CI VIEW: Howard University Divinity School seen leading way for Islamic Finance in the US: UPDATE

BROOKLAND, Washington DC (CI MENA) — (Update on August 24, 2017 to add interview with District of Columbia Councilmember At-Large Anita Bonds) Howard University’s School of Divinity School,  located in Washington DC’s unique Brookland neighborhood, could soon become a global center of excellence for the study and practice of Islamic finance in the United States.

[Howard University President Wayne A.I. Frederick, MD speaks to Capitol Intelligence/BBN using CI Glass on Howard University plans for Howard University School of Divinity located in Brookland, Northeast Washington, DC. June 17, 2016]

The Howard University School of Divinity is located on 22 acres of prime real estate in the Brookland neighborhood in Northeast Washington DC and is located next door to the Mount St. Sepulchre Franciscan Monastery representing Jerusalem and the Holy Land in the United States.

For over a year the campus has been left vacant as Howard University President Dr. Wayne A.I. Frederick instituted a study for possible re-use on the part of the non-for-profit real estate development association,  Urban Land Institute.

[Howard University School of Divinity and Mount St. Sepulchre Franciscan Monastery in Brookland Northeast Washington, DC filmed by Capitol Intelligence/BBN using CI Glass on June 21, 2016.]

Following vehement protests by the predominantly affluent African-American residents of DC’s historical Brookland neighborhood, the ULI was quickly forced to drop any commercial development plans to reach the obvious, and only conclusion, that the campus will remain an academic center of America’s foremost Historically Black College Universities (HBCUs).

ULI Govenor and Boston-based real estate magnate Richard Reynolds said that the campus would be used as a Howard University academic center but the university may decide to build new faculty on the land or even transfer the university’s Social Work department from its main campus.

[Urban Land Institute Governor and Boston-based Reynolds Group, Inc President Richard Reynolds speaks to Capitol Intelligence/BBN using CI Glass on development plans to Howard University Divinity School. Michigan Park Christian Church in Brookland, Washington DC. June 14, 2016]

However, the fact that Howard University is still mulling options for the re-use or expansion of the Howard University Divinity School has opened a once in a generation opportunity for Gulf leaders in Islamic banking such as the Kingdom of Bahrain; the United Arab Emirates; and the State of Qatar to integrate the principles of Islamic finance into the fabric of the world’s largest economy. 

In fact, Kingdom of Bahrain Foreign Minister His Excellency Sheikh Khalid Bin Ahmed Bin Mohamed Khalifa said he is very familiar with Howard University from his time as a rising diplomatic star the Kingdom’s Embassy in Washington, DC.

[Kingdom of Bahrain Foreign Minister His Excellency Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmed Bin Mohamed Khalifa speaks to Capitol Intelligence/CI MENA using CI Glass at C3 US-Arab Business & Healthcare Summit headlined by His Majesty King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa at Union League Club, New York City. September 27, 2016]

Howard University President Frederick recently announced that Howard University will consider offers for Howard University Hospital after the full-medical facility posted its first net profit last year.

Paul Craig, Chief Administrative Officer of the University of Southern California Keck Medicine, told Capitol Intelligence/CI MENA at the C3 conference that USC would be open to serving as the hospital administrator if the Kingdom of Bahrain would go ahead with an investment in HU Hospital.

Both HU Hospital and the Divinity would be of interest to Bahrain’s USD 11bn  Sovereign Wealth Fund, Mumtalakat Holding Company.

The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan is intimately familiar with the Brookland neighborhood through Abu Dhabi’s endowment of  the George Washington University affiliated Children’s National Medical Center and Qatar has circa USD 1bn real estate investments with its downtown DC CityCenter and a new Conrad Hilton flagship  hotel.

[District of Columbia Councilmember At-Large Anita Bonds speaks to Capitol Intelligence/BBN using CI Glass on the bridging the opportunity gap for DC natives and controversy surrounding Howard University Divinity School campus in Brookland, Northeast DC. The Steele Plate at 3523 12th Street NE, Washington DC. August 24, 2017]

The basic tenets of Sharia compliant banking — not charging interest on loans and risk sharing — is a uniquely social responsible form of finance surprisingly well suited to the often vulnerable African-American population in the United States.

Islamic mortgages — known in the United States as rent-to-own — are much better suited for lower-income home buyers than traditional US mortgage lenders who generally discriminate against African-American borrowers and quickly bankrupt weak borrowers as witnessed in the 2008 sub-prime financial crisis.

Today, African-American home ownership is at the lowest level since  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. March on Washington some 50 years ago.

Islamic finance also has innovative solutions for funding new businesses, the Islamic banks acquiring stakes in invested companies rather than making cash-flow or collateral based interest bearing loans.

The unique historic nature of the Black American church where each pastor basically serves as the CEO of his congregation makes the combination of Islamic finance studies with HU Divinity school such a logical and straight forward solution.

[District of Columbia Council Chair Phil Mendelson speaks to Capitol Intelligence/BBN using CI Glass on future of Howard University Divinity School at Askale Cafe at 3629 12th Street NE, Washington DC. January 14th, 2017]

While ULI staffers may have accomplished little, ULI trustees such as Abu Dhabi Investment Authority Head of Americas Thomas R. Arnold; Goldman Sachs Managing Director Jeffrey A. Barclay; BlackRock Chairman of Global Real Estate John R. Chandler; Blackstone Group principal Jonathan Pollack; and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co (KKR) Ralph Rosenberg all work closely  with the sovereign wealth funds of Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE. 

ULI Trustees will also have no problem organizing the fund raising for the USD 30m to USD 50m needed to renovate the existing campus and found a new Islamic finance/moral investment department .

A similar endowments at ULI Trustees’ alma maters such as Yale, University of Chicago, Georgetown University, Tufts and Harvard would start at a minimum of USD 150m and would earn only the cursory interest of the Universities’ trustees.

“Howard University’s 150 years history and its unique place in American history makes it a place of learning with both national and global importance,” said one Howard University Trustee said.  “However, some in corporate America treat Black Americans as children of a lesser god.” 

Direct corporate involvement, as proposed with HU Divinity School, has also proven to be a model of success in achieving outstanding results in bridging the gap in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) skills in the United States.

President Donald Trump has also taken a personal interest in the fate of Howard University and the other 100 historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) by hosting 69 HBCU presidents in the Oval Office on February 27, 2017.

[Omarosa O. Manigault, Assistant to President Donald Trump and Director of Communications, Office of Public Liaison of The White House filmed by Capitol Intelligence/BBN using CI Glass on President Donald Trump meeting with 69 heads of HBCUs at STEM4US conference at Nasdaq offices in Washington, DC. February 27, 2017]

The historic meeting — organized by President Trump’s close adviser Omarosa O. Manigault, led President Trump issuing a an Executive Order on the day of his first State of the Union address to Congress to transfer the issue of historic black colleges and universities back to the White House from the Department of Education.

Apart from appointing a White House HBCU Tsar, President Trump’s White House initiative calls for increasing and fostering “private-sector initiatives and public-private partnerships while promoting specific areas and centers of academic research and program-based excellence throughout HBCUs.”

One person leading a transformational change in bringing STEM education is CBC member and the Texas Congressman for Dallas-Fort Worth, Rep. Marc Veasey (D-TX.)

During the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Annual Legislative Conference, Congressman Veasey hosted a panel: “Women in STEM: A Gender Gap to Innovation” with a panel of African-American women all representing companies working in his district.

[US Congressman Marc Veasey speaks with Capitol Intelligence/SmartCEO using CI Glass how Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) closing the skills gap can help avoid urban and police related violence. Washington DC. September 22, 2016.]

Panel speakers included: Raytheon (NYSE:RTN) Cybersecurity Director Valecia D. Maclin; Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG) Global Innovation Director Regina Gray; Toyota Motors General Manager Adrienne Trimble, General Motors (NYSE:GM) unit Cadillac Global Human Resources Director Tonya Hallet; and ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) Environmental & Permitting Manager Shawn E. Simmons.

The House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade Ranking Member Butterfield has combined promoting STEM education with an aggressive Tech 2020 campaign to lobby Silicon Valley CEOs to end their historic hiring bias against African-Americans, military veterans and other minorities.

Speaking at a STEM4US power lunch at NASDAQ’s Washington DC offices, Rep.  Butterfield said that the Congressional Black Caucus wants to work with Silicon Valley CEOs such as Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) CEO Jack Dorsey,  Google Aka Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG) owners Larry Page and Sergei Brin; and Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) CEO Mark Zuckerberg to help educate and train in an inclusive manner some of the 1.4m-2m Americans in STEM skills needed to fill jobs in the United States by 2020.

The bias against African Americans and minorities in the Silicon Valley dominated tech sector – and backed up by the lowest diversity employment statistics in the entire US economy, — is so bad that many Black Americans are describing the phenomena as a new form of Jim Crow.

The recent unrest in Baltimore, caused in part to a feeling of economic exclusion, and the ongoing takeover of Pepco, has opened the door for Exelon to create a center of excellence for STEM education in the two cities.

[Exelon President and Chief Executive Officer Christopher M. Crane speaks with Capitol Intelligence/Smart CEO using CI Glass about STEM schools at the Baltimore Washington Corridor Chamber Annual Meeting at BWI Marriott, May 11, 2016]

The closing of the DC charter Perry Street Prep high school program  this year in the predominantly African-American neighborhood of Brookland in Northeast DC offers Exelon a national pilot program to educate disadvantaged inner city youth for the well-paying jobs in the energy and power production fields.

In 2013, the Exelon Foundation spent some USD 32.2m in supporting STEM projects across the United States, including the Illinois Mathematics and Science Foundation and the Renewable Education Center in Fairless Hill, PA.

Despite near universal consensus among DC and Baltimore residents for such “game changing initiatives”, the leadership to push such a program through rests solely on Exelon CEO Chris Crane.

[Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Chair R. Donahue Peebles; Congressional Black Caucus Chair Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC); CBCF Co-Chair Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Al), CBCF Co-Chair Rep. Hakeem Jefferies (D-NY) answers question from Capitol Intelligence/BBN on economic empowerment at #CBCFALC15 opening news conference. Washington DC, September 16, 2015]

A clear sign for the growing momentum for STEM education is the bipartisan “21st Century Energy Workforce Development Jobs Initiative Act” co-sponsored by Chairman of US House Subcommittee on Energy and Power Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY), Energy Committee ranking member Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) and Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH)..

Bobby Rush, whose district lies a few miles south of Exelon’s Chicago headquarters, is best known for having forced Mayor Richard Daley to institute a free school breakfast program when he was the Minister of Defense for the Black Panther Party.

However, funding a handful of STEM schools in DC, Baltimore and even Prince George’s County is a drop in the bucket of the more than the USD 250m Exelon paid financial advisers Goldman Sachs, Chicago-based Loop Capital headed by Obama golfing partner James Reynolds and their lawyers Kirkland & Ellis to carry-out the relatively small USD 4.4bn acquisition of Pepco.

By PK Semler in Washington, DC.  For information please call +1-202-549-3399 or email pks@capitolintelgroup.com

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