizes controlling money matters so that individuals have the freedom to focus on more purposeful pursuits.

About DeForest B. Soaries, Jr.

Rev. Dr. DeForest B. Soaries Jr. is known as an active agent for change and is a widely requested speaker. He is the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset, New Jersey, former chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and former New Jersey Secretary of State. His pastoral ministry focuses on spiritual growth, educational excellence, economic empowerment and faith-based community development. Soaries is the founder and CEO of the dfree® Global Foundation and author of several books including “Say Yes When Life Says No.” Soaries currently serves as an independent director at three companies: Independence Realty Trust, Federal Home Loan Bank of New York and Ocwen Financial Corporation.

 

 

 

dfree® to Host Virtual Conference July 24th to Bring Forth Tangible Strategy and Solutions for the State of Black America

Led by Black Economic Empowerment Leader Dr. DeForest B. Soaries, Jr., Event Will Yield Action for African Americans to Survive and Thrive in Light of Current Racial Injustices

SOMERSET, NJ – JUNE 22, 2020 – In already unprecedented times, the state of Black America has seen major turmoil in the last few months. Between two national crises, COVID-19 and the current horrific racial injustices, time has never been more crucial for real change. One thing that continues to become more obvious is that true help will not come from the outside; Black Americans must be the change they wish to see. Real social justice is impossible without economic empowerment. As a result, urban community development leader Dr. DeForest B. Soaries, Jr. and the dfree® Financial Freedom Movement will host a national virtual conference on July 24th, 2020 to bring forth tangible strategy and solutions for the progression of African Americans.“To advance in life, we need more than just goals, we need strategies,” said Soaries, CEO + Founder of dfree®, who has worked on civil rights issues for the Urban League as a community organizer and Operation PUSH as the national coordinator. “We’ve been led to believe that knowing more makes us do better. But when it comes to finances, having a plan and sticking to it is what makes us do better. Knowledge is power, but knowledge without strategy is just acquired information.”

As the premier financial freedom movement designed specifically for African Americans, dfree® focuses on cultural, spiritual and psychological spending influences. Through training, content, curriculum, tools and resources, dfree® offers solid strategy on how to become debt free, and then offers ways to build legacy and secure a positive financial future. Celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, the dfree® movement has grown globally and is used by more than 4,000 churches and organizations, and 200,000 individuals. Its strategies are tried and true. More than 6,000 people have taken the online dfree® course which has resulted in true life transformation. Through the dfree® Billion Dollar Challenge alone, the organization has guided more than 10,000 African Americans to rid themselves of nearly $25 million of consumer debt.

“We are on a critical mission to annihilate the wealth gap statistics that have been placed on us as a race,” continued Soaries, who also served as New Jersey’s first African American male Secretary of State. “We’re flipping the script and mobilizing the Black community. We are providing solutions and strategy beyond slogans and hashtags!”

Since the beginning of the April, dfree® has provided free webinars, resources and tools to help more than 3,500 attendees financially cope during the pandemic. To continue the momentum, the organization is hosting an all-day virtual event, “dfree® Conference – From Crisis to Clarity: A Cultural $hift,” that will include power-packed panels and discussions featuring change agents in the Black community, solid steps for attendees to begin their journeys toward financial freedom including access to the free dfree® classes and curriculum, resources and tools to help attendees achieve their financial goals and more!

“Financial freedom is Black power!” said Tamika Stembridge, Esq., Executive Director of dfree®. “We are leading our people to financial liberation, legacy creation and wealth building from the inside out! We are literally fighting for our future – the future of our families, the future of our communities, the future of our people. And, dfree® has the keys to a life of fulfillment, flexibility and freedom.”

There are two ticket types for the dfree® Conference, free admission and a $15 ticket which includes a digital download of a dfree®book. For more information and to reserve and purchase tickets, please visit mydfree.org.

About the dfree® Financial Freedom Movement:

As the only faith-based, wealth-building system specifically designed with the black community in mind, dfree® delivers access to financial freedom. dfree® uses a variety of tools to educate, motivate and support people who make the choice to achieve and sustain financial freedom.  Featured in CNN’s Almighty Debt: A Black in America Special, dfree® began as a faith-based initiative to help stem an epidemic of overspending, particularly in the African-American community. dfree® has grown into a movement that gives participants the: ability to handle their own financial responsibilities; willingness to help others do the same; and, capacity to leave assets for future generations.

In the tradition of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., dfree® also is a movement to help achieve economic justice in America. Rev. Dr. King once said, “We must never let it be said that we spend more for the evanescent and ephemeral than for the eternal values of freedom and justice.” dfree® emphasizes controlling money matters so that individuals have the freedom to focus on more purposeful pursuits.

About DeForest B. Soaries, Jr.

Rev. Dr. DeForest B. Soaries Jr. is known as an active agent for change and is a widely requested speaker. He is the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset, New Jersey, former chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and former New Jersey Secretary of State. His pastoral ministry focuses on spiritual growth, educational excellence, economic empowerment and faith-based community development. Soaries is the founder and CEO of the dfree® Global Foundation and author of several books including “Say Yes When Life Says No.” Soaries currently serves as an independent director at three companies: Independence Realty Trust, Federal Home Loan Bank of New York and Ocwen Financial Corporation.

MetroFocus: June 3, 2020

Why has the George Floyd incident inspired such a widespread response? Will this crisis end by bringing us closer together or tearing us further apart? And as we witness a massive lack of social distancing during these protests, will we see a corresponding recurrence of covid-19 as we prepare to reopen? Former New Jersey Secretary of State and Baptist pastor Deforest Soaries Jr. shares his perspective on the nationwide protests playing out against the backdrop of the pandemic.

A vaccine could be ready by Fall pending FDA approval. Will it be safe and effective? Will it be made readily available to everyone? And who’ll decide who gets priority access? And will there be treatments for everyone else? While there are currently no approved therapies, there is plenty of controversy and misinformation surrounding drug therapies and treatment. Tonight, a former FDA official named one of the 300 “most powerful people in American healthcare” by Modern Healthcare Magazine weighs in on our safety as the city readies to reopen for business.

Aired on June 3, 2020. Full video here

How to Keep Your Faith and Strive For Financial Freedom During Challenging Times

Reverend Dr. DeForest B. Soaries, Jr., the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens (FBCLG) in Somerset, New Jersey, and the former New Jersey Secretary of State, launched the Billion Dollar Challenge to create black wealth and to motivate the black communities to strive for financial freedom during unprecedented times.

Black Enterprise spoke with the leading activist to learn more about his efforts and to hear his tips for staying positive and encouraged to practice faith during trying times.

Black Enterprise: What kind of tips/advice have you shared with your parishioners for maintaining their faith and staying positive during quarantine?

Dr. Soaries: We have transitioned to a completely virtual church. Generally, here is the guidance we have offered:
Take this COVID-19 seriously. Don’t allow faith to be a substitute for good sense and common sense. Stay safe – wash hands, practice social distancing, wear masks and shelter in place.
Participate in virtual church activities – worship, prayer, Bible study, webinars, etc.
Be grateful for what we have and express our gratitude as often as we can.
Do something for others. For instance, we had 200 people volunteer to adopt a senior by calling them twice a week and making sure they had what they need.

Black Enterprise: How often are you holding virtual mass or prayer sessions?

Dr. Soaries:  We have one main weekly Sunday morning worship celebration with live streaming; five telephonic prayer meetings; 10 Bible study classes; nightly small group sessions; daily tele-counseling; weekly outreach providing prepared meals for the food deprived in partnership with local food bank.

Black Enterprise: How do you envision the church reopening process?

Dr. Soaries:  We have a special committee planning for the re-opening of our building. However, we are in no hurry to re-open and have not set a date for doing so. We will likely not re-open until there are minimum restrictions required. The church is open so we are not that concerned that the building is closed.

Black Enterprise: What are some of your main concerns about reopening the church?

Dr. Soaries:  Our main concern is the health and safety of our members. I want to see much more testing for COVID-19 before we make plans to re-open. We are also concerned about having the ability to function inside the building in a manner that is reasonable. For instance, social distancing is unreasonable for much of what we do. Virtual ministry may be more effective than prohibitive functioning inside the building.

Black Enterprise: Can you tell us what the Billion Dollar Challenge is? What is the ultimate goal with the challenge?

Dr. Soaries:  The Billion Dollar Challenge (BDC) is a dfree® campaign to create black wealth. The goal is to motivate and mobilize 100,000 black people to pay off $10,000 each and shift the former debt payments to savings, insurance and investments. Paying off one billion dollars of black debt can create 50 billion dollars of black wealth when debt payments become insurance and investment payments.

BDC at its core basic level is an online tool that is used to help people manage their debts, make plans to pay them off using online calculators and planning tools as well as build our savings to establish a more positive financial position. The website www.billiondollarpaydown.com is the “base of operation” where people set their debt reduction and savings goals, track their progress and form groups to make progress together.

Black Enterprise: Can you explain some of the tools being offered to help motivate and educate people that are striving for financial freedom?

Dr. Soaries:
1. Individual User Debt Profile (understand who you owe and what you owe)
2. Calculator tools to help strategically manage, plan and pay down/pay off debts
3. Group and community functions that allow our people to join together, encourage and celebrate success, together, confidentially and without sharing any of their personal information or plans.
4. Online events that provide financial tips and educational information
5. Free online education, curriculum, and media and tools to continue learning and motivating to financial success.
6. Staff support for groups and organizations in strategies, plans, tools and support as they lead others.

Black Enterprise: How many people have you helped so far through the Billion Dollar Challenge?

Dr. Soaries:  We have signed up 10,000 participants

Black Enterprise: How can the African American & black communities utilize the stimulus checks in a way that benefits them for the future, beyond COVID-19?

Dr. Soaries:  Stimulus checks should be used in a manner that is consistent with the financial goals of the recipient. The receipt of these checks should motivate us to meet with financial professionals to create a plan that can inform us best as to how to use the stimulus money. We shouldn’t spend the money until we have our plan.

Black Enterprise: Can you share any advice for the urban communities on striving for financial freedom and how to manage their finances after receiving the stimulus check?

Dr. Soaries:  dfree® means freedom from debt, delinquency and deficits and freedom to deposits, deeds and dividends. When we pay as we go, pay our bills on time and live below our means we can save money, invest money and own assets.

From Protest to Solutions

From Protest to Solutions
After Minneapolis and Louisville
By: Dr. DeForest B. Soaries, Jr.

 

Let us be clear: we need law enforcement. That is undeniably true. Having been abducted at gunpoint and saved by a white police officer myself, I will never deny the need for police. But I also cannot deny that we have a problem that is much larger and deeper than one, two, or even a handful of incidents.

What is true is that the legitimate protest that has emerged in response to the death of George Floyd is addressing the same issues that the legendary civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s addressed. What is also true is that in 1968 The President’s National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders—known as the Kerner Commission—released its report, condemning racism as the primary cause of the surge of riots that occurred in the mid-late 1960s. Headed by then Illinois Governor Otto Kerner the 11-member commission was appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in July 1967 to uncover the causes of urban riots and recommend solutions. It is true that the Commission report in 1968, which declared that “our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal,” called for expanded aid to African American communities to prevent further racial violence and polarization. Unless drastic and costly remedies were undertaken at once, the report said, there would be a “continuing polarization of the American community and, ultimately, the destruction of basic democratic values.” But the Commission report did not awaken America to the awareness that institutionally law enforcement agencies were both the perpetrator and defender of the racism that would cause even economically and socially successful blacks to live in a perpetual nightmare.

It is true that the election of hundreds of black mayors, county officials, state legislators, congresspersons and even a black president has not had a measurable impact on this issue. And it is true that the protests that are occurring right now are likely to fail to result in creating long term, sustainable change. It is true that the protests in response to the Minnesota incident may influence the disposition of the cases that will be brought against the men responsible for the death of George Floyd. But the lack of coherent strategy, the lack of disciplined action, the lack of experienced organization, and the absence of long term, comprehensive policy initiatives all minimize the sustainable impact that will result from this formidable showing of discontent.

One intelligent, articulate, and passionate 30-year-old activist lamented that he suspects that the youthful crowds will return to their normal disconnected lives after a few more days of televised outrage. This is what has happened even in the era of video recordings of beatings and killings. And the sincere, most vulnerable young people that need the change the most will have contributed to the rise in prominence of “celebrity” activists – some new, some old – and will live on without the needed police reforms but also education, jobs, and access to health care. But they will be available for the next protest after a police shooting.

This protest is revealing a unique surge of serious concern among the demographic that seems to normally be preoccupied with fake reality TV and celebrating vulgarity and nudity wrapped in musical genres. As commendable as it is, our current “social uprising” lacks the guidance and the substance needed to know the definition of victory. For the past fifty years, blacks have behaved as if simply putting other blacks in the right positions constituted a victory for all black people. So, it must be excruciatingly painful to their otherwise political saviors when these young protesters seem to sense no substantial difference between their new, diverse political representatives and the former urban, white political machine despots. Many of them are railing against and expressing distrust in cities held by black mayors just as the activists of the sixties expressed no confidence in southern racist sheriffs.

And they lack formal, credible, trained leadership. Their base is comprised of fragmented grassroots sympathizers and their fragile organizational infrastructures have allowed them to be infiltrated and at times upstaged by those whose goal is chaos and destruction rather than justice and progress. Organization was a key to civil rights era successes.

A social movement in America is by definition legitimate only to the extent that its goal is to make America a better democracy. Any other goal is too narrow, shallow, and self-serving to deserve broad sympathy and support. This means that the core of a legitimate movement or protest must be the belief that America is worth improving and able to improve. Anything other than that is not much more than group selfies claiming bragging rights for cursing at the enemy government officials with impunity. That kind of movement cannot allow real progress to occur because it needs the problem to justify its existence.

The civil rights movement wanted to work itself out of a job. And its leaders knew what that looked like. Desegregation. Legal rights equal to other Americans. Support to catch up to historic deprival. The policing issue needs similarly concrete goals. And the “movement” for justice needs to define what justice means in the aftermath of the George Floyd moment. It must be more than hashtags, slogans, and periodic marches. We need a seven-part agenda:

 

  1. We must find diverse communities that exemplify excellent police-community relations. We must study those communities, dissect the parts of their strategy to discover why it is working effectively, document the model, and promote it as a best practice. Communities must be incentivized to tailor the principles for use in their locale and replicate the model. We may want to start with Genesee County Michigan where Sheriff Chris Swanson marched with protesters in Flint, Michigan this past weekend.
  2. We must increase penalties for abusive behavior by law enforcement officials and implement no tolerance practices for police misconduct. This includes lowering the threshold for charging law enforcement officials with violating the civil rights of citizens.
  3. We must create independent commissions that review, evaluate, revise, and monitor the use of training manuals, procedures, and practices in law enforcement agencies.
  4. We must recruit, train, and promote law enforcement personnel that possess the psychological, emotional, and cultural capacity for law enforcement work and assess them every three years to ensure that they have maintained that capacity.
  5. We must incentivize law enforcement personnel to breach the “blue wall” of silence even as we motivate communities to oppose the “don’t snitch” culture.
  6. We need a national database of law enforcement who were terminated for misconduct and ban them from working in other law enforcement agencies.
  7. We must elect political representatives that support this agenda and hold them accountable for follow-through.

If the activist energy that is currently being displayed can be harnessed into support for a concrete agenda, then we may be able to unify our country and start working on the next issue that threatens the greatness that we all desire for our country.

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Dr. DeForest B. Soaries, Jr. is Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens and former New Jersey Secretary of State.

Living dfree®: Sustaining the Pandemic

Living dfree®: Sustaining the Pandemic

There’s a constant, overwhelming influx of information and updates: closings, precautions, warnings, etcetera on the Coronavirus a.k.a COVID-19 a.k.a. what the media has portrayed as our worst nightmare. Whether you’re watching the news or scrolling through social media, this information can for sure be overwhelming and quite frankly, scary.

Be reminded.

Isaiah 43:1 “Don’t fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine.”

The reality is we don’t know how long this pandemic will last and affect our daily lives. However, instead of letting fear control us during this time of uncertainty, let’s proactively plan for our sustainability and future.

Here are some lifestyle and money tips to help you get control during COVID-19:

  • Cancel unnecessary subscriptions and memberships
  • See what free/discounted resources are available nationally, regionally and locally
  • Invest in yourself – maximize the time home to learn or create something new
  • Be aware of potential scam attempts
  • Don’t waste money on unnecessary things i.e. clothes, shoes, etc.
  • Contact your lenders and loan service companies
  • Keep track of credit reports
  • Look out for seniors
  • Don’t over-buy out of fear
  • Take advantage of lower interest rates/refinance
  • Keep some cash on hand
  • Look for opportunities to cut expenses – reevaluate your needs versus you

Remember this too shall pass. Be sure to keep up with us as we go through social distancing together.

Be sure to keep up with us on social media for updates – @mydfree.