By C.K. LeDaniel
In 2011, I moved my money out of a big bank and into a small credit union, one that serves the community of color in which I work. I did this on Bank Transfer Day, launched that November 5th by a woman in California who was annoyed by newly imposed ATM fees. Bank Transfer Day coincided conveniently with the Occupy Wall Street movement, and I made the switch right around the time I was volunteering at Occupy’s encampment in lower Manhattan. It was a heady time of protest in New York City and around the country, which was still reeling in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. At least temporarily, our collective consciousness was raised as we were awakened to the nature of capitalism and its inevitable concentration of wealth in the hands of the 1% at the expense of the other 99%. That was enough reason for me to get out of the big banks.
Conceived initially as a Million Man March on Wall Street, because White people—I am one—are always ready to co-opt a good idea, Occupy was largely a White movement addressing White concerns (although one of its heroes was a Black Iraq war veteran, Sergeant Shamar Thomas). Flash forward 5 or 6 years, and the country moved from awakening toward woke, as the Black Lives Matter movement erupted, reminding us to transfer out of the big banks and into the Black banks, because hey, capitalism may be a disaster but right now, it’s the only game in town, and you have to pay to play.
For reasons of convenience, at that point my teenage children had their accounts at one of the big banks, one of the many that finances private prisons, and therefore mass incarceration, but my laziness regarding moving their money prevailed for awhile. That is, it prevailed until MOBB United’s Economic Development team, then chaired by Munirah Small, initiated its #MOBBUMoneyJar project, encouraging us to collect our household change into a jar and empower our sons and their communities by bringing them to a Black-owned bank to open an account.
Well, first, we had to find a Black-owned bank and unfortunately, I learned that there are none in Manhattan! The closest thing to Black-owned is the majority Black-operated bank, Carver Federal Savings Bank, in Harlem, which is where MOBB United maintains its bank account! My kids and I did a little more research and decided to go with an online bank.
If you are thinking about moving your money to a Black-owned bank but are reluctant to make the switch because of the onerousness of the task, I can promise you this—your experience won’t be as challenging as mine was. My kids wouldn’t do it without me, so we had to find time to sit down together and figure it all out. That was hard enough, but it ended up taking multiple meetings, emails, and phone calls to make it happen. Also, we made the classic mistake of closing the current accounts before we opened the new ones, which meant that things like direct deposit from their college employment and depositing those birthday gift checks from Nana were problematic, not to mention that they had no ATM access to cash and no debit cards during the transition. But what’s worse is that someone—maybe one of us or maybe someone at the bank—made the mistake of reversing my twins’ Social Security numbers. Those of us who have twins know that their Social Security numbers are the same but for the last number of each, and those two numbers are consecutive. It’s a sweet reminder of the proximity of their entries into the world and the fact that while they have much in common, they are still two distinctly different individuals. In this case, it resulted in both of their accounts being frozen until we could straighten it out and prove who was who. Like I said, I promise it will be easier for you.
For a guide on how to make the switch, see consumerfinance.gov.
It’s the holiday season, and what better way to give back than to buy Black? Let’s invest in our sons by investing in their communities. Black buying power can have tremendous influence not only on our sons’ ability to thrive economically; it also signals political power. Advertisers, marketers, corporations, charitable organizations, and politicians depend upon and monitor revenue streams, and they listen to our issues and needs when we buy Black. Money matters. Money talks. Let yours shout from the rooftops this December. Here are a few ideas for you:
- MOBB United! Who doesn’t need a Woke Mom T-shirt – or a Woke Auntie, Woke Grandma, Woke Dad T- shirt? And what about an I Am Your Future onesie for your baby? Buying your gifts from the MOBB United store invests directly in our sons by empowering MOBB to empower them.
- Fresh from our National Call on December 2, 2017, with Katie Ishizuka-Stephens and Ramon Stephens, is a curated list of books for children up to 18 years old from The Conscious Kid Library, because “Black Books Matter.” The books have Black characters and heroes and are written by Black authors you will be supporting. You can also join https://www.theconsciouskid.org and have books delivered monthly for a nominal fee.
- For online one-stop shopping, check out https://www.buyblackmovement.com/About/. From their website: “TAG TEAM Marketing International, Inc. operates the powerful Buy Black Movement program. We are a Black-owned and operated company that specializes in marketing and distributing the products and services of Black-owned businesses to Black consumers.” They have gifts in every category you can think of, from clothing and cosmetics to dolls and DVDs.
*For a list of Black owned banks, visit blackoutcoalition.org.