In the #BankBlack movement, one organization is putting its money—$1 million—where its mouth is.
BMe Community, a national network dedicated to strengthening communities with the help of black men, is redirecting $1 million of its deposits into OneUnited, the nation’s largest black-owned bank, making BMe the “preferred nonprofit” for the bank, while OneUnited has become the “preferred bank” for the organization.
“When you try to get folks positively engaged in their communities and you think about building up the assets of the community, then it only makes sense that groups that say they care about the black community also bank black,” Trabian Shorters, the CEO of BMe, tells The Root. “And our network is in six cities. We have 165 BMe leaders that we’ve funded. Their work helps about half a million people every year, and it occurred to me that if we want other folks to invest in our communities, then we should lead by example.”
Both BMe and OneUnited hope to encourage the whole community to move its money and its mindset toward collective economics, as well as building wealth within the community.
“I think this #BankBlack movement is about more than us moving our money; it is about us moving our minds or just sort of opening up our minds to appreciating the power of our $1.2 trillion in spending power, and for us to start connecting with each other and using our money in a more purposeful way,” Teri Williams, president and chief operating officer of OneUnited, tells The Root.
Williams points out that of that staggering amount of spending power, the black community spends only about 2 percent on itself.
“We’re spending our money elsewhere, we’re building wealth for other people, and this whole movement to bank black, buy black, is really to get us to start recognizing that we can build wealth in our community with our own dollars,” she says.
And that’s exactly what the BMe network of black men, who are committed to building and strengthening communities across the country, plans to do: put its money where its interests lie, all the while actively encouraging others, particularly charitable organizations, to follow suit.
“There is $300 billion that [is] spent every year by charities, by philanthropies that typically focus on young people and communities and things that are associated with black folks,” Shorters emphasizes. “But do those organizations bank black? When you look at charitable foundation giving, if they just put some of their money on deposit with a black bank, that could infuse a billion dollars into our community, and it doesn’t even change any of our operating cost.”
The network decided to go with OneUnited as its business of choice because of its impressive online banking services, Shorters says, as well as the fact that their missions seem to align perfectly.
“So much of the conversation around black people is as if by birth we’re not creditworthy, we’re not financial. There’s this myth that black people are not financial, so I think a lot of people avoid black banks, or they are afraid of black banks, or they don’t even think about black banks, so they just don’t connect the dots that the black bank is the one that is most likely to loan in your community; it’s the one that is most likely to provide some sort of literacy programs for financial education,” Shorters adds. “We don’t think about that for some reason, so those banks tend to be undercapitalized, and there’s just no reason that we can’t change that narrative.”
Shorters tells The Root that BMe will also be partnering with the bank on literacy programs that will help people learn to manage their money, among other projects.
“It’s not just a deposit. We recognize that our missions perfectly complement each other, and we’re going to keep working together to figure out ways to bring more resources to the black community,” Shorters says.
Williams says that the bank’s goal is to “eradicate poverty in our community in our lifetime.”
“It’s within our power,” Williams says firmly. “If we start to do business with each other, if we start to partner with each other, we start to employ each other, we start to build wealth with each other, it sort of takes away the middle man. It just allows us to take advantage of the dollars that we’re spending by using those dollars to build wealth in our community.”
Breanna Edwards is news editor at The Root. Follow her on Twitter.