Small Business Strengthening Black Communities Through Partnership

by the editorial team at Citi | September 15, 2022

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Life and Money by Citi is highlighting Black entrepreneurs, Minority Depository Institutions and the success stories that are creating a movement: The New Black Wall Street.

For Kevin Cohee, president and CEO of OneUnited Bank, supporting Black entrepreneurship is part of his family heritage.

“I come from a long history of very successful, very strong Black men,” says Cohee, whose 19th-century ancestors helped settle Black communities throughout Oklahoma as well as develop Tulsa’s Greenwood District, better known as Black Wall Street. “They were always involved in the whole business of trying to create resources for Blacks.”

A bank for the Black community

OneUnited, founded in 1968 as a community development bank, is now the largest Black-owned bank in the country and the first Black digital bank. “Our approach to small business has been to focus on businesses that wouldn’t otherwise have access,” says Cohee, “as opposed to looking at it as an entrepreneurial opportunity to make every dollar that we can.”  

Citi is collaborating with OneUnited and other Black banks through its Action for Racial Equity initiative to help close the racial wealth gap and increase economic mobility for communities of color in the United States.

“We are looking for ways to strengthen Black America,” Cohee says. “We do that through working with Black Americans and their allies. And Citi is one of our most important allies."

The challenge is that Black entrepreneurs have not had equal access to the capital needed to build businesses and create generational wealth. “We have to get to a point where communities of color are represented in the overall economic engine,” says Harold Butler, head of Citi’s Diverse Financial Institutions Group. “Then we start to change the narrative. Black banks play a key role.”

We have to get to a point where communities of color are represented in the overall economic engine.
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Rebuilding Black Wall Street with Black leadership

Black representation in this collaboration was important to Cohee. “Harold Butler is a top Black banker at a major institution, which for us was a big deal,” he says. But what most impressed him was the bank’s ambition to help close the racial wealth gap and help create the Black community of tomorrow.

“It’s understanding that, whatever the challenges might have been in the past, we have to look forward and we have to create institutions that cannot only participate in local economies but also regional and national economies.”

Watch the video above for the full story of how Citi and OneUnited Bank are collaborating to support the next generation of Black entrepreneurs.