A black-owned Atlanta bank is experiencing a sudden surge of deposits, powered by a campaign aimed at bolstering black-owned financial institutions after multiple high-profile police killings raised awareness of institutional inequality.
Citizens Trust Bank — anchored in metro Atlanta, Columbus, Ga., Birmingham, Ala. and Eutaw, Ala. — said it has received about 8,000 new applications for depositors in recent days.
One of the catalysts: Rapper Killer Mike called in to a town hall meeting on MTV and BET on July 8 to implore the black community to deploy “a portion” of its financial resources to make a difference.
He wants 1 million people to deposit $100 apiece in small black-owned banks or credit unions, believing that those financial institutions will be more likely than other banks to make loans to black citizens and businesses — and more likely to treat them fairly in general.
“We cannot go out in the street and start bombing, shooting, and killing,” the rapper said during the town hall. “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. 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.
Michael Grant, president of the Washington, D.C.-based National Bankers Association, which promotes minority-owned financial institutions, said that CEOs of black-owned banks have been calling him saying they’re “getting volume that you would not believe” in recent days.
“It’s not just happening in one location — it’s happening to banks around the country,” he said.
Frederick L. Daniels Jr., executive vice president and chief credit officer of Citizens Trust Bank, told USA TODAY in an interview that the bank is at the center of a “true movement.”
“If we can bring together our economics collectively, we can help businesses grow, we can help people obtain home loans. That brings them closer to the American dream,” he said. “We’re providing a tangible solution for those who want action.”
The U.S. had 23 black-owned banks, credit unions or savings and loan associations as of March 31, according to the Federal Reserve. The nation’s 156 minority-owned banks collectively hold $131 billion in assets.
Citizens Trust Bank had $328.8 million in deposits as of Dec. 31, down 3.5% from a year earlier, according to its annual report.
There are scattered reports of other black-owned banks receiving a surge of deposits in recent days. For example, Unity National bank in Texas has gotten more than 350 new accounts in the last week, the Houston Chronicle reported.
Moving assets to a black-owned bank is a concrete way that people can help reverse the tide of economic injustice, Grant said. Black-owned banks were hit particularly hard by the Great Recession as their customers suffered job losses and loan repayment rates fell, he noted.
“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?”
Among the people embracing the cause is singer Solange Knowles, who said Saturday on Instagram that it was “time to literally put my money where my mouth is” by shifting her money to a black-owned bank.
There appears to be a budding grassroots push, too. Daniels Jr. said Citizens Trust Bank had a committee of young professionals who have helped build buzz about the movement on social media.
“They have been instrumental in creating additional momentum to help get the word out: You have an alternative,” he said.