(BALTIMORE – July 21, 2016) – As a black business advocate who sat at the feet of some of the greatest people ever who, too, saw the need to fight for black people’s piece of the pie, the developments over the last couple of weeks have been most inspiring. Of course, our prayers go out to the victims of gun violence – citizen and cop, alike.
That being said, I have to say that I am quite proud of the response – heavily spearheaded by Atlanta rapper Killer Mike. Having done a lot of reading, researching and questioning of business leaders, I think this is one of our proudest moments as black Americans.
Finally, the sleeping giant is awakening. There is no need to shoot up the place. There is no need to march. All we need do is adhere to the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his final speech before he died. In that speech, he specifically implored black people to bank black.
So, in all actuality, the ocean of new black bank accounts has been a tactic long-discussed in the black community. However, it has taken decades to come to fruition. Nonetheless, it is here.
One of the people I interviewed for this column is dear friend, mentor and big brother Ron Busby. The President/CEO of US Black Chambers, Inc. (USBC), Busby gave me a lot of background on the “bank black” movement, including intel that I did not expect to hear. For instance, he told me that he knows Killer Mike. He also said that they have had deep discussions in the past discussing this “bank black” initiative that has gripped Black America.
To say the least, I couldn’t get enough of the good news about black people supporting both black banks and black credit unions. It truly warms my soul.
Regular readers of this column know that we have been pushing the Black Wall Street movement for the past 5 years. It is our aim to encourage more and more black people to support black businesses. As a matter of fact, we have held three of these events at Baltimore’s very own black bank, The Harbor Bank of Maryland.
The President and CEO of Harbor Bank, Joe Haskins, came on our show this past Tuesday at reported over 1,000 new applications in just four days, 500 or so which have been approved thus far. This is incredible. Nothing pleases the black business advocate in me more.
In existence for the past 34 years, it was founded with the support of people like William and Erich March of March Funeral Homes.
“We are getting some of the spillover,” said Haskins. He said that when the bank was first started, they understood clearly that black people were not getting the same access to financing as white people. He said that the black church was also a critical component of the bank’s portfolio and how he and his staff have toiled arduously in the faith-based community and have made over 1,000 loans to churches.
“We started with a focus on bringing resources to urban communities,” he continued.
This bank has also pushed the envelope for black businesses, doing their best to give blacks access to credit that was difficult to find in mainstream banks. In short, Harbor Bank carved out a niche and have not looked back. Further, although they were hit hard during the mortgage lending crisis, the bank was able to survive and since rebound.
Helping blacks buy houses, helping black businesses expand and lending to black faith based institutions – although extremely challenging at times – has proved to be a worthwhile venute.
Busby told me that he has talked extensively with Haskins over the years and that the bank’s business plan is one that he has studied intensely over the years. Busby thinks highly of Haskins and credits him as a true black business leader worthy of adoration and support.
“Mr. Haskins’ 20-year plan put him well ahead of the game,” said Busby. “He is the Father of the Game.”
Part of Busby’s praise for Haskins and other black bankers comes from his own desire to have a black bank. Today, Busby said that he will continue to work to inform and inspire blacks, including the youth, to be strong supporters of black banks.
The USBC “provides committed, visionary leadership and advocacy in the realization of economic empowerment. Through the creation of resources and initiatives, we support African American Chambers of Commerce and business organizations in their work of developing and growing Black enterprises.” One of their programs is an initiative for young black males, the Black Male Entrepreneurship Institute.
Last year, Busby told me that he took 20 young black men to Washington, D.C.’s black bank, Industrial. Founded August 20, 1934, Industrial Bank is the oldest and largest African American owned commercial bank in metropolitan Washington, D.C.
He said that upon sharing the news, Killer Mike told Busby that he was going to do a similar effort in Atlanta. And so, he did. Imploring the help of singer Usher and rapper Ludacris, Killer Mike has taken the initiative to another level.
Today, there was a headline in The Root about Houston’s Unity National Bank. It stated that rappers were leading the way there in opening black accounts. Slim Thug, Paul Wall, Willie D and Trae the Truth were among those involved. On Saturday, singer Solange Knowles said that it was time for her to put her money in a black bank; she, too, chose Unity.
Busby praised these kinds of efforts, but he also enlightened me a little more. For one, he said that black people must support black businesses across the board, using his own recent homebuying experience as an example. He said that everybody who touched that transaction was black: from the real estate agent to the title company to every other aspect of home buying, he proudly shared how black people need to think.
Busby also shared that when it comes to bank accounts, more than half of blacks do not have bank accounts. He said that there are a number of factors that are behind this, including many negative experiences with unsavory bankers who pushed unaffordable loans on blacks across the country. Of course, this led to one of the nation’s worst financial disasters ever.
Then, Busby alluded to two really critical points. For one, blacks have to make more deposits into black banks. However, he said that banks really don’t make money off of deposits. They actually have to pay interest. Thus, Busby said that blacks must also get lines of credit from black banks and hopefully at better interest rates than at mainstream institutions.
As a result, Busby and his team helped create their own USBC credit card with Liberty Bank. Founded by Aldon McDonald, Liberty Bank is the largest black bank in the country with over 40 years experience.
In short, there is so much good news to report that this black business advocate/journalist is brimming with pride as Black America is realizing its true power. I have said it countless times: We control one trillion dollars in annual disposable income. Further, we need to be pushing those dollars on black businesses across the country, including our black banks. According to Haskins, there are 19 or so across the country. Busby added that there is only a couple or so black banks west of the Mississippi, including one in Los Angeles.
Killer Mike’s efforts, it should be noted, catalyzed some 8,000 new black accounts at Atlanta’s only black bank, Citizens Trust. This came to a cool sum of $800,000 in new business for the Atlanta institution. Another highlight that I cannot fail to mention is Durham’s Mechanics and Farmers Bank; because of the recent killings of black men by cops and the subsequent police killings, approximately $1.25 million in new accounts were made.
I am quite confident that the ancestors from Black Wall Street in Tulsa are proud of black people’s new awakening.
*Special thanks to Robert Scott, Editor of Atlanta’s www.blackatlnews.com, for first exposing me to the efforts of Killer Mike.