“I didn’t even know this existed.” The same sentiment echoed throughout a small group that had gathered for mediation and fellowship on a warm, sunny day at Camp North End. It was there that I found myself unexpectedly but passionately sharing why the Charlotte community should begin “banking Black,” and how they could do that while supporting not only Black-owned business, but local business.
What began as an idea to encourage my immediate circle of friends to open accounts at a Black-owned institution soon gained increasing personal and professional interest from people working in capacities ranging from creative to corporate. In response, I’ve now organized a march for Sunday, July 12, to educate and empower all people who support Black equality and equity.
Amid racial tensions across the country, only compounded by the effects of a global pandemic, we are all seeking ways to do better for each other. With cries out to (1) defund the police and (2) continue support for those unable to return to work, it made sense to set my sights on something tangible that would make a significant impact.
At the root of many inequities is the prioritization of money and power for a few over the interests and wellbeing of the many. To see where those values lie, simply follow the money. Economic wealth determines where you live, where your children go to school, which candidates make it onto the ballot, and so much more. Each one of us votes with our dollars, but how can we affect change when most households don’t have much disposable income to spare? The answer: We redirect the flow.
I was introduced to M&F Bank, known as Mechanics and Farmers Bank until a recent rebranding, by a friend who sits on the Millennial Advisory Board. It is the second oldest Black-owned bank in the country. Founded in Durham in 1907, it has successfully served North Carolina residents for over 100 years, and proudly redistributes over 80% of its funds back into the community. The bank’s Charlotte branch, located on Beatties Ford Road across from Johnson C. Smith University, is a gem hidden in plain sight.
Many of us don’t think twice about what bank we use, nor do we consider that decision a means of social action. We typically set up accounts wherever is most familiar or convenient. Brand recognition and sleek mobile apps keep larger commercial institutions top of mind and a preferred choice. However, when stacked against smaller providers like M&F Bank, you may find rates, fees, and customer service to be comparable coming from the smaller company — if not better.
By opening checking and savings accounts; taking out business, home or auto loans; or employing wealth-management services, you are contributing to the success of your Black neighbors. Each business owner who is able to secure the necessary funds to cover operational expenses is then in a position to create jobs. Homeowners with adequate loans can begin building generational wealth. It’s the most direct way to “pay it forward.”
My enthusiasm for banking Black stems from these simple examples of how one small shift can quickly snowball into profound, shared success. In my experience, money is a difficult subject for people to talk about, especially in the Black community. Silence among peers about salary, savings, and investments puts everyone at a grave disadvantage. With more intention and emphasis placed on where our money is going, it is my desire that we all begin to learn more about how money really works.
M&F Bank was pivotal in establishing the Black Wall Street of Durham in the early 1900s. Located on Parrish Street along with North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company, the pair served as powerful entities for supporting Black business. Parrish Street bordered the Black residential neighborhood in Durham forming a hub for lively commerce. Both M&F Bank and N.C. Mutual valued maintaining a mutually beneficial relationship between company and community at the forefront of its goals.
I believe that again there is an opportunity to build that same caliber of economic prosperity. I encourage all individuals and businesses in Charlotte to consider investing their money in M&F Bank. It is a simple step that shows tremendous support for our community and will strengthen the framework for equality and equity.
The Bank Black March will take place Sunday, July 12, 2020, at 11 a.m. I look forward to rallying for economic change, sharing valuable personal finance strategies, and expanding on ways to get involved with the Black bank in our own backyard. To learn more about the march or RSVP, visit the website.
Simone Suber is a creative entrepreneur and NYC-native, based in Charlotte. She seeks to connect and empower other creatives through digital media and events.