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Exploring Juneteenth and the Finance Space

Juneteenth (short for June Nineteenth) marks the day when federal troops arrived in Galveston Texas in 1985, to take control of the state and ensure that all enslaved people be freed. The troops’ arrival came a full two and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation and Juneteeth now marks the end of slavery in the United States. It’s considered the longest-running African American holiday. And on June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden made June 19 an official federal holiday.

All sounds well and good. But did emancipation bring financial freedom to the African American community and do racial inequalities still exist today? I’m looking at the financial significance of Juneteenth and the Black successes that have significantly shaped the finance/fintech world as we know it today.

Did Emancipation Bring Financial Freedom?

While Juneteenth marked significant liberation for African Americans, true freedom has been an ongoing struggle, with many historical events creating long-lasting barriers to Black financial health and wealth. Such events included:

Black Codes enacted by Southern states – this restricted the kind of work Black people could do and required them to sign labour contracts with landowners. The penalty for refusing to sign or complete a contract was beating, arrest and unpaid labour. Those who were arrested were often sent to labour camps and were treated as enslaved people.

Jim Crow laws – these segregation laws limited where Black people could go and where they could live. They also restricted access to specific services and resources. Black people could not live or work in white neighbourhoods and were therefore unable to access equal pay schemes or civil rights.

Attacks on Black wealth and progress – The Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 is an example of this. A white mob attacked Greenwood, Oklahoma, near Tulsa, an area that had become a thriving centre of Black prosperity. Known as Black Wall Street, Greenwood, included law offices, medical practices, luxury shops, restaurants, movie theatres, barbershops and salons. The massacre saw hundreds of Black residents killed and 1,000 houses destroyed in just 18-hours.

So, What’s the Landscape Like Today?

Barriers to Black wealth have had long-lasting effects. The Black-White wealth gap today is still huge. In fact, Black families reportedly have about 12 cents of wealth for every dollar held by white families. The Institute for Policy Studies say this gap would take an estimated 228 years to close if the wealth of the average Black family continues growing at the current pace. Black women, who have historically borne the burn of income disparity, also continue to earn less than their male and female peers regardless of skill and profession. This has weakened their financial health by widening the racial wealth gap for their families.

The finance space has also struggled with diversity and equality for years. Women have had to smash through more than their fair share of glass ceilings and the black community has suffered significantly too. Inequalities are rampant, in fact, with data collected by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) showing that racial diversity decreases as you move further up the corporate ladder.

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But it’s not all doom and gloom…

Black Achievements in the Finance Space

Many black communities choose to define Juneteenth as a holiday to celebrate their history and to build on their need for increased financial freedom. Juneteenth is also the perfect time to acknowledge black success and the steps being taken for a better future. And there’s a whole lot to talk about.

Last year, OneUnited Bank – the largest Black owned bank and the first Black digital bank in the US – took steps to inform and inspire the Black Community. Over 350,000 people, mostly Black, registered for the OneTransaction Virtual Conference which focussed on building Black assets rather than dwelling on challenges. Attendees pushed for information on topics such as ‘profitable business’ and ‘savings and investments,’ showing how Black communities are keen to take control of and build their financial wealth.

This is just one example of financial education in full swing. Many other black business owners and influencers in the financial/fintech space are inspiring others through their own initiatives. So who should you keep a beady eye on?

Well firstly, let’s pay homage to figures from the past who played an instrumental role in advancing black rights within the finance space. Top names include:

Jesse Binga. As the first black banker in Chicago, Binga’s bank was located in the Black Belt, a segregated neighbourhood on Chicago’s South Side. After he moved his family to a white neighbourhood in 1917, their house was bombed many times.

John Hervey Wheeler. John was the President of Farmers and Merchants Bank and one of the civil rights movement’s most influential leaders. He was appointed to the President’s Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity in 1961 by President Kennedy and used the position to champion equal rights for African Americans. Wheeler urged North Carolina’s white financial advisors to steer the region toward the end of Jim Crow segregation for economic reasons and pushed for increased economic opportunity for African Americans.

Anthony Overton – Born to enslaved parents, Anthony Overton became one of the leading African American entrepreneurs of the twentieth century. Overton’s Chicago-based empire ranged from personal care products and media properties to insurance and finance. Overton established the Douglass National Bank, the second nationally chartered black-owned bank in the United States.

Those pushing for financial equality and making waves in the finance/fintech space today also include:

#1 Dasha Kennedy – The Broke Black Girl

In a bid to smash not only gender equalities, but racial ones too, Dasha Kennedy created The Broke Black Girl. Her mission? To empower women of colour, especially Black women, with culturally relevant financial education to narrow the gender and racial wealth gap.

Kennedy states: “As Black women, we exist at the intersection of both disparities, of being not only a Black person, but then a Black woman. Our experience is very unique.” Dedicated to building a super team of Black women in finance, Dasha regularly shares easy financial hacks such as ‘a money minute’ and educational tips to her 195K Instagram followers.

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#2 Sheena Allen – Founder and CEO of CapWay

Sheena Allen is the Founder and CEO of CapWay, a digital financial services provider that aims to help those who have been underserved and overlooked by the traditional banking industry. Not only is Allen succeeding in a male-dominated world, but she’s also leading fellow women to success. When asked why it’s vital to help other women learn about finances or access financial resources she said:

“The data doesn’t lie. In business, women receive less funding than men regarding the money needed to start or scale our businesses. Women also make less on the dollar than out male counterparts. Yet, women are responsible or the primary go-to in so many positions when it comes to a situation where money is involved. Because women are already set up in a system where they receive less than or have to work ten times harder for an equal piece, it’s vital to help other women find those resources and climb the financial ladder to where they deserve to be.”

Her social media accounts are packed with authentic, truthful and raw stories that inspire women not to be put off by glass ceilings or the word, ‘no.’

#3 Derrius Quarles – Co-Founder and CEO of BREAUX Capital

BREAUX Capital is a cooperatively owned and operated financial services platform increasing the financial wellness and long-term wealth of Black male millennials. Co-Founders Ras Asan, Derrius Quarles and Brian Williams launched the software platform to address the lack of resources and barriers that Black millennials collectively experience within the financial marketplace. Since launching via a $500 investment from the founders and no marketing budget, BREAUX Capital has quickly grown across the United States, serving members from Los Angeles to New Orleans and Raleigh-Durham.

We particularly like the Meet the BREAUX series on Instagram which introduces the company’s talent and brings storytelling to the brand.

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#4 Nate Washington – Co-Founder and CTO – Qoins

Nate Washington is one half of the brilliant duo behind the micro-payment platform Qoins. Nate and co-founder Christian Zimmerman launched Qoins after Christian experienced a large chunk of his student loans eating away at his paycheck. The recent graduates recognised the immense value in helping people get rid of draining debt faster. With Qoins, people can use spare change to help pay off debts faster. Qoins has taken a strong stance in supporting Black people in the movement for social justice.

I particularly love the brand’s sense of humour which is so necessary when targeting a younger audience. They regularly focus on trending topics to bring in a crowd.

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For me, the journey into exploring Juneteenth and it’s origins has been an interesting one. Especially with a focus on the financial services sector that we predominantly work within. As a leading content marketing agency for the finance space with a passion for diversity, we do our best to acknowledge key dates and support those making significant moves in then industry. Will you be celebrating Juneteenth? Tweet me @Charli_Says and let me know.