And City Treasurer Kurt Summers is having his say.
Flanked by representatives of Illinois Service Federal Savings and Loan Association — the city’s only remaining black-owned bank — and community leaders, Summers announced a $20 million deposit of city funds in the South Side bank on Monday.
It was the largest deposit in the bank’s 83-year history.
“This step really represents a paradigm shift in the way that we are thinking about how we invest our assets in our community,” Summers said later in a telephone interview.
The city’s treasurer pointed out that since the recession, community banks in this country have been “incredibly challenged,” but are also greatly needed.
“Community banks are an important source of capital and economic resources for local communities. Half of small business lending comes from community banks. A third of all commercial real estate lending comes from community banks, and community banks in this country have only 14 percent of assets,” he said.
Illinois Service Federal was on the brink of collapse when the Ghanaian-American family, led by Papa Kwesi Nduom, stepped up in 2016 with a $9 million equity infusion.
There was no rescue, however, for another iconic black financial institution, Seaway Bank.
Earlier this year, Seaway Bank was taken over by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp and sold to the State Bank of Texas.
At that time, Nduom, a former Deloitte & Touche partner who chairs the bank’s board of directors, told me black banks have been left to “sink or swim.”
“Only a few have managed to find resources and enhance their capital and to be recapitalized,” he said.
It should be a simple thing.
Black people work, live and pay taxes in the city. Shouldn’t some of that money be invested in the communities where they live?
But only “47 percent of black business owners receive the full amount of their loan request versus 76 percent of their white counterparts, and 59 percent of black business owners decline to even seek capital because they believe they won’t get approved,” Summers said.
Summers grew up in Bronzeville two blocks from where Illinois Service Federal is located. His mother still lives in the neighborhood.
“I can remember looking at our neighborhood and then going on field trips to more affluent areas that didn’t look like ours,” Summers recalled.
“And I would come home and ask my mom why aren’t we worthy of the investments that other people have. I think no child in this city should have to questions whether or not they are worthy,” he said.
“Just drive around. Thirty years later, the same problems still exist. The same disparity still exists, which means we haven’t moved the needle to solve the key issue that faces our city,” Summers said.
And while outsiders are quick to accuse the people who live in these neglected areas for messing things up, the truth is redlining, housing discrimination and unscrupulous practices on the part of the real estate industry contributed heavily to this problem.
Our racial segregation didn’t just happen.
It took a lot of effort.
The naked truth of the city’s disinvestment is visible in neighborhoods that have not yet been kissed by the God of Gentrification: Boarded-up homes. Empty storefronts. Deserted streets.
A $20 million investment won’t change any of this overnight, but it’s a running start.
After flirting with a run for governor, Summers threw his support to J.B. Pritzker. But Summers most certainly has his eye on a higher office.
In the meantime, I appreciate that he is using the office he now holds to address this blatant disparity.