A forum that was held at the U.S. Treasury Department is being blasted by Black America for using the Freedman Bank theme to introduce an initiative that will not specially benefit Black Americans, but people of color as a whole.
Vice President Kamala Harris and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen hosted the annual Freedman’s Bank Forum on Dec. 14. They announced $8.7 billion in federal funding for financial institutions serving minority and underserved small business owners.
The $8.7 billion will fund new U.S. government program, the Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act, which is intended to provide support to community financial institutions that serve low to moderate-income and minority communities.
The Freedman’s Bank Forum is an annual conference that was launched by former Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to discuss racial and economic disparities. The forum is named after The Freedman’s Saving and Trust Company, a private savings bank chartered by Congress in 1865 to collect deposits from newly emancipated Black slaves.
At its peak, the Freedman’s Bank had 37 branches in 17 states, according to the National Archives. It had assets totaling $3.7 million, or $80 million today after inflation. The Freedman’s Bank ultimately collapsed after less than a decade due to mismanagement.
“Today, the wealth gap persists,” Vice President Harris said. “Today, the homeownership gap persists … access to capital is unequal. Black entrepreneurs are three times more likely to report that a lack of access to capital negatively affects their profit margins. I believe that the actions we are taking and must take to address these disparities will define our nation’s strength and economic strength in the 21st century.”
On the surface, the program sounds promising but members of the United Sons and Daughters of Freedmen (USADOF) organization said to dig deeper.
The mission of the United Sons and Daughters of Freedmen is “to uplift our largely disenfranchised communities, Freedmen history, and lineage tracing.”
“None of the money…us Freedmen will never see that money. It’s pretty much described as minority investment, which sounds good. Still, none of that money will go into Freedmen’s pockets…it will pretty much go to Hispanics and immigrants,” USADOF co-founder Charles “Logic Supreme” Ware said on the “Be The Power” YouTube show hosted by USADOF chairman Nyhiem “Lord Abba” Way.
The term “minority” needs to be defined for the new Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act, Way said. “There needs to be a definition of ‘minority’ and who will benefit because white women are considered a minority,” he pointed out.
United Sons and Daughters of Freedmen (USADOF) viewed the forum as a sham, making use of the painful history of Black Americans without giving benefits and repair specifically for Black Americans.
“We feel this is a hijacking of Freedman Bank,” Way said.
Many on Twitter agreed.
“The use of the Freedman’s Bank legacy seems wrong here, esp. from a gov’t that still owes #reparations. Freedmen’s Bank provided financial support solely to newly freed black ppl, until it was looted & corrupted by white folks,” tweeted Dreisen Heath (@dreisenheath).
“Why wud @akalittlevoicep@USTreasury@SecYellen@POTUS choose someone so insensitive to concerns of Black Freedmen? She is blocking us instead of taking time to digest what’s being put forth for consideration. Freedmen are in dire straits & are owed cash, policies & programs solely for us,” Noirdos (@noirdosser) tweeted.
Way has launched a petition on the Change.org platform to “Stop Biden Administration from using Freedmen’s Bank Legacy for all minority groups.”
The petition states, “The Biden administration is using the legacy of the Freedman’s Bank which was plundered and looted by greedy White politicians during, and after the Reconstruction era. Black American Freedmen deposited upwards of $57 million in hard-earned savings into the Freedman’s Savings Bank only to have their hard-earned savings stolen and the bank ultimately failing without Freedmen being paid back one dime…The Biden Administration is attempting to use the Freedmen Bank’s legacy to implement financial investments into ‘minority’ groups which usually excludes the neediest Black Americans.”
The petition demands that funds from the new Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act be used for Black Americans.
“We, the descendants of the Freedmen demand that the Dept. of Treasury repurpose its policy to only allocate funds to the Freedmen of today or, discontinue using the name of the Freedman’s Bank under the guise that Black Americans stand to benefit when in fact, immigrants and minorities will be its main recipients,” Way wrote in the petition.
He concluded, “This is a call to action from the United Sons & Daughters of Freedmen to take a stand against this blatant act of disrespect. Getting the Biden administration and the Dept. of Treasury to either change its policy, or discontinue the usage of the name of our Freedmen ancestors, will play a major part in taking back our narrative.”
Photo: Former slave waiting for the promised Freedmen’s Bank, 1870s. Hand-colored woodcut of a 19th-century Thomas Nast cartoon (North Wind Picture Archives via AP Images)
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