Durham, N.C. — Large banks, including M&F in Durham, are taking the initiative to advance racial equity by investing in minority-owned businesses, leading the charge for a more inclusive recovery after the pandemic.
Mechanics and Farmer’s Bank on West Parrish Street was born in the 1900s when African-Americans were saving every dollar and fighting to participate in the economy. The bank gave them the opportunity to do so, and today, it is making sure these communities won’t fall behind.
M&F Bank was among the pioneers in Durham on ‘Black Wall Street,’ enabling African-Americans to become business and home owners.
“We’re the second oldest African-American bank in the United States. We have a long-standing connection with the people in businesses in North Carolina. Our current and future customers need us now more than ever,” said James Sills, the bank’s CEO and president.
WRAL Data Trackers found that of the more than 129,000 businesses in the state that received funding from the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, only 8% of owners who disclosed their race and ethnicity were Black or African-American.
“It was all about who had the access. You know, the big boys the corporate establishments,” said Leonardo Williams, the owner of Zweli’s Kitchen.
He described how challenging it was for him as a black business owner trying to start from the ground up.
“We have like a double whammy basically. We did not have the extensive banking relationships prior to this. We had difficulties getting loans,” he said.
That is why four of the country’s top banks are giving out what is called ‘equity infusions.’ Sills said M&F is determined to use $420 million specifically to help reduce the racial wealth gap.
“These strategic partnerships are just part of a greater effort to generate a more inclusive recovery with communities of color that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic,” he said.
“It’s all about cultural responsiveness. M&F, for one, is right down the street, but most importantly, it’s their mission,” Williams said.
The additional funds will allow the bank to have more resources at their disposal such as technology, automation, ATMs and financial literacy programs. It will also expand their current programs, allowing small business owners to have a better chance of getting a loan and more financial support.
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