CHATHAM — Some 100 pastors came together Tuesday to urge African-Americans to "bank black" by opening an account with Seaway Bank and Trust Company, one of the city's last remaining black-owned banks.
The pastors have united with the mission of promoting Seaway Bank, 645 E. 87th St.
They announced Tuesday alongside the institution’s vice president/senior lender Adrienne H. Baker, former 2nd Ward Ald. Bob Fioretti and suburban Markham Mayor David Webb that they have already raised $100,000 in deposits for the bank. Their plan is to help raise $3 million for the bank between now and the end of the year. They're encouraging more church leaders to get their members to open up checking and savings accounts.
The Rev. Leon Finney of Metropolitan Apostolic Community Church said his church deposited $50,000.
“This bank needs everyone,” he said.
The bank celebrated its 50th anniversary last year.
Seaway was opened in 1965 by a group of businessmen who witnessed the discriminatory lending practices many African-Americans faced on the South Side during that era The South Side institution quickly became a fair and welcoming place for the black community.
Today, its main facility is at 645 E. 87th St., but originally it was at 8555 S. Cottage Grove Ave. in a rented storefront. In 1982, Seaway’s founder, Ernest Collins, retired as the board’s chairman, and Jacoby Dickens replaced him in 1983. The bank soon became the largest African-American-owned bank in the country.
The pastors said those who support the Black Lives Matter movement that has swept the nation should take action and "bank black."
“Monday is the biggest deposit day for the banks because of churches, so what do you think would happen if those churches would support this bank?” said the Rev. Charles A. Mickens of Lights of Zion Ministries at 11636 S. Halsted in Roseland. “Let’s do something. We have to take charge.”
Mickens said other groups come into the black community and profit, but those dollars don’t circulate in the community. Supporting Seaway Bank is “a way for us to take charge and start our own businesses.”
Webb said he plans on closing his current bank account and opening an account with Seaway.
“We take our money and go in different directions with that,” he said about the complaint that not enough blacks support their own. “That’s the way we’ve been trained, but we need to change that. I want to see this bank succeed.”
Baker said Dickens, who has since died, used to help the faith-based community often. His wife, Veranda Dickens, who has been the executive chairman of the bank since his 2013 death, wanted to utilize the clients they already had.
“We said, 'Let’s reach out to that low-hanging fruit if you will and let’s see what we can do to enhance Seaway here in our African-American community,'” Baker said.
The bank isn’t in as bad as a shape as people think it is, she said, adding it raised $10 million in two months from the black community and Centers of Influence.
“We couldn’t be happier,” Baker said. “This is phenomenal.”
Over the years there has been speculation that the bank might close or be sold or attract investment from outside the African-American community that would threaten its status as black-owned. A Crain's Chicago Business article in June detailed the status of the bank and mentioned its capital raising campaign, which Baker declined to comment on.
"The South Side lender has suffered $16 million in total losses over the past five quarters ended March 31," Crain's reported. "Its capital is below the minimum needed for the bank to be deemed 'adequately capitalized' by regulators."
The bank has a goal of raising $20 million in deposits this year, Baker said.
“We’re well on our way,” she said. “We’ve had a good run and we’re continuing to see more activity.”
The bank is having an "open-an-account day" Aug. 27 to encourage more people to bank with Seaway.
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