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Sunday, February 28, 2016

Black Wall Street: A Historical Analysis & Perspective

Black Wall Street
A Historical Analysis And Perspective

African-American Investors Pool Money Together in Clubs

Curtis White likes to sing the praises of investment clubs to groups of young African-Americans. "I tell them the same thing I tell the old folks: There is room in the market for everybody's money," says Mr. White, a 75-year-old retired insurance agent in Detroit.

Mr. White has been pooling his money in grass-roots investment clubs for more than 30 years. He is currently in two. When he joined his first group, in 1966, very few of his black friends shared his interest in investing. How times have changed.

As their income climbs, African-Americans are flocking to investment clubs, joining together to pool money and share ideas about mutual funds, stocks and bonds, retirement savings and, generally, financial security. Often, they also share investment philosophies, preferring stocks in companies whose policies and practices they favor. African-Americans have more money than ever to spend -- and save -- and the National Association of Investment Clubs says it is seeing a surge in the number of groups whose membership is primarily black.

Lost Opportunity

"My generation didn't know enough about wealth or the gap" between white families and African-American families, Mr. White says. "The kids starting clubs now have a chance to really change some things." Mr. White figures that if he had started investing when he was 24 instead of 44, he would now have triple the $26,000 he has accumulated.

"You don't have to be rich and you may not get rich. The goal is to build something to show for your life," he says.

Annie Pierce's decision to start an investment group rose in 1992 from the ashes of fire-gutted businesses near her home in South Central Los Angeles. The aftermath of the Rodney King verdict left her with only one conclusion: "If we don't start initiating change now, this will all be repeated in a matter of years."

So, Ms. Pierce, who edits a small community newspaper, joined with some friends with business backgrounds and officials at black-oriented radio stations to create an investment club. The group focuses on local, private minority-owned businesses in Los Angeles, taking equity positions in them.

Diversified Holdings

Today the organization, Community Financial Investment Groups, has about 200 active members and approximately $150,000 in pooled assets, and it has hired a trader who invests in foreign currencies and commodities. Is Ms. Pierce concerned about the risks associated with such investments? "No, because I understand the method of investment and it's diversified enough that risk is minimized," she replies.

Ms. Pierce says the club remains a grass-roots effort that focuses on drawing in African-American investors "who say they don't have any money to invest. We show them they do." If necessary, she sits down with new members to work out budgets so they can get in the habit of putting aside some cash each month.

Yet even African-Americans of more substantial means have been historically wary of the stock market because Wall Street has never reached out to blacks, some financial advisers say. "Just like the insurance industry, many brokerage firms haven't made it a priority to market to the black community," says Larry Folmar of Folmar Financial Inc., a financial planning firm in Southfield, Mich., which advises black-oriented investment clubs geared to young professionals.

A Nasty Word

At the same time, Mr. Folmar says, "We have a real aversion toward risk. The word "investment" is a nasty word to us. We have more of a bank orientation because that is what was discussed around the dinner table."

Percy Bolton, a financial planner in Los Angeles, estimates that half of his clients, most of whom are African-Americans, belong to an investment club or have started one. For his part, Mr. Bolton spearheads the "Kiddie Club," an investment club made up of the children of his clients.

The Kiddie Club focuses on mutual funds, through a single combined account and through individual custodial accounts held by the parents. Mr. Bolton says his goal is to teach the children about saving and investing while also bringing them together socially. He sees the club as a sign that African-Americans may be starting to pass along investing savvy to their kids.

In New York, Monica Noel, who represents the local chapter of the National Association of Investment Clubs, says she has seen approximately "a sixfold increase in the number of all-black clubs" in the area. Shawn Alder, for one, started an investment club after reading an investing article in Black Enterprise magazine. The New York accountant has among his members an electrical engineer, a pharmaceutical salesman and a nurse. "So many of us don't save money, so the group effort definitely adds value to the whole idea," he says.

Rounding Up Co-Workers

Vincent Miles, a transit worker in New York, took a hint from the Beardstown Ladies Investment Club, a group of older women in a small town who chronicled their investment activities in a best-selling book. Inspired by that tale, Mr. Miles rounded up 13 of his co-workers to form Progressive Friends L.P. in August 1995.

Each member of Progressive Friends is responsible for studying and tracking particular companies in the portfolio. The members read annual reports and news stories, and analyze information from major research firms.

"The club has taught us how to properly evaluate company performance and make informed decisions," says Mr. Miles, the club's presiding partner. Most of the members had no background in investing before joining, he says, and started with only $100 apiece, making $50 monthly contributions thereafter. Today, their combined portfolio is valued at more than $27,000.

When Wayne Hicks of Ronkonkoma, N.Y., joined "The Black Experience," an on-line forum on Prodigy geared toward African-Americans, the importance of investing came up again and again.

"Solutions need to come from blacks themselves, instead of hoping for some external panacea," Mr. Hicks says. The club, which meets on-line once a month, makes a point of investing in black-owned companies like Granite Broadcasting Corp. and BET Holdings , which owns Black Entertainment Television.

Some African-Americans use their clubs as an opportunity to practice socially conscious investing. A recent investment survey of African-Americans found that 51% want to make ethical investments, compared with only 10% of nonblacks.

Edgar Hicks, (no relation to Wayne) who runs a commodities consulting firm in Omaha, says he looks carefully at corporations' policies, particularly when firms claim to promote diversity or offer opportunities to minorities. "We want to see more than just 'lip service' " he says. Procter & Gamble Co., for instance, made a strong impression when it urged local businesses to hire minority-owned advertising firms, he adds.

"If we make it clear to these companies we are investing as a group," Mr. Hicks says, "in addition to buying their products, then we have a greater chance of influencing their policies."

If anyone truly believes that the last April attack on the federal building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma was the most tragic bombing ever to take place on United States soil, as the media has been widely reporting, they're wrong -- plain and simple. That's because an even deadlier bomb occurred in that same state nearly 75 years ago. Many people in high places would like to forget that it ever happened.

Searching under the heading of "riots," "Oklahoma" and "Tulsa" in current editions of the World Book Encyclopedia, there is conspicuously no mention whatsoever of the Tulsa race riot of 1921, and this omission is by no means a surprise, or a rare case. The fact is, one would also be hard-pressed to find documentation of the incident, let alone and accurate accounting of it, in any other "scholarly" reference or American history book.

That's precisely the point that noted author, publisher and orator Ron Wallace, a Tulsa native, sought to make nearly five years ago when he began researching this riot, one of the worst incidents of violence ever visited upon people of African descent. Ultimately joined on the project by colleague Jay Wilson of Los Angeles, the duo found and compiled indisputable evidence of what they now describe as "a Black holocaust in America."


The date was June 1, 1921, when "Black Wall Street," the name fittingly given to one of the most affluent all-Black communities in America, was bombed from the air and burned to the ground by mobs of envious whites. In a period spanning fewer than 12 hours, a once thriving 36-Black business district in northern Tulsa lay smoldering--a model community destroyed, and a major African-American economic movement resoundingly defused.

Black-Owned Businesses And Other Black-Centric Resources:

Association of African American Financial Advisors

National Association of Black Accountants

Loop Capital CEO James Reynolds (Investment Banker)

Black Enterprise (http://www.blackenterprise.com/) Talks About Successful Investment Clubs

Black / African American Web Designers

Black Male Entrepreneurship Institute (BMEI)

The night's carnage left some 3,000 African Americans dead, and over 600 successful businesses lost. Among these were 21 churches, 21 restaurants, 30 grocery stores and two movie theaters, plus a hospital, a bank, a post office, libraries, schools, law offices, a half dozen private airplanes and even a bus system. As could have been expected the impetus behind it all was the infamous Ku Klux Klan, working in consort with ranking city officials, and many other sympathizers.

In their self-published book, Black Wallstreet: A Lost Dream, and its companion video documentary, Black Wallstreet: A Black Holocaust in America!, the authors have chronicled for the very first time in the words of area historians and elderly survivors what really happened there on that fateful summer day in 1921 and why it happened. Wallace similarly explained to me why this bloody event from the turn of the century seems to have had a recurring effect that is being felt in predominately Black neighborhoods even to this day.

The best description of Black Wallstreet, or Little Africa as it was also known, would be liken it to a mini-Beverly Hills. It was the golden door of the Black community during the early 1900s, and it proved that African Americans had successful infrastructure. That's what Black Wallstreet was all about. 

The dollar circulated 36 to 100 times, sometimes taking a year for currency to leave the community. Now in 1995, a dollar leaves the Black community in 15-minutes. As far as resources, there were Ph.D.'s residing in Little Africa, Black attorneys and doctors. One doctor was Dr. Berry who owned the bus system. His average income was $500 a day, a hefty pocket change in 1910. 

During that era, physicians owned medical schools. There were also pawn shops everywhere, brothels, jewelry stores, 21 churches, 21 restaurants and two movie theaters. It was a time when the entire state of Oklahoma had only two airports, yet six Blacks owned their own planes. It was a very fascinating community.

The area encompassed over 600 businesses and 36 square blocks with a population of 15,000 African Americans. And when the lower-economic Europeans looked over and saw what the Black community created, many of them were jealous. When the average student went to school on Black Wallstreet, he wore a suit and tie because of the morals and respect they were taught at a young age.

The mainstay of the community was to educate every child. Nepotism was the one word they believed in. And that's what we need to get back to in 1995. The main thoroughfare was Greenwood Avenue, and it was intersected by Archer and Pine Streets. From the first letters in each of those three names, you get G.A.P., and that's where the renowned R and B music group the Gap Band got its name. They're from Tulsa.

Black Wallstreet was a prime example of the typical Black community in America that did businesses, but it was in an unusual location. You see, at the time, Oklahoma was set aside to be a Black and Indian state. There were over 28 Black townships there. One third of the people who traveled in the terrifying "Trail of Tears" along side the Indians between 1830 to 1842 were Black people. 


The citizens of this proposed Indian and Black state chose a Black governor, a treasurer from Kansas named McDade. But the Ku Klux Klan said that if he assumed office that they would kill him within 48 hours. A lot of Blacks owned farmland, and many of them had gone into the oil business. The community was so tight and wealthy because they traded dollars hand-to-hand, and because they were dependent upon one another as a result of the Jim Crow laws. 

It was not unusual that if a resident's home accidentally burned down, it could be rebuilt within a few weeks by neighbors. This was the type of scenario that was going on day- to-day on Black Wallstreet. When Blacks intermarried into the Indian culture, some of them received their promised '40 acres and a mule' and with that came whatever oil was later found on the properties.

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Just to show you how wealthy a lot of Black people were, there was a banker in the neighboring town who had a wife named California Taylor. Her father owned the largest cotton gin west of the Mississippi [River]. When California shopped, she would take a cruise to Paris every three months to have her clothes made. 

There was also a man named Mason in nearby Wagner County who had the largest potato farm west of the Mississippi. When he harvested, he would fill 100 boxcars a day. Another brother not far away had the same thing with a spinach farm. The typical family then was five children or more, though the typical farm family would have 10 kids or more who made up the nucleus of the labor.

On Black Wallstreet, a lot of global business was conducted. The community flourished from the early 1900s until June 1, 1921. That's when the largest massacre of non-military Americans in the history of this country took place, and it was lead by the Ku Klux Klan. Imagine walking out of your front door and seeing 1,500 homes being burned. It must have been amazing.

Survivors we interviewed think that the whole thing was planned because during the time that all of this was going on, white families with their children stood around the borders of their community and watched the massacre, the looting and everything--much in the same manner they would watch a lynching.

In my lectures I ask people if they understand where the word "picnic" comes from. It was typical to have a picnic on a Friday evening in Oklahoma. The word was short for "pick a nigger" to lynch. They would lynch a Black male and cut off body parts as souvenirs. This went on every weekend in this country, and it was all across the county. That's where the term really came from.


Black Male Entrepreneurs Make Strategic Deposit In Black-Owned Bank

Andre R. Rogers, CFO, Enlightened, Inc.; Antwanye E. Ford, CEO, Enlightened, Inc.;  Ron Busby, President, U.S. Black Chambers, Inc.; Doyle Mitchell, CEO, Industrial Bank; Colonel Jim Paige (RET), executive director, Pioneers In Education Alliance; Randall Keith Benjamin II, co-founder, BME Institute; and Howard R. Jean, Co-founder, BME Institute with members of the 2015 Class of BME Institute Participants

In a strategic effort to continue the movement of “Black-on-Black economics” – circulating dollars in the Black community to every extent possible – a group of Black male entrepreneurs led by the U.S. Black Chambers Inc. (USBC) has opened accounts with the D.C.-based Black-owned Industrial Bank.

“In order for there to be a strong Black America, you must have strong Black businesses. In order for there to be strong Black businesses, we must have strong Black banks. So, from my standpoint, this is just a reciprocation for what Industrial Bank has done for our communities for the last 80 years,” said USBC CEO Ron Busby Sr. “There’s a trillion dollars of spending power in our community and we want to make sure that dollar stays within our community. Twenty-eight days a dollar stays in the Asian community, twenty-one days a dollar stays in the Hispanic community. In our community, our dollar leaves within six hours. We have got to change that…Until we have total control of how we circulate our money, our power and respect will continue to be marginalized.”

The 15 young men who gathered in the lobby of the historic Industrial Bank are members of the Black Male Entrepreneurship Institute (BMEI), which is in partnership with the USBC. The meeting took on a celebratory mode as Industrial President/CEO Doyle Mitchell congratulated Busby for his influence.

“I’m just humbled at the presence of mind that you have displayed since you first came to town and started taking a leadership role with the Chamber of Commerce and came to Industrial Bank and made a $5,000 deposit. You put your money where your mouth is,” said Mitchell. “Our only solution for us to get out of the situation that we are in as Black people is Black on Black economics. I love and appreciate the way you have taken that forward with this effort.”

Busby recalled that when he made that $5,000 deposit five years ago, he was intentionally choosing Black businesses in every area of his life. Buying a house at the time, he said he made sure he had a Black mortgage company, title company, home inspector, pest control company, and moving company. “Everybody that touched the transaction was a Black firm. The service was superior and the price was right.”

Since then, Busby has become a leading advocate for support of Black banks and Black-owned businesses. In that regard, USBC has now launched an ongoing fundraising effort for the BMEI, co-founded by Randall Keith Benjamin, Jr. and Howard R. Jean, who accompanied the young entrepreneurs to the bank.

“This is bigger than just a moment or taking pictures. It’s about how can we go out of our way to make sure that our communities are as strong as possible,” said Benjamin.

According to Jean, a BMEI reception and launch will take place Jan. 15, 2016.

“We know that our community banks are the strongest funder of small businesses, particularly Black businesses in the community,” Jean said. “So this is our campaign, starting here at the Industrial Bank in Washington, DC as we launch nationally with BME to encourage and inspire other entrepreneurs – male and female – of all ages to start banking Black.”

The last remaining African American-owned bank in the Washington area got a boost last month when it received $1 million from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.

The foundation purchased $1 million worth of certificates of deposit from Industrial Bank as part of a new initiative to help make loans more readily available to underbanked communities and minority-owned business.

“Minority and women-owned banks have been an important source of credit and other financial services to minority communities,” said A. Shuanise Washington, president and chief executive of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.

Minority-owned banks have been particularly hard hit during the recession. Many are smaller institutions with less than $100 million in assets that have struggled to stay afloat amid recent financial turmoil.

There were 54 African American-owned banks in 1994. Today there are 21, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

“The crisis had a devastating effect on the economy of the country, but it had even more of an impact on the minority community,” said Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.), the chairman of the foundation.

The investment, among the most substantial given to African-American banks in recent years, reflects a renewed interest among national organizations that are looking to invest in minority-based businesses, said William Michael Cunningham, who helps area businesses find socially responsible ways to invest their money.

“Certainly there is a growing trend here,” Cunningham said. “It is yet another example of how communities are finding resources for dedicated causes, in this case African-American banks.”

A total of five African American-owned banks received $1 million a piece. The other beneficiaries were Seaway Bank and Trust in Chicago, Liberty Bank and Trust in New Orleans, City National Bank in Newark and M&F Bancorp in Durham.

Eighty percent of the funds have been dispersed. The remaining $1 million will be distributed among the five banks in the first quarter of 2014, Washington said.

This is the first time the foundation has invested in African-American owned banks, Fattah said. The organization generally focuses its efforts on advancing the role of African Americans in politics and public policy.

“Given financial needs in the black community, a community that experienced a 54 percent decline in wealth as a result of the great recession, this focus is entirely justified,” Cunningham said.

Industrial Bank, which was founded in Washington in 1934, has $350 million in assets. The bank has eight branches — six in the District, and two in Prince George’s County.

“These deposits provide the liquidity for Industrial Bank and others to make loans in the hardest-hit communities across the nation,” B. Doyle Mitchell Jr., president and chief executive of Industrial Bank, said in a statement.

“We’ve seen investments like this used effectively before,” Cunningham added. “After the Los Angeles riots [in the 1990s], for example, many church groups increased their investments in the inner cities.”

Your questions and comments are greatly appreciated.

Monty Henry, Owner


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