Five things you need to know before you #BankBlack

I’ve always thought I wasn’t an activist because I never march, but I’m realizing that there are many ways to be a change agent. Each person has their own way of being a change agent and mine is through social and economic capital. I enjoy volunteering for causes that I feel are important and I also believe upward mobility occurs through financial means.

In a capitalistic society, obtaining economic power is an important step towards moving towards equality. This belief has led me to invest in minority-owned businesses, start my own business, and decide to place my savings in a black-owned bank. These decisions came after self-reflection, discussions with family, and doing my research.

When I decided to place my money in a black-owned bank and a woman-owned investment company (more on that in a future post), I turned to Google for more information. However, it turns out finding information on black owned banks was not as easy as I thought it would be. Even though most academic papers I found were written between the 1970s and 1990s and a lot of current blogs were reiterating the same thing by listing the black-owned banks, I still was able to put together a resource.

My desire to find out information on black owned banks led me down a rabbit hole of information. So much so, that I decided to make a bank black series.  In this series, I share things that I think are important to know before deciding to bank black.

Five things you should know before you bank black is the first in the series. This particular post discusses the first two things I think are important –  the role of banks and the history of black owned banks.

I hope this blog post can serve as a starting point in your quest to bank black. Please share in the comments any insights on how you choose a bank.

Reason 1: Before you bank black you should know the role of banks and how to choose one

I will be completely honest. I did not do any research when I chose my current banks. I chose them when I was in college because one was walking distance from my dorm and the other was where my family banked. Now that I have increased my financial literacy, I realize it is important to have some basic knowledge of financial institutions. Before deciding on banking black, it is important to know the role of banks and how to generally choose one.

Banks exist to provide a secure place to store money, complete transactions, provide financial advice, and distribute loans.

When choosing a bank, you will want to look at a few factors:

(1) Location: Consider choosing a bank that is close to where you work and live and has plenty of ATMs. However, depending on your needs, it may not matter where the bank is located if they have online banking options.

(2) Products and services: What product and services are you looking for in a bank?  As an individual or business, you might choose your bank based on services and account types. If you are someone who travels frequently, you might need a bank where you can still use its services abroad.

(3) Fees are not fun. You might want to look into a bank that has little to no fees because it can add up in the long run.

(4) If you are thinking of getting a loan or have had poor financial history, you might want to consider a bank that is second chance friendly and is willing to work with those with poor financial history.

(5) FDIC, is a government insurance corporation that formed after the Great Depression as a way to insure and secure banks. It is important to see if the bank you choose is an FDIC member. You can do this by searching the bank name on the FDIC Bank Find tool.

Reason 2: Before you bank black you should know black bank history

According to the Federal Reserve there are 156 minority-owned depository institutions of which 23 are black-owned. For a bank to be considered a minority institution, the FDIC says it either needs a minority board that serves black, Hispanic, Asian, or multi-racial communities or is majority-owned by one of those groups. Some other governing bodies, also include women as a minority-owned business. If you are looking to bank black you should look to see if the bank has a minority board that serves the black community or is majority owned by blacks.

When I was looking into black banks, I found an article by Lila Ammons, written in 1996, in which she wrote about the history of black banks in the United States from 1888 to 1992. Ammons splits black bank history into five phases, excluding the pre-civil war era.

Pre-civil war

Prior to enslavement in the United States, those brought over were well established merchants in their countries. When they came to the United States the spirit of trade and commerce did not end. Though there were laws forbidding business activity by slaves, there were those who still were able to create forms of commerce and trade, mostly in service areas.

Phase 1

1888 to 1928

In 1851, there was a meeting in which people thought it was important to own a bank.  They thought owning banks could help with savings in their communities and help those who wanted to start businesses. Though this meeting occurred in 1851, the first black-owned banks did not open until 1888. These banks were Savings Bank of the Grand Fountain United Order of True Reforms, in Richmond, Virginia and Capital Savings Bank in Washington, DC.  These banks stemmed from people involved in fraternal societies, organizations, and churches that were able to get enough money to start banks and other businesses in their communities.

These black banks were established to:

(1) Provide capital and credit for businesses

(2) Finance programs and projects led by the fraternal societies

(3) Provide general bank services that were not provided by non-minority banks

(4) Provide the security and confidence to participate in a post-emancipation society

(5) Serve as a place to get loans

Phase 2

1929 to 1953

Phase two was a period of little to no growth in the number of black owned banks. Most banks during this time lasted an average of nine years before failing. This time period was a difficult one in general because it comprised of WWII, the Great Depression, and many other financial and political shocks to the economy that made it difficult for banks to survive or open.

Phase 3

1954 to 1969

In the 1960s when there were economic development problems in urban black areas, there was the idea that banks could help attract customers that typically would not have been banking. Migration of blacks from the south to the north allowed for banks in those areas to do somewhat better. In comparison many of the southern banks closed because of the population decline.

In phase one the banks were investing money into real estate, fraternal societies, and projects that were going to serve the black community. However, the banks in phase three shifted to investing in US government bonds and portfolios.

During this time period legislation played a role in the black bank receiving support from the federal government. Because of integration, the market changed for black banks. Blacks were no longer ‘forced’ to use black banks because there were other options. Additionally, black banks had to think of ways to retain not only customers, but also employees.

Phase 4

1970 to 1979

This era was the best era for black banks in terms of number of new bank openings; 34 banks were created. The banks that were established continued to strengthen ties with the U.S. government and many bank total assets were linked to the U.S. government and bonds.

According Summers and Tucker’s 1976 study, there were three main reasons for the increase of minority banks during this time period:

(1) There was a growing interest in entrepreneurs owning commercial banks and the profits that would be gained from owning a bank. This was also during a time when minorities were improving their economic status in the country.

(2) Civil rights legislation that passed, made it feasible for individuals to obtain commercial banks. This was also a time when minority groups were gaining economic and political stature in the country.

(3) People were opening banks because it was believed that it could stimulate the economy in minority communities.

Phase 5

1980 to 1990s

During phase five, the number of new banks establishing slowed down. This was time period when black banks were attempting to find ways to attract other minorities to their banks and diversify their services.

Phase ? 

I am speculating, but if there was a follow up study on the evolution and history of black banks, it could be said that black banks have gone through two more phases. The first, like all banks would be the recession and post-recession time. The second, would be present day, because of the racial tensions and dissatisfaction in this country, there is a revived interest in banking black/minority.

Concluding thoughts

I think it is important to understand the foundations of a topic, which is why this part of the series focused on the role of banks, how to choose a bank, and the history of black banks. The next post will focus on what makes a successful black bank, what makes an unsuccessful black bank, and a complete list of current black owned banks and their ratings.



Further reading

Ammons, L. (1996). The evolution of Black-owned banks in the United States between the 1880s and 1990s. Journal of Black Studies, 26(4), 467-489.

Bankrate. Bank Shopping: Here’s how to choose.

ING. The role of banks.

Ivestopedia. Banking.

Smart Asset. Four things to look for when choosing a bank.

Hashtags to follow: #BankBlack, #BankDifferent, #BuyBlack


Photo credit: Fabian Blank

Food on a budget tip #5: Clean, cut, and cook ahead of time

I’m sure when you come home from work or school, you do not feel like cooking a meal from scratch.  Most people probably turn to junk food or ordering out, which of course as mentioned in tip #4, adds up.

Below are some ways that cleaning, cutting, and cooking my meals ahead of time has saved me not only money, but time and calories.

The basics

Clean, cut, and season meat, chicken, or fish and place into ziplock bags or reuse grocery bags. Depending on the circumstances, I also prepare and portion out my sides as well (beans, rice, vegetables).

If I want to save a meal for days when I do not have time to cook a meal from scratch – I cook my entire meal, portion it out in tupperware, and place it in the freezer.

Time saver

Before I leave for school, I put the pre-cut and seasoned fish or chicken out to defrost. By the time I return from school, all I have to do is put the food in the oven or grill.

If I already cooked the meal, I put the pre-made food out to defrost. By the time I return from school, all I have to do is put the food in the microwave

Money saver

Portion out your food and you will save money. When I buy a package of chicken breasts that contains two pieces of chicken, I split the chicken breast in half, leaving me with 4 pieces instead of two. Instead of buying two packages of chicken, I can buy one, save money, and make less trips to the grocery store.

Calorie saver

I am enjoying the benefits of preparing food ahead of time. Because I pre-package and portion out my meals, I do not overeat and as a result my waistline has been decreasing. It was when I decided to save money and cut my chicken in half, I realized that my portion sizes were large and I did not need to eat a full piece of chicken or fish to be full. To avoid eating a large portion of fish or chicken, a large percentage of my meal is vegetables.

As you can see, preparing your meals ahead of time will save you time, money, and in some cases calories!

Here are some photo examples of me preparing my food ahead of time.

food on a budget: prepare ahead of time
I made chili in my crockpot, saved it in tupperware, and froze it for later. Each tupperware container was equal to about 3-4 days of dinner
food on a budget prepare ahead of time
I grilled tilapia and made some plantains and green beans. After I cut up the fish, this equaled about 3 days of dinner.


Do you prepare your meals ahead of time? Do you find it helps save money?

As always, feel free to share with me your Food On a Budget tips and I will write about it or you can guest blog 🙂



An urban planning PhD student finding peace in creating a balance between the mind, body, soul, & environment.

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Photo Credit: Lisa-Marie Pierre





Food on a budget tip #4: Pack lunch

In elementary school, I brought lunch to school in what I thought was a  cool lunch box or brown paper bag.  Somewhere, I lost that tradition and turned to purchasing lunch. In high school my father gave me lunch money, but I didn’t use it for lunch, I saved the money and purchased  books, electronics, and other things I wanted. Though, I brought my lunch to school, every chicken parmesan day, I found myself dipping into my lunch money savings. Looking back, I could have saved a lot of money after four years of frequently spending 5 dollars a week on chicken parmesan.

Purchasing lunch whether it is daily,  weekly, or even occasionally will add up. I urge you to take the time to add up your expenses and see how much you are spending on buying lunch.

If you are spending anywhere between 10 to 50 dollars a week (and I might even go as low as 5 dollars), I suggest packing lunch. Fifteen dollars is enough to buy food that will last you the week and into the weekend.  No time? I suggest making your lunch at night. I make my lunch before I go to bed and it saves me time. I wake up, grab my food, put it in my lunch bag, and go.

Still aren’t convinced? If you eat out for lunch everyday, spending about 10 dollars a day, you are spending up to  200 dollars a month on lunch. That is how much I spend on breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks for an entire month!! With that money you can make a meal plan that suits your needs and save money that can be used towards other activities.

Take that 15 dollars and buy bread, yogurt, deli meat, lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, radishes, grapes, oranges, apples,etc. You will have enough to eat for the week.


My typical lunch varies, but usually I eat for lunch and snack:

Option 1: sandwich, fruit, yogurt, water, and trail mix

Option 2: salad with fish or chicken, fruit, yogurt, water, and trail mix

Option 3: leftovers from dinner (which you can also transform into sandwiches, salads, etc)

I invested in an insulated lunch bag, two ice packs, and a tupperware  set (with an ice pack installed) that can hold all my lunch items without them touching. This might have cost me about 15 dollars in total. With that investment, I am able to pack a full days worth of lunch and snacks to go to school. In New York, I just carried my food to work in a tote bag.When I moved to Arizona, I made the mistake of traveling on the bus and in the heat with my tote bag. My food barely stayed fresh. This resulted in me purchasing food at school a few times, cutting into my budget, and leaving me an unhappy camper. Since investing in my insulated bag and ice packs, I have not purchased any food on campus.

It is easy to succumb to the work or school culture of going out to eat, but if you pack lunch, I’m sure you will start a trend in the office (my sister did) and save money. If you must eat with your colleagues, don’t do it everyday,  go once a week, or once every two weeks.

Now that you’ve made a budgetstepped out your comfort zone, and joined a CSA, you are a few steps closer to saving money on food. Like I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I have a growing  list of food on a budget  tips that will fit various lifestyles. Pick and choose various tips and share your money saving experiences.


An urban planning PhD student finding peace in creating a balance between the mind, body, soul, & environment.

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Photo Credit: Lisa-Marie Pierre

Food on a Budget Tip #3: Join a CSA

I joined my first Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) a couple of days ago! Chow Locally, is a subscription based service that serves the Phoenix area. It offers a box of certified naturally and organically grown local food, available for weekly pick-up. All of the providers are located within 150 miles of Phoenix, which is one way to support the local economy.

So what is community supported agriculture? Community supported agriculture, commonly called a CSA, is a way for consumers and farmers to take on the benefits and risks of producing food on a farm.  The consumer pays upfront for a share of the farmer’s production and in return receives a weekly or bi-weekly share of produce for a season. Because the farmer receives upfront payment for produce, the farmer is able to purchase seeds and other materials needed to support the farm. Both the farmer and the consumer assume the risk that it might be a poor growing season. Despite this risk, many are joining CSAs because it fosters community, supports the local economy, and promotes healthy eating. Often, a stipulation is that the consumer volunteer for a couple of hours; this further fosters a sense of community. All depending on the CSA, they offer a variety of options: fruits, vegetable, eggs, meat, etc.

CSAs made the food on a budget list  because when I broke down the numbers, took into account the quantity and quality of food received, and the social and economic benefits; it is worth the cost.

My subscription is 23.97 a week (including tax), which comes out to 95.88 a month for a box of packaged produce. Chow Locally, does not operate like a traditional CSA in a couple of ways. The company offers service year-round, in comparison to most CSAs that operate seasonally. Chow Locally, also offers the option to pause or cancel subscription anytime without a fee, in comparison to most CSAs that do not offer an option to opt out. Chow Locally, also does not require volunteer work, in comparision to most CSAs that suggest a couple of hours a season spent volunteering in some capacity. However, like most CSAs, Chow Locally, does offer recipes that coincide with the weekly share.

The great thing about CSAs  whether it is a traditional or hybrid model, is that there are many ways to lower costs. You can split a share with a friend and many CSAs are based on income.

Because of my new subscription to the CSA, I actually have been able to reduce my food budget by 40 dollars. Instead of operating on a 200 dollar per month budget, I now will be on a 160 dollar per month budget. After the costs of the CSA, I am left with $64.12 a month to spend on miscellaneous items, like grains, eggs, fish, etc. For the month of September I will test out if I need to go back to my original budget.

Next time you go to the grocery store, ask yourself if you would rather know the origins of your food and pay a low cost for it or spend more money on food that traveled international waters from a farm you don’t know.

If you decide to try out a CSA, check out Local Harvest or Organic Consumers Organization to find a food subscription option in your area.


An urban planning PhD student finding peace in creating a balance between the mind, body, soul, & environment.

Facebook  – Instagram – Pinterest – Twitter – YouTube


Photo Credit: Chow Locally