On Tuesday, the African Methodist Episcopal Church entered into a partnership with the presidents of 19 Black banks in the U.S., in an attempt to improve African-American financial vitality. The partnership is the byproduct of an initiative called Black Wealth 2020, which was created in 2015 to increase Black homeownership, grow the number of Black businesses and increase deposits and loans with Black banks.

Michael Banks, former head of the National Bankers’ Association, said he sees this collaboration as imperative in terms of Black homeownership.

“We are educating ourselves and not only teaching our people how to get a home but also how to stay there. We worry about gentrification, but we have more power than we realize,” he said. “(It’s important) to (buy) a home, and hold on to a home, and then encourage all young people to do the same.”

The African Methodist Episcopal Church has made significant strides in support of Black Wealth 2020. One bank has already reported the creation of 78 new accounts, totaling more than half a million dollars.

Vashti Murphy McKenzie, a bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, believes the new initiative is particularly important to Black youth. “We want to be able to teach fiscal responsibility before [students] get to high school,” she said. “[It’s important] to learn the value of saving, the value of investing.”

The AME Church lists over 6,000 individual churches in the United States. The organization believes that with the full support of each church it can generate over a trillion dollars in new business ventures.

The partnership is viewed as a positive not only for Black banks but for Black churches and their communities. The belief is that this initiative will allow these banks to increase their ability to lend to small business owners, secure mortgages, provide lines of credit and offer other forms of credit to AME churches, as well as their parishioners.

Along with the new banking and construction opportunities will come additional opportunities for employment. The hope is that these new employment opportunities will serve as further means of financial empowerment for the African-American community.

This is an initiative that will not only affect churches and communities in the U.S. but worldwide. The AME Church has more than 4,000 churches overseas that will benefit, as well. The church hopes that this initiative will become a blueprint for all Black churches, a spokesperson said.

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