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More than 50 years ago, the LA Free Press reported on the protest against Bank of America (BOA) by The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). While we had only just been established – this here is our 2nd Issue – that protest had been in gear for nearly a year, at that point. Its focus was what appeared to be a discriminatory practice of not hiring Blacks who were qualified for jobs within the bank. Furthermore, the number that were hired amounted to far less than their percentage in the community.
That became an established fact when, on May 27th, just about a month before our article, the BOA, itself, published a full page ‘open letter’ ad in the San Francisco Chronicle. Per page 2, column 4 of our article, the ad’s statement read: “As of this week, Bank of America employs 28,553 people in 860 California branches. Minority group employees total 3,670 or 12.83% of our work force, of whom 640 are Negroes.” If you do the math, and some historical research – or just look to the article – this means that not quite 2.5% of their employees are Black, less than half of their proportionate number of the state’s population (back then).
While this fight’s central issue was the dismal representation of Blacks within BOA’s overall staffing, one can imagine that, at the time, loans to the Black population was, likewise, not of a fair and equal distribution when compared to those given to the White majority. (However, we welcome any information you may have that refutes this supposition.)
Now, while it’s true that the filibuster against the Civil Rights Act had not ended when the ad ran in the Chronicle, it did not seem that it would go on for much longer. (Though, in fact, it did go on for a record breaking – and a record still standing – 83 days!) Hadn’t someone mentioned the possibility of the eventual passage of the pending legislation to someone in BOA? That soon, and then without being able to pretend that it had truly tried to rectify the matter, BOA would have to do the right thing?
In fact, 6 weeks later, on July 2, the Act was signed into law, establishing a mechanism by which the Federal Government could legally enter – or be entered – into the fray of fair consideration of all those who applied for positions without regard to their ethnicity. And, as time passed, and more issues arose (such as providing mortgages, business loans, and the like), the legislation was called upon to iron out additional wrinkles in any misunderstanding of – or intentional reluctance to – the law’s doctrine.
So, eventually, the staff at each of BOA’s branches became more representative of its neighborhood as all of the banks of that era made (had to make) these changes.
However, this FIFTY-TWO year-old LA FP article enables us to go beyond the thought that what initially shaped the decision of these corporate entities were the marches of the Civil Rights Movement and the resulting legislation. It is a reminder that long before those events, progressive thinking had already established organizations like CORE. (Founded at the University of Chicago way back in 1942, its purpose was to achieve racial equality through non-violent means. Eventually, the largest portion of its membership was from the white majority.)
In other words, well before the black vs. white street-fight against segregation dominated the evening news, there was work being done on projects of integration. And the BOA protest is a testament to their tenacity, proof that they not only survived those events, but were still fighting. After all, implementing the Rights won was, indeed, an arduous process; as you see, this protest, a clever one of ‘coining out’ to slow the flow of incoming deposits, only began when it became apparent that the negotiations were nothing but a farce…even in the face of open revolt and pending legislation.
In fact, following articles (available, of course, on your request) show that BOA’s reluctance to right a wrong went on for a very long time, even far beyond the bank being, literally, set afire!
One would think that during this strife, minorities would find the best understanding of their needs, and the best chance of having those met, at a bank that was managed by their own. There were, in fact, banks owned by African Americans at the time and that demand for equal treatment (or better) was great enough to enable them to survive, and to serve their local communities to the extent that deposits enabled them to do so.
But just now, during this past week, more than 50 full years after the could-not-be-ignored marches and the multitude of city-by-city, business-by-business, and person-by-person protests, a different tactic, with a wider reach, in a less filtered fashion, connected with the Black Community like never before, and encouraged it to go down a new path. And, clearly, it’s a winning way – instead of asking for integration, it is a call for the Community to go forward on the strength of its own resources, with or without the majority’s approval… it’s segregation for its own best interest.
As always, these banks will be able to serve their own communities to the extent that deposits enable them to do so… and, as the associated article tells you, they should now be able to do much more, on their own, for their own. Significantly, we think, this is the protest form of the future – independence through group-dependence, and interdependence from a place of strength – and the foundation of new and more just society.
Black-owned banks get rush of new depositors
Nathan Bomey, USA TODAY 12:57 p.m. EDT July 17, 2016
(Photo: PRNewsFoto/Citizens Trust Bank)
A black-owned Atlanta bank is experiencing a sudden surge of deposits, powered by a campaign aimed at bolstering black-owned financial institutions after multiple high-profile police killings raised awareness of institutional inequality.
Citizens Trust Bank — anchored in metro Atlanta, Columbus, Ga., Birmingham, Ala., and Eutaw, Ala. — said it has received about 8,000 new applications for depositors in recent days.
One of the catalysts: Rapper Killer Mike called in to a town hall meeting on MTV and BET on July 8 to implore the black community to deploy “a portion” of its financial resources to make a difference.
He wants 1 million people to deposit $100 apiece in small black-owned banks or credit unions, believing that those financial institutions will be more likely than other banks to make loans to black citizens and businesses — and more likely to treat them fairly in general.
“We cannot go out in the street and start bombing, shooting and killing,” the rapper said during the town hall. “I encourage none of us to engage in acts of violence that will cause more peril to our community and others that look like us. I encourage us to take our warfare to financial institutions.”
Other supporters have posted similar remarks on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, urging people to consider shifting their money to black-owned institutions.
Michael Grant, president of the Washington, D.C.-based National Bankers Association, which promotes minority-owned financial institutions, said that CEOs of black-owned banks have been calling him saying they’re “getting volume that you would not believe” in recent days.
“It’s not just happening in one location — it’s happening to banks around the country,” he said.
Frederick Daniels Jr., executive vice president and chief credit officer of Citizens Trust Bank, told USA TODAY in an interview that the bank is at the center of a “true movement.”
“If we can bring together our economics collectively, we can help businesses grow, we can help people obtain home loans. That brings them closer to the American dream,” he said. “We’re providing a tangible solution for those who want action.”
The U.S. had 23 black-owned banks, credit unions or savings and loan associations as of March 31, according to the Federal Reserve. The nation’s 156 minority-owned banks collectively hold $131 billion in assets.
Citizens Trust Bank had $328.8 million in deposits as of Dec. 31, down 3.5% from a year earlier, according to its annual report.
There are scattered reports of other black-owned banks receiving a surge of deposits in recent days. For example, Unity National bank in Texas has gotten more than 350 new accounts in the last week, the Houston Chronicle reported.
Moving assets to a black-owned bank is a concrete way that people can help reverse the tide of economic injustice, Grant said. Black-owned banks were hit particularly hard by the Great Recession as their customers suffered job losses and loan repayment rates fell, he noted.
“What happens in any community that feels insulted is it turns inward and tries to do what it can to protect itself,” Grant said. “I think the community is trying to figure out ways it can strengthen itself — and what better way to address issues facing black America than to start harnessing our dollars and building some wealth and creating jobs in our communities?”
Among the people embracing the cause is singer Solange Knowles, who said Saturday on Instagram that it was “time to literally put my money where my mouth is” by shifting her money to a black-owned bank.
There appears to be a budding grass-roots push, too. Daniels said Citizens Trust Bank had a committee of young professionals who have helped build buzz about the movement on social media.
“They have been instrumental in creating additional momentum to help get the word out: You have an alternative,” he said.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.
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— Citizens Trust Bank (@CTBank) June 17, 2016
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