Since 1865, when President Abraham Lincoln established Freedman’s Bank, this country has strived to provide financial access to millions of disenfranchised Americans. Into the void looms a small influential group of black-owned banks.

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Belonging to blacks does not mean “blacks only”

According to Kevin Cohee, chief executive officer of OneUnited Bank, the largest black-owned bank in the United States, black-owned banks are designed to meet the financial needs of underserved communities. However, people of all races are welcome to take advantage of their unique services. For customers, it’s a win / win situation.

Black-owned banks like OneUnited help build infrastructure and add value to the inner city neighborhoods in which they are located. They also help clients build (or rebuild) their financial reputation and foster a greater sense of community pride. One of the most important goals of black-owned banks is to help customers develop financial skills and provide them with the tools they need to learn how to make their money work for them.

From May 25, 2020 – the day a Minneapolis cop knelt on the neck of George Floyd, 46, for almost 10 minutes until Floyd died – OneUnited Bank has opened 60,000 new accounts. Finding a way to support communities that need it most, Americans of all races are doing what they can.

It is about empowering communities with knowledge and resources.

How to become an ally of a black-owned bank

Like all financial matters, what you do with your hard-earned money deserves careful consideration. Here are some of the benefits of opening an account, making an investment, or taking out a loan from a black-owned bank:

  • If you already have an established bank account, opening another is a good way to diversify your funds. As Cohee puts it, “Banks aren’t like wives. You can have more than one. “
  • Having more than one checking account is an easy way to keep track of your money. For example, if you shop online using just one account, it’s easy to track how much you’re spending without going through all of your other purchases.
  • Building an emergency savings account with a second institution is a nifty way to train yourself not to touch until the funds are needed.
  • Even today, banking relationships are important. Establishing a working relationship with multiple banks offers more options when it comes to making an important financial decision.
  • You can feel good about helping create communities at risk and being a part of something bigger than yourself.

If you decide to become an ally, take a look at this card designed by Blackout Coalition, showing black-owned banks and credit unions across the country. Do your research, decide which products and services best meet your needs, and be a part of the movement.

It might be easy to imagine OneUnited Bank’s Cohee as a fat, rich, self-satisfied cat. He holds an MBA from the University of Wisconsin, a law degree from Harvard and success as an investment banker and business owner to his credit. Cohee is indeed a rich man, but it was never his ambition to earn money for the sake of hoarding. “I was determined to make some quick money so that I could go from focusing on what I earned to making black America a place where there were more opportunities.”

To understand Cohee’s goal of creating a black-owned bank, it helps to know where the sentiment arose. He was four years old, sitting in an uncle’s basement in Kansas City, Missouri, surrounded by a room filled with Black Power supporters discussing how to improve the lives of their family, friends and children. their neighbors. He remembers a man who turned to him and gently told him that there were enough good men on the street, struggling to make changes. What the movement needed were young brothers to come out, get a good education, and work within the system to lend a hand to others. What the gentleman hoped to see was more black-owned businesses, black-owned banks, and black Americans able to help others.

Today, from one of its offices in Compton, Calif., This is precisely what Cohee and his team are busy doing. They help clients who are unable to open bank accounts due to past financial issues to rebuild their reputation and rebuild their credit. They lend money so that customers can buy homes and open businesses in low and moderate income areas. They provide financial education through an ever-expanding library of entertaining and informative materials. They stay at the forefront of new technologies, believing that 21st century banking will be done almost entirely online.

More than anything else, however, they make their presence known, becoming a permanent anchor around which communities can build.

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