November 20, 2020
BY Kiera Givens

BlackOak is Banking with the Largest Black-led Bank in the Country

At the beginning of 2020, BlackOak was just an idea in my head. I had friends doing environmental work who were tired of being the only Black people in certain spaces, who wanted more community, and who wanted a channel to share resources with more people like us. So, we came together to form a networking organization for Black folks in environmental and sustainability fields. And this fall, we turned that idea into a reality. 

We quickly learned that forming an organization is hard. It requires lots of logistical and operational work, like setting up legal and financial infrastructure. When making these decisions, we needed to be intentional. We wanted to ensure our financial decisions were aligned with our foundational values of racial and environmental justice. That’s why we chose to work with City First Bank of D.C., a Black-owned bank which makes sustainable investments.

Kiera with BlackOak Collective’s enclosed bank account information

When it comes to small business banking, there are a lot of options. Unfortunately, most large national and regional banks either have or continue to support the very structures we actively oppose–massive investments in fossil fuels and the exploitation and  disenfranchisement of Black communities. Although many of these banks were highly rated for small business accounts, we quickly realized they were not right for us. 

That’s when we learned about City First Bank of D.C., a local community development financial institution with “social justice origins founded by the community and for the community to address the lack of access to capital from decades of disinvestment and socio-economic discrimination.” City First Bank is dedicated to ensuring that “every individual, family and community has the opportunity and access to capital and resources which allow them to improve their well-being and prosper.” The more we looked into City First Bank, the more we realized that our missions aligned and we wanted to extend the amazing work they’ve been doing for over two decades. 

City First Bank is worth supporting. They frequently make the lists of environmentally friendly banks. To the extent possible in our current system, we could be sure that our money would not go directly towards building out the fossil fuel economy. City First Bank also recently merged with Broadway Federal Bank to become the largest Black-led bank in America. In addition to supporting a sustainable, local institution, banking with City First also helps a growing effort to build wealth in Black communities. 

In October 2020, we proudly set up a small business account with City First Bank of D.C. The best part? Their small business account was amazing! No account fees and a minimum initial deposit of $100, which was perfect for a small organization getting off the ground. Not only was City First Bank the clear choice for our mission, it was also the best business choice. 

It isn’t always possible to have fully ethical financial choices, but intentionality about where we choose to do business makes a big difference. We are beyond excited to grow our relationship with City First Bank! We encourage all of you to learn more about them, partner with them, and consider other sustainable and Black-led alternatives in your daily life.

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