Business Lead Story West Edition

Black Banking Challenge stimulates interest

SOUTH LOS ANGELES — They came by the dozens, standing in line throughout the afternoon, waiting to open bank accounts in response to a challenge that was issued by rapper Killer Mike.

The Crenshaw office of OneUnited Bank drew large crowds of people July 23 responding to the Black Banking Challenge, a call for black people to support black-owned businesses as a way to financial empowerment.

Among those taking the challenge were Alexander and Elisha Bonds, who came to the bank that day with their young sons to start educational funds. They were among other families who felt compelled to support the Black Money Matters campaign.

“It’s time to stop being complacent and fitting in and it’s time to step up to the plate and do what we really need to do,” Elisha Bonds said. She quietly nodded in agreement when her husband said, “our destiny lies in our own hands.”

Killer Mike started the challenge early last month when he encouraged black people to open savings accounts in black-owned banks. Other celebrities, including Beyonce, Queen Latifah, Jesse Williams and Alicia Keys, quickly jumped on the bandwagon.

“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,” said Teri Williams, president and chief operating officer of OneUnited Bank, who was on hand for the local Black Banking Challenge. “Put simply, if one million people opened a $100 savings account in a black-owned bank, we would move $100 million.”

A OneUnited Bank employee helps a customer open a new account during the Black Banking Challenge July 23. A tent in the parking lot offered live entertainment to those waiting to open new accounts. (Photo by Billie Jordan)
A OneUnited Bank employee helps a customer open a new account during the Black Banking Challenge July 23. A tent in the parking lot offered live entertainment to those waiting to open new accounts. (Photo by Billie Jordan)

According to Williams, business at OneUnited Bank “has gone through the roof.” The bank is opening a national average of 1,000 accounts daily, up from just 10 daily prior to the public call to action.

“We want to say thank you to them and to all of you who have already done it,” she told those attending the challenge event. “We literally have a line downstairs going out the door to open up accounts with OneUnited Bank.”

While new account holders finalized their new accounts, entertainment was provided under a tent in the bank’s parking lot.

Singer Miki Howard was among those standing in the new accounts line. She later performed her 1989 hit, “Love Under New Management.” The singer talked about her thoughts concerning the movement in rhythm with her music.

“I think it’s just fair that we all learn to share; don’t you?” she asked, responding to a question about the Black Banking Challenge. “If the Koreans got a bank, the Iraqis got a bank, we got a bank; new world order.”

Comedian Gary ‘G-Thang’ Johnson emceed and provided comedy relief. When Johnson announced challenges for prizes, a contestant started a chant that spread and roared through the crowd:

“Say it loud, I’m Black and I’m proud.”

OneUnited Bank’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Kevin Cohee also was on hand. During his remarks he invoked Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church bombings of 1963, the Niagara Movement, a 1905 meeting of black leaders who called for a more militant response to racial segregation and disenfranchisement; as well as more recent martyrs: Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Michael Brown.

“Just as the little girls who lost their lives in Birmingham were heroes … so are Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Tamir Rice. Their names will live on,” Cohee said. “They lived short lives but they gave so much for all of us.”

The Black Banking Challenge is a nationwide push for blacks to open accounts at black owned banks. Participants are asked to open savings accounts and deposit $100 at OneUnited Bank.