A Black-owned Atlanta bank saw a phenomenal surge of deposits, powered by a campaign aimed at bolstering Black-owned financial institutions. The movement is in response to several high-profile police killings across the nation and is an attempt to raise awareness of institutional inequality.
Citizens Trust Bank – with branches in metro Atlanta, Columbus, Ga., Birmingham, Ala., and Eutaw, Ala. – said it has received about 8,000 new applications for depositors in recent days.
Reminiscent of the Depression-era “Don’t BuyWhere You Can’t Work” campaigns that boycotted White stores in Black communities that refused to hire Black employees. The Bank Black campaign, according to social scientist Grace Gilman, has renewed a sense of direct action across the nation. “A lot of young people are not interested in marching, but they want to exact real change and the only thing that America hears loudly, is protest married to economic sanctions,” Gilman, a retired Alcorn University political science professor, told the AFRO. “Racial inequality and abuse at the hands of the police is an American issue that many Americans refuse to acknowledge. When banking institutions and other businesses that rely heavily on Black money are systematically removed from the Black economy, sleeping giants awaken.”
The earliest “Don’t Buy” boycott appeared in Chicago in the late 1920s and targeted small grocery store chains in Chicago’s urban inner city that refused to employ Blacks. It sparked larger boycotts against Woolworth stores and continued across the country through the 1950s.
The Bank Black campaign has at its helm rapper Killer Mike, who told a televised BET audience that they needed to control their money and other resources so that they better benefit the community as a whole. Saying that if a million people deposited $100 each in small, Black-owned banks or credit unions, it would help solidify their economic power. “We cannot go out in the street and start bombing, shooting, and killing. 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,” Mike said. “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. Using the hashtag #BlackBanks, mostly Black millennials have made institutions like the 95-year-old Citizens Trust Bank in Chicago take notice.
Michael Grant, president of the Washington, D.C.-based National Bankers Association that promotes minority-owned financial institutions, told USA Today that CEOs of Black-owned banks have been calling him saying they’re “getting volume that you would not believe” in recent days. “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?”
The nation’s 156 minority-owned banks collectively hold $131 billion in assets.