Industrial Bank President B. Doyle Mitchell Jr. (Roy Lewis/The Washington Informer)
Industrial Bank President B. Doyle Mitchell Jr. (Roy Lewis/The Washington Informer)

A crowd of over 200 streamed into the lower level of Union Temple Baptist Church in Southeast on Wednesday, Nov. 1, eager to learn more about financial freedom and independence.

And like they’ve been doing since their founding 83 years ago, Industrial Bank led the way, sponsoring a town hall meeting in partnership with The State of Emergency Coalition. The historic Black-owned bank, with its President B. Doyle Mitchell Jr. and his senior leadership team at the helm, facilitated a conversation entitled “Black Wealth, Black Banks: The Role of the Black Bank in the Black Community.”

The pastor of Union Temple, the Rev. Willie Wilson Sr., kicked off the evening indicating why the Coalition has been formed and why its members believe that positive action should now replace protest and rhetoric.

“I think it is important for us to have black banks and support our black banks,” Wilson said.

Then, Mitchell, a lifelong Washingtonian and the grandson of the bank’s founder, Jesse H. Mitchell, addressed the audience.

“My father drove a Chrysler all his life,” he said. “He bought a Pontiac once, never a Cadillac.”

Mitchell, a strident drum major for economic freedom, emphasized the importance of Blacks remembering that we are family.

“How do we support each other?” he asked. “You have to be committed. There is a need for generational wealth to be passed on within the black community.”

By the latest estimate, the spending power of Blacks in the U.S. hovers around $1.3 trillion – equivalent to the twelfth largest country in the world. But Mitchell said that despite the number, the Black community still has a litany of problems including high unemployment, low individual net worth, high incarceration rate and poor health.

“There is a direct correlation between health and wealth,” he said.

Alyce Gullattee, 89, and a member of Union Baptist, was one of the oldest members of the audience and has been a member of the church for 43 years.

“I think this evening was excellent,” she said. However, she added she wished the bank execs had given more information about how a young family with small children could save more money prior to youth attending college.

Southeast resident Dexter Forbes said, “I want to build a relationship with a bank. But I need to know what they’ll give me in return.”

Katherine Nixon said she once banked with Industrial but decided the fit wasn’t right.

“I left because I wasn’t happy with the fees that the bank charged,” she said. “But I’m open now to see some of the changes they have made.”

Crystal Bank stayed after the town hall to chat with area citizens and bank officials.

“I basically came to see if there was anything I could learn,” said Bank who added she’s looking toward her retirement and wants to maximize her income.

Lester Hatcher, a retired Vietnam veteran, wore a cap proudly labeling his military service.

“I was impressed with all the speakers,” he said. “I’ll be following up.”

David Alvaranga, who has a small tax business and is a landlord for several buildings in the District had this to say.

“Actually, I was surprised,” he said. “I didn’t expect so many people to attend and believe that given the information shared this evening, I may just begin banking with Industrial Bank.”

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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