Chicago faith leaders gathered to share their initiative to encourage their congregations to open accounts at one of the city’s Black-owned banks.
The group, which contains 100 pastors from across Chicagoland, held a press conference on Tuesday, Aug. 9. to promise $100,000 in deposits for Seaway Bank and Trust Company. The bank, which was established to counter discriminatory lending practices, has been investing in community organizations since its inception in 1965. Banking with Seaway, the pastors say, is a way to directly help Chicago’s Black communities.
“We have to learn to own our own,” Rev. Dr. Phalese Binion of the West Side Ministers Coalition said. “If we’re talking about economic development and economic empowerment, we have to come in and we have to give back. We have to begin to sow into ourselves so that we can have a voice.”
Organizers of the event include Rev. Torrey Barrett of Life Center Church of God in Christ, Rev. Tyrone Crider of Mt. Calvary Baptist Church, Pastor Michael Eaddy of Peoples Church of the Harvest, Rev. Dr. Leon Finney of Metropolitan Apostolic Community Church, Bishop Simon Gordon of Tridestone Full Gospel Baptist Church, and Pastor Leslie Sanders of Hope Presbyterian Church of Chicago.
Other community leaders in attendance included former 2nd Ward Alderman Bob Fioretti, Markham Mayor David Webb, and Markham Economic Development Director John Thompson.
Recently, supporting Black banks has been a nation-wide initiative after the police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile in early July. The “Bank Black” movement started to gain steam as Black Americans across the U.S. searched for ways to empower their communities.
At that time, Seaway noticed a record-breaking jump in new accounts. Chicagoans opened 574 new accounts at Seaway in July, the most ever in a single month, totaling $2 million in deposits.
Prior to this movement, things were different at Seaway. Just a month before, the bank was suffering a $16 million loss from the previous five quarters and was on the verge of losing its Black-owned status as it sought capital to keep its doors open. Seaway and its significance in Chicago, pastors say, needs to be preserved.
“Seaway is in our community and it is our duty as people in the community, business men, faith-based leaders, to come together and support this bank,” said Bishop Charles Mickens of the Southland Ministerial Health Network. “What the bank needs to keep its doors open is deposits.”
The rebuilding of Black wealth is has become an even greater need as families fail to reach their pre-recession levels, according to Pew Research Center. The median net worth of Black families in 2007 before the Great Recession was $19,200, declining 14 percent to $16,600 after the recession in 2010. But, it continued to fall an additional 34 percent, landing at $11,000 in 2013.
Much of this damage is from the loss of assets, such as homes. Banks like Seaway can help re-acquire them.
The pastors say the change starts with them. Rev. Dr. Leon Finney deposited $50,000 in an account for his church.
“We have to encourage all of our friends and all of our consistencies to deposit, but first, it’s important that we ourselves deposit — you can’t lead others where you’re not willing to go,” Finney said.
Rev. Leslie Sanders, Sr. says the commitment expressed by the pastors is just the beginning and that congregational support is needed to create real change.
“This is a launching pad,” he said. “We’re going back to our churches on Sunday and continue this movement with our members. We’re coming as a church, but we’re also asking the members of our congregations to come and partner with us.”
Seaway has a wide variety of options for those seeking to open a new account. In addition to its standard checking account, it also has CDA/IRAs, traditional savings accounts, “young savers” accounts for children 17 and under, and a low-cost savings account to help families save for holiday expenses.
For the more than 53 percent of Blacks who are either unbanked or underbanked and may not understand the difference between account options, Adrienne Baker, Vice President/Senior Commercial Loan Officer at Seaway Bank, says anyone who comes to open an account bank will receive individual attention from a banker.
“We have a VIP process where you can work with any of our bankers and get your account opened in a very timely manner,” she said.
Members of the community are encouraged to visit Seaway on its “Open Account Day” on Aug. 27.