A new movement called Bank Black USA is seeking to encourage people to put their money in Black-owned banks. Spear-headed by Justin Moore, Stephone Coward, and Robert Herring III, Bank Black USA is asking Americans to deposit $500 million into Black-owned banks by next MLK Day which is on January 15, 2018.
Moore told The Huffington Post that he and his partners wanted to build on the #BankBlack movement which was championed by Atlanta-based rapper Killer Mike in the summer of 2016, as a direct response to police brutality. Several prominent Black celebrities joined Killer Mike and opened bank accounts with Black-owned banks. Thanks to this movement, over $50 million in new deposits were moved into Black banks in a span of less than six-months, according to the FDIC.
The founders of Bank Black USA feel that if they equip people with more information than just a list of Black-owned banks, the Black community by themselves can multiple that $50 million in deposits ten-fold in a one-year period. Moore believes that people will be more likely to use the Black banks’ services if they had more information on each bank.
Bank Black USA has a Google spreadsheet that gives information on 15 Black-owned or operated banks and credit unions, of which 8 have direct links to open accounts online. The spreadsheet gives information on interest rates, fees for accounts, and user-based rankings for mobile access and ATM locations. In addition, the chart has government and National Community Investment Fund issued grades, which shows how the bank utilizes its money, how its governed, and the overall economic health of the bank. Moore feels this information is vital because people are readily able to see how vested each bank is in the Black community.
According to Moore, “We’ve been seeing these institutions disappear from our communities and these are the institutions that understand Black communities and, equally, low income communities. And banking is a relationship as much as it is a number. Deciding whether or not to lend you money for a house, there’s an equation for that but there’s also discretion to that. That there’s a human being somewhere… [making] a choice whether or not there’s gonna be that access of financial services to people. And that’s something that there’s a lot of importance in the role these institutions play.”
In 2011, 67% of mortgages issued to Black borrowers came from Black-owned banks. These banks more readily lend to low-to-moderate income communities and to borrowers of color versus major banks. The president and owner of One United Bank, Teri Williams, views the #BankBlack movement “an extension of the Civil Rights movement.” Williams said, “The Black community spends $1.2 trillion a year and 98% of that funding happens outside of our communities, leaving our community with very few resources to build wealth. “[W]e want people to not only move their money but to move their mind or in essence, change their mindset to one of trying to figure out ways to do more business with Black-owned businesses.” She said one of the biggest challenges facing the Black banks is customers knowing that they exist.
As the largest Black bank in America, One United holds over $640 million in assets. Along with One United, other Black banks such as Liberty Bank, Citizens Trust, and Industrial Bank are all financially sound. Moore believes that doing business with these Black banks can directly alleviate some of the issues facing the Black community.
Moore said it’s vital that “a critical mass” of Black banks survive because of their investments within the Black community. The Bank Black USA challenge of getting people to deposit $500 million into Black banks maybe a large hurdle to overcome but it’s feasible.