As Chairman of The Black Leadership Development Institute, (BLDI) Community Banking Coalition, and founding member of The Monroe Foundation’s Community Reinvestment Organizing Project, I view the federal takeover of Shorebank a victory and new window of opportunity for grassroots poor people. And I hope that this is a sign to other banks that sit in Chicago’s poor communities that you cannot continue to keep ignoring the appeals of the poor, totally dismiss their complaints and think that nobody is listening. Well Shorebank officials may have ignored the poor peoples requests for their attention and got away with it for years, but you can’t ignore the federal regulators. “How do the mighty fall,? …. when they think they can’t.
The record will show that when Shorebank was attempting to purchase the former Independence and Drexel Banks I helped lead the protest against Shorebank in favor of William Johnson and The Omnibanc group out of Michigan because unlike Shorebank, William Johnson personally attended every community organization invitation to hear their concerns, he invested money in hiring grassroots organizers and bought advertising with grassroots Black media groups to promote his plans for the banks and most importantly grassroots community leaders, their organizations, and their various poor constituencies could actually SEE their recommendations and input in the Omnibanc plan, that we did not see from Shorebank although they still benefit fom their marketing as a “community” bank, even though Shorebank officials never met once with those poor peoples groups.
I also serve as one of the National Community Organizers for Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network’s “Measuring The Movement” National 12 Month Action Plan, where one of the issues adopted was to challenge local banks to do more at addressing the needs of poor constituencies and not just selectively choosing to market to the “middle class,” while continuing to ignore the very least of God’s people. When I returned from The National Action Network Convention in New York, I personally contacted Walter Grady at Seaway Bank and Otis Monroe of The Monroe Foundation contacted Shorebank and informed them them that we were continuing to reach out to establish dialogue yet again on bringing grassroots issues to them for another Community Banking Report. Shorebank STILL refused to meet with our Community Banking Coalition and Community Reinvestment Organizing Project members. After two years of no response from Shorebank, they finally agreed to a meeting with us after we issued our latest Communty Banking Report to The State Treasurer’s Office who have been working with our coalitions on public policy recommendations to better access to capital and banking services to underserved and poor constituencies. I will report next week on the status of my our current communications with Seaway Bank.
I will be working to bridge this “class” divide that exists with the new owners of the banks leadership, as well as with many of our civic, political, and religious leaders who unsuccessfully lobbied to save Shorebank and its former leadership and even in the religious leaders public statement their language championed the “middle class” with no mention of the word “poor.” We must come together for it was just an irony to see one side of our community leadership feeling that the takeover of Shorebank was a loss to thew community while at the same time over 200 community based representing the poor groups were viewing The Shorebank takeover as a victory, and a new opportunity to establish the kind of rapport and community reinvestment partnership that they never could with the former Shorebank leadership and management. Members of our coalition are meeting today at The 1st National Convention of Black Wall Street Organizations and as part opf the amended agenda, we adopt an official resolution to engage the new bank owners and management. In addition, Otis Monroe, President of The Monroe Foundation and Chairman of the Community Reinvestment Organizing Project will be contacting the new bank ownership on Monday.
I have no doubt whatsoever that the needs of the middele class communities will continue to receive the same level of service they enjoyed and applauded from the former Shorebank, but that is not the challenge we are presenting to Seaway Bank and others is their attention to the underserved and neglected poor people’s constituencies and our grassroots community reinvestment agenda. Poor people have been neglected far too long and now is the time to take direct action but these banks are no longer going to be allowed to sit in the heart of the Black and poor communities and watch the banks catefr to the middle class leaving poor people poorer and more desperate by the day. Poor people matter and if the former Shorebank leaders and management chose two ignore our groups for over two years, well we will know first thing Monday morning the signs that the new owners will show after we call.