Eric Meriwether has watched communities of color — his community — face towering inequities during his career in the financial sector, from systemic injustices to the growing racial wealth gap.
So he decided to do something about it.
In 2014, Meriwether left his post as vice president and branch manager at SunTrust Bank and joined Northwestern Mutual, a nationwide financial services firm. As a financial advisor, he helps clients create, preserve and pass on generational wealth, a process which starts with financial literacy.
And last summer, Meriwether co-founded the Rutherford Inclusivity Service and Empowerment Coalition, a local nonprofit laser-focused on creating visibility for Black business owners. He wants to make sure these well-qualified community leaders are in position to attain decision-making positions in local government and other businesses.
In short, Meriwether and others are tackling inequities from different angles.
“We want to be a voice for people of color,” he said.
With R.I.S.E., the coalition identified five pillars as areas of impact. The organization is creating programs and events to address these issues:
- Voter education and engagement
- Equity in education
- Youth empowerment
- Workforce development
- Affordable housing
“The vision is to bridge the gap between ideas and action in communities of color in Rutherford County,” said Meriwether, a Memphis native who arrived in Murfreesboro in 2001 to attend Middle Tennessee State University. He’s now an MTSU graduate, husband, father of two daughters and participant in activities this week as a member of Leadership Rutherford’s Class of 2022.
“There has been improvement and we want to continue to see that though in the political realm as it relates to our leadership,” Meriwether continued. “We need to see continued diversity and we need to have conversations around these issues of systematic injustices … with R.I.S.E. we are and will continue to be a voice for communities of color.”
This sense of service and duty led Meriwether to take action. R.I.S.E. is the result of more than two years of conversations with like-minded residents in Rutherford County, all aiming to create an avenue of change.
From workshops to social media posts, Meriwether aims to educate, from teaching families how to create emergency funds and understand employer-sponsored retirement plans to working on short-term goals.
“We don’t want this to just be about us, our goal is for this to be about the community,” said Tee Wilson, vice president of R.I.S.E.
“We want to make sure R.I.S.E stays about the mission and the people no matter what and I think we have the team to do that.”