Group wants local black bank branch

Monday, May 5, 2003 23:09:22
By: Chauncey Bailey , STAFF WRITER - Section: Local News

Oakland organization seeks African-American investment in community

OAKLAND -- During a recent Black Men First meeting in East Oakland, the Rev. Bob Jackson said it's time for African Americans to come together economically.

"There's Chinatown and Koreatown," said Jackson, pastor of Acts Full Gospel Church, and founder of the Black Men First self-help group.

"Why can't we have Africatown?"

Jackson was reacting to the word that dozens of African-American owned businesses along International Boulevard in East Oakland now belong to an organization called the Black Wall Street Merchants Association (

Rev. Michael Carter, Sr. chairman of the five-year-old business organization, said he would like to see $25 million in bank deposits go to One United Bank so the Los Angeles-based financial institution can open a branch in East Oakland.

"They have $500 million in assets and that makes them the largest black bank in America," said Rev. Carter, Sr., who has held meetings with Kevin Cohee, president and CEO of One United Bank. "We want blacks to start spending at least 10 percent of their dollars with African-American businesses."

The black merchants, whose businesses are primarily along International Boulevard between 50th Avenue and the San Leandro city boundary, said they are committed to finding ways to increase the recirculation of dollars spent by African Americans within the black community.

According to Black Enterprise magazine, African Americans in the United States generate $550 billion a year but spend 95 percent outside of black neighborhoods. And 3 percent of the businesses in black neighborhoods they do spend money on aren't owned by African Americans.

Charles Brown, a local African-American economist and researcher, said Oakland has 4,700 black-owned businesses, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. However, there is no comprehensive directory. "Blacks would support blacks if they knew where the black businesses were," said Brown. "But you can't pick up the Yellow Pages and go to a black section."

City Councilmember Larry Reid (Elmhurst-East Oakland hills) has said he is working on a black economic summit of residents and community leaders, possibly in June. To be discussed then would be plans for more economic development in East Oakland.

Rev. Carter, Sr. said "Black Wall Street hopes to create 500 jobs for young people by 2005, add 200 black-owned businesses by 2007, and see a $12 billion black business district in Oakland by 2009."

The organization now has 100 businesses as members, including 30 online firms, 16 social and private agencies, a dozen restaurants and cafes, 20 salons and barbershops, 12 speciality shops, three real estate companies and eight physicians.

Bashir Salaam, who owns Happy Home Seafood and co-owns Quality Halal Meats, has been urging more businesses to join and hold community meetings.

"We have to come together and build a stronger economic base," said Salaam.

The name Black Wall Street comes from a 36-square-block, African-American business district that used to exist on the north side of Tulsa Okla.,

On June 1, 1921, race riots erupted in Tulsa, and according to black historians, more than 600 businesses, 21 churches and scores of other establishments were burned.

Authors Jay Wilson and Ron Wallace told the story in a self-published book called "Black Wall Street: A Lost Dream," and a documentary entitled "Black Wall Street: A Black Holocaust In America."

Oakland's Black Wall Street members have held church events and business expos and launched a newsletter. Members also are spreading the word about a May 7th meeting - Small Business Health Seminar presented by Healthy Oakland — 6 PM to 8 PM at Riders Cafe 9101 International Blvd. Also a May 17 event planned for West Oakland, where the Kati-Kati Project is hosting a Black Youth Business Expo from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the West Oakland Senior Center, 1724 Adeline St.

Also "We want to help the next generation of black business owners get started, " said Karrimah Muhammad, an organizer. Bathsheba Harsambe, who is also working on the event, said young people between the ages of 6 and 21 will set up booths to showcase their enterprises.

A $500 prize will go to the youth with the best business plan. For more information about www., call 777-9300 and for the Kati-Kati Project, 547-2474.