A Black-Led Credit Union Created By The Community Following Police Killing In Minnesota

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Written by Ann Brown

 

Minnesota has no Black-led financial institutions, but a new Black-owned credit union in the works called Village Trust is set to join the 345-plus credit unions operating in the state.

There are fewer than 20 credit unions serving Black communities nationwide, according to Bank Black USA, which has been pushing the #BankBlack movement.

Village Trust was born out of the police killing of Philando Castile in a Twin Cities suburb in 2016. Castile, a 32-year-old black man, was shot and killed by a police officer while sitting in a car with his girlfriend and her 4-year-old daughter. Following the killing, community leaders and more than 200 locals gathered on the historically black north side of Minneapolis. The meeting was organized by Blexit, a grassroots organization addressing inequity in Minnesota and the wider U.S.

The residents discussed ways they wanted to improve and protect their community.

“The No. 1 idea that had twice the amount of votes than any other idea on the board that night was to establish a Black-led financial institution on the north side of Minneapolis,” Me’Lea Connelly, Blexit founder, told NextCity. “And that was the beginnings of what we now know as Village Trust.”

Connelly now serves as the director for the Association for Black Economic Power, which is heading up the Village Trust Financial Cooperative project. Village Trust will be a Black-led credit union, and itis expected to open in 2019.

“A credit union was another form of resistance to injustice and would strengthen the community as a whole,” according to a blog by the Jay & Rose Phillips Family Foundation of Minnesota. “It could provide a vehicle that supports individual financial health while building local infrastructure and services that strengthen the local economic ecosystem, creating interdependence and community vitality. This was exactly the kind of bold, entrepreneurial idea we were looking for that could be a game changer.”

Blexit secured a $430,000 grant from the foundation to establish the Association for Black Economic Power, hire a staff member, and start research to determine the project’s feasibility, NextCity reported.

Founded in February 2017, the Association for Black Economic Power has already recruited credit union members, and by the end 2017, had more than 1,100 pledges representing over $3 million in deposits, according to Connelly.

Capital Impact Partners, a leading nationwide community development lender, has also given the venture a grant. Village Trust plans to work with the community with a loan fund that will give a small number of small-dollar loans to emerging cooperative businesses.

“We want to encourage Black business owners to establish cooperative businesses,” said Connelly. “We want to support emerging Black cooperative businesses because we believe that the cooperative entity has the ability to insulate the Black economy more efficiently than investor-based business models … As a financial cooperative, we also want to ignite a broader Black cooperative movement.”

Any individual asking for a loan will never be turned down, Next City. ”If someone submits a loan application, they’ll either get approved or get a plan.”

credit union
Police Everywhere Justice Nowhere, rally at the State Capitol in St Paul, MN after the not guilty verdict in the Yanez trial. Photo attribute: Lorie Shaull

 


About Ann Brown

Ann Brown has been a freelance writer for more than two decades. Her work has appeared in CocoaFab, Black Enterprise, Essence, MadameNoire.com, New York Trend, Upscale, Moguldom, AFKInsider, The Network Journal, Playboy, Africa Strictly Business, For Harriet, Pathfinders, Black Meetings & Tourism, Frequent Flier, Girl, Honey, Source Sports, The Source, Black Radio Exclusive, and Launch. She studied journalism at New York University and has her B.A. Born in New York, Ann lived in Praia, Cabo Verde, for nearly a decade. She created “An American In Cabo Verde,” a Facebook community.