In recent weeks America’s black community has galvanized via social media, black media and word of mouth, answering the call for a show of economic force by moving their money from traditional banks to Black-owned banks. It’s all a part of a one-year old campaign – the Black Money Matters Movement -- that offers a different approach to addressing issues affecting the African American community.
The names may sound similar, but Black Money Matters is not related to the Black Lives Matters Movement, but recent the recent emphasis on the movement does appear to be motivated in part by recent tragic deaths of Black men at the hands of police officers. Instead of marching, Black Money Matters encourages members of the African-American community to make a fiscal response.
“They understand two languages very clearly – money and finances,” says a Black Money Matters speaker on a video posted on the organization’s website. “The idea that we can scare people into treating us the right way in my opinion is not the right way. Letting my money speak for me and fighting fiscally makes the most sense and it puts us at a lower level of risk,” continued the video presenter. “I believe we can make a change by using our money, because our money counts. As long as our money matters, our lives should matter also.”
The Black Money Matters Campaign, is just a year old, while the Black Lives Matter program is a three-year old campaign. Black Lives Matter has gained international attention. Possibly, the Black Money Matters Campaign can do the same. The economic campaign struggled to gain much attention during its first 11 months, but the momentum changed in July when several rappers and celebrities became involved.
The Black Money Matters campaign went viral after a town hall meeting televised on BET. During the show, Rapper Killer Mike implored the black community to deploy “a portion” of its financial resources to make a tangible difference. Other celebrities such as Solange, Jessie Williams, Alicia Keys, Beyonce, Queen Latifah, and more joined the conversation and began urging blacks to move their money to black-owned banks to show solidarity and empower the community by recycling dollars within the Black community.
Executives at several community banks owned or operated by minorities, including OneUnited Bank in Boston and Carver Federal Savings Bank in New York, say they have received a windfall of deposits in recent weeks, coinciding with the introduction of the Black Money Matters Project.
OneUnited Bank, with branches in California and Florida, reported generating $3 million in deposits from across the country in response to the call to action. The $754 million-asset Carver Bank told the blog American Banker said it has collected about $2.4 million in new deposits since the Black Money Matters movement started.
Killer Mike and entertainer Usher led an account-opening drive at the $404 million-asset Citizens Trust Bank in Atlanta, netting an additional 8,000 new-accounts at last report. At Washington D.C.-based Industrial Bank, "account opening volume has increased exponentially," CEO Doyle Mitchell wrote in a letter to depositors. In tracking new accounts, Industrial's bankers have noticed that many have increased the size of their balances in recent days, McLaurin said.
Industrial has beefed up its back-office operations to deal with the increased traffic and is considering extending its customer-service hours, McLaurin said. "This is a wonderful experience to go through."
"I've been in banking since 1989 and I've never experienced anything like this," said Thomas McLaurin, chief operating officer at the $389 million-asset Industrial Bank in Washington, D.C.
OneUnited has introduced a promotion called "Black Bank Challenge," urging individuals to open a checking or savings account and to ask 20 friends and associates to do the same. Teri Williams, President and COO of OneUnited says the ultimate goal is to collect $100 million, which she admits is a longshot.
"We're using the $100 million figure as an example of what's possible," Williams said. "We want the community to think about depositing money. It not only earns interest, it serves a community purpose. It helps buy homes, increase jobs, start businesses and reduce unemployment. Anyone interested in helping the African-American community can deposit.
“If 1 million people opened a $100 savings account in a black owned bank, we would move $100 million! That’s real economic power,” said. “It is critical for the black community to utilize our $1.2 trillion in annual spending power to create jobs and build wealth in our community.”
Bankers appreciate the enthusiasm generated by the Black Money Matters movement, but they also acknowledge that advances in financial technology has also played a big role.
"Before, people literally had to go to the branch for the bank to gather money," Williams said. "With technology, garnering spending power and channeling it is easier.