“Breaking the Bank” could mean breaking open a piggy bank toaccess the change you’ve been saving. It can also mean going overbudget or spending a lot of money on an item that is overlyexpensive. If we are to consider the bank as an institution,“Breaking the Bank for Liberation” might suggest a revolutionaryapproach to work that breaks away from the traditional ways ofbanking to advance liberation.
Sam Cooke sang,Change is Gonna Come” but we’ve been waiting for a long time forsomeone to break change. What might it look like to radicallyimagine an approach to banking centered by vulnerability,authenticity, cultural humility and community? We discuss this andmore on episode #30, featuring Chabre Vickers, a Vice President ofCommunity Development at Wells Fargo Bank and accordingly titled theconversation, “Breaking the Bank for Liberation.”
Chabre’s thekeynote speaker at the OregonDiversity Career Symposium on May 19, 2021. Her keynote talk istitled, “Amplifying Truth and Shifting the Power Dynamic TowardLiberation.” She talks with us about critical race theory andsocial change. I can’t say I know a lot of people who work in BigBanks. I do most of my banking with local credit unions and tend tothink Big Banks that are too big to fail perpetuate inequities thatfacilitate increasing divides between the Haves and the Have Nots. Iguess I tend to blame the banks for funding Keystone XL pipeline,fossil fuels, and other investment projects responsible for increasedcarbon emissions, climate change and risk of natural disasters. I’msure there’s a lot of really kind people working at banks, but it’seasy to characterize hedge fund managers and bankers as greedy. It’sharder to maintain that narrative after talking to Chabre. Grantedshe’s a community development officer, and not a hedge fundmanager, but if we’re going to criticize the Big Bad Banks forchasing profits, gentrification and redlining then we have toacknowledge the good work they do, too, right? Like the good work ofChabre? I want more folks with an equity lens like Chabre to work incorporate America. More people who have the perspective and considerthe needs of those voices who are not at the table.
I had been preparedto ask Chabre about Greenwood, a Black owned, mobile banking platformco-founded by Killer Mike, and inspired by the early 1900’sGreenwood District (the Greenwood District was the site of the heBlack Wall Street Massacre in Tulsa, Oklahoma). But then I readabout how Wells Fargo was funding the company so that all but blew upmy intent of pitting the Big Bank against the local credit unions andthe #BankBlack movement. The short of it, is it’s complicated. Just as a good person can do bad things, a company driven by thebottom line can support low income communities. I certainly remaincautious, but having Soul Force Ones like Chabre Vickers at the tablein positions of power helps speak truth to power.
I asked Chabre, “Howdo you reconcile the good work you're doing in the local communitywith Indigenous and Climate Activism Against Enbridge Line 3 Pipelineand the Big Banks financing it?” Her response is worth listeningto.