Billions of dollars of life insurance is now in-force by African American Market Agents. Driven by efforts from a campaign that has spanned 6 ½ years, the achievement was made with the 60th anniversary of Cirilo McSween becoming the first African American Agent to cross the color barrier.
Over the last 6 ½ years, the campaign, called the ‘$50 Billion Empowerment Plan,’ has raised consciousness and changed the old perception of life insurance from covering burial and final expenses, to a tool for income protection, wealth building and legacy creation. The program encompassed recruiting, training, lead generation and branding components, with a goal to create $50 billion of protection and future income for the African American community. The vision was to touch the lives of 200,000 African Americans and show them the long-term impact and value of purchasing a $250,000 life insurance policy. (200,000 families X $250,000 in face amount = $50 billion future income).
The vision became a mission, and then a movement to use the empowerment plan message as a starting point and benchmark for personal family conversations. This was the formula for the vision, but in reality our agents worked with each family to meet their individual needs, producing various life insurance policy amounts.
Even more impressive is that $655 million has been paid out in death benefits to African American families, over the last 6 ½ years. And, nine agents last year were able to deliver $1 million checks to African American families after a breadwinner passed away, making them recipients of this inherited ‘wealth.’ We are saying that this was not a lottery ticket, but the head of a household taking on sound financial planning for their family, helping to pass family wealth and inheritance to the next generation.
African Americans are now using and leveraging life insurance as a tool to help close the wealth gap, and they are also benefiting from the living benefits associated with the policies including dividends, and loan disbursement from the cash value within policies.
The achievements of the Empowerment Plan initiative also coincide with the diamond jubilee, or 60th anniversary celebration of the hiring of Cirilo A. McSween, New York Life’s first African American agent. A trailblazer, McSween crossed the color barrier within the insurance industry in 1957, and qualified for Million Dollar Round Table during his first year in the business, and every year thereafter for 26 years. McSween dedicated his life to empowering the African American community. A civil rights leader and confidant of Martin Luther King Jr., he was treasurer of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and a member of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition’s board of directors. He was also a successful businessman and McDonald’s franchisee.
Although McSween passed away in 2008, his name, legacy, and dream of equality live on. New York Life’s 1,200+ African American agents proudly carry the torch that he passed to them. And with the wealth of white households 13 times greater than that of black households, according to a CNN Money article in June 2016, today’s agents are working to close the racial wealth gap as passionately as McSween and his cohorts fought for civil rights.