MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - The foreclosure crisis has hit hard in Shelby County, and now a national civil rights pioneer is adding his voice to the call for change.
Jesse Jackson visited Memphis on Thursday, Feb. 23 to spotlight the foreclosure problem in Shelby County and to talk about how to change the tide.
Jackson spoke to several members of the Memphis City Council and with community groups at city hall. He said the foreclosure is certainly a national issue but he wanted to come to Memphis because of its ties to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., calling Memphis an appropriate birthplace for any call for justice.
Jackson spoke with Memphis leaders about a range of issues, including alleged voting discrimination, but the impact of foreclosures here in Shelby County was at the top of the priority list.
He said he wants to sit down with the nation's five largest banks to talk about predatory lending and how to stop it. He also wants to meet with homeowners in trouble to get their perspective.
"These banks made money on the bailout. We're going to convene the major banks and look at their portfolios of homes and churches, and renegotiate on principal, not just interest," Jackson stated.
Memphis city leaders who met with him say Jackson's appeal is a rallying cry for the city.
Memphis City Councilman Myron Lowery said, "Anytime you bring someone of his stature to the table, it brings a rallying cry and everybody tends to support that."
Lowery said the group's next step is to organize a committee to get those meetings with banks and homeowners off the ground in the weeks leading up to April 4th, the day of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination.
Tennessee is one of several states that joined a $25 billion settlement with the nation's five largest mortgage lenders, including Bank of America and Wells Fargo. The banks agreed to reduce loans for about one million homeowners who are behind on their payments or owe more than their home is worth.
Tennessee's share of the settlement is $146 million.