The #BankBlack Movement: Atlantans Respond to Police Brutality

Jul 22, 2016

The Call

"It is time to get angry and do something."

Killer Mike was full of remorse in an interview posted online July 7th by Atlanta hip-hop station Hot 107.9.

FACEBOOK VIDEO: Killer Mike's full interview with 107.9

One of the station's personalities, Mz Shyneka, asked the outspoken rapper/activist to come to the station because she needed "a lil' pick me up." She and many others were down after seeing videos of two black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, fatally shot by police in the same week. Ironically, Killer Mike doubted he'd be able to inspire after being affected by the images. But, it was his suggestion for Atlantans to lead an economic boycott - in a video that has now been seen more than three million times - that seems to have struck a nerve.

"We don't have to burn our city down," he said. "But what we can do is go down to your bank tomorrow. You can go to your bank tomorrow and you can say, 'Until you as a corporation start to speak on our behalf, I want all my money. And I'm taking all my money to Citizens Trust.'"

Since the interview, at least 8,000 people opened new accounts with Citizens Trust Bank, an Atlanta-based black owned and operated financial institution.

Answering the Call

Kennesaw nurse Tiara Carter proudly stands in front of her new bank.
Credit Olivia Reingold

Tiara Carter is one of those new account holders. After working a twelve-hour shift, the nurse drove over fifty miles to open her new account with Citizens Trust. "I drove from Kennesaw to Atlanta, honestly, to support," Carter said. Empowerment was next on her short list of reasons as to why she answered Killer Mike's call to #BankBlack. But how does money translate into social change? Carter believes financial pressure can push society towards progress. "Our money goes a long way," she said. "It touches a lot of areas that we do not realize."

Listening to Dee Burries' explain her reasons for joining the #BankBlack movement.
Credit Olivia Reingold

Dee Burries, another new account holder at Citizens Trust, hopes the #moveyourmoney campaign will influence change in the same way advertisers influence the TV industry. "When they (advertisers) pull money, that's when shows change their programming," Burries explained. "And the same goes with that's happening here in the states. You won't listen to us, so guess what? We're going to go ahead and move our money into our places, other businesses." For Burries, the #BankBlack movement is not just about standing up to an unjust system. It's also about reinvesting in black communities. The idea of reinvestment also brought new Atlanta resident, Sterling Campbell, to Citizens Trust Bank.

Sterling Campbell wore a shirt with Malcom X's portrait to open his account at Citizens Trust.
Credit Olivia Reingold

"This is an opportunity for my generation to create a black Wall Street that I read about in my history books" he said. Campbell and the other account holders interviewed for this story agree that this movement has the potential to revive local black communities not just in Atlanta. "If most of our money is going through the hands of black people, you'll find little black Wall Streets all over the country."

From Call to Lifestyle Change

The most obvious question is - will this work? To answer that question, Oglethorpe University politics professor, Dr. Kendra King Momon, reflects upon the historical precedents of the Civil Rights movement.

Dr. Kenda King Momon of Oglethorpe University. Her areas of academic specialty include politics, hip hop, and leadership.
Credit Oglethorpe University

She contends the #BankBlack movement is similar to one of Dr. Martin Luther King's and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference's nonviolent protests: Operation Breadbasket. She explained that Dr. King and SCLC launched Operation Breadbasket to boycott businesses that would either deny service to African-Americans or only do so with great reluctance. "If you can't respect our person, you're not worthy of our dollar," Dr. King Momon said summarizing Operating Breadbasket. She said Operation Breadbasket and other past economic boycotts worked. To explain how financial protest led to social change, Dr. King Momon looked to the Montgomery bus boycott. "Montgomery did not end the bus boycott and allow African-Americans to ride because they were socially conscious," she said. "African-Americans not riding the bus almost bankrupt that particular busing company."

While #BankBlack has a presence in Atlanta, people in other cities with black-owned banks are also participating in the movement. Ebony reports Seaway Bank & Trust in Chicago, City National Bank in Newark, N.J., and Boston's OneUnited Bank have seen a rise in accounts in recent weeks. Will this movement have a lasting impact? Dr. King Momon says that answer will likely come at least a year from now when data will show if these new account holders kept their money in black banks.



Olivia Reingold is an aspiring long-form journalist. She is an American Studies major and Creative Writing minor at Oglethorpe University, where she maintains a 3.8 GPA as one of the school's Presidential Scholars. She is a D.C. native and thus, has an opinion - on everything.