City First Bank DC Holds Inaugural Black Economic Empowerment Symposium

In Recognition of the 46th Annual Legislative Conference of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, The National Bar Association (NBA), African American Real Estate Professionals (AAREP), National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc., Metropolitan Washington, DC Chapter; and City First Bank of D.C. presented its inaugural Black Economic Empowerment Symposium with a panel discussion moderated by Daron Pressley of Black Enterprise. 

The panel discussion, entitled Building Wealth: Mindset, Preparedness and a Blueprint, focused on how to close the wealth, opportunity and knowledge gap and change the financial health of black communities across the country. Key focus areas included multigenerational wealth, real estate ownership, entrepreneurship and wealth management.

Panelist had the opportunity to share their expertise and discuss opportunities to help our community grow assets. 

The panel consisted of distinguished business professional including; Eugene Cornelius, Deputy Associate Administrator for Field Operations U.S. Small Business Administration; Sonja Wells, SVP Lending, City First Bank; Lewis Baker, President, Baker Schilling Wealth Strategies; and Diane Bell McKoy, President & CEO, Associated Black Charities. 

Each panelist shared a wealth of practical tips to take control of individual, family, and community financial health. 

Eugene Cornelius, Deputy Associate Administrator for Field Operations U.S. Small Business Administration and Liaison to the National Bankers Association, believes black-owned banks are essential to bridge the wealth gap. However, he also believes that the black community is essential in keeping our black banks strong. Less than 1% of the savings of our community is deposited in black banks and Eugene believes we can do better. 

Sonja Wells, SVP Lending, City First Bank D.C., stressed the importance for all of us to develop a personal balance sheet of our savings and spending. She says that we must commit to a plan to reach our financial goals, and adjust our lifestyle accordingly. We must shift from a consumption mindset to one of conservation if we want to generate wealth. 

Lewis Baker, President of Baker Schilling Wealth Strategies, discussed the need for people in our community to ask the questions, and not wait until the last minute to seek financial help. He also emphasized leveraging each other in our communities to bridge the wealth gap that exist. 

Diane Bell McKoy, President & CEO of Associated Black Charities, emphasized the importance of first listening to the concerns of people in underserved communities. She said in order to move forward we must provide people with the access, relationships, and opportunities to change their lives. 

Following the panel the audience took part in an intimate Conversation and Cognac session with distinguished political and business leaders, David Wilmot and Marc Morial. This engaging discussion provided insight into real estate development, community banking, community challenges, and politics as it relates to keeping wealth in our communities. 

Brian E. Argrett, President & CEO, City First Bank, delivered closing remarks.

All parties and sponsors involved would like to thank Host Committee members Kevin Judd, President, National Bar Association, Craig Dean, President, African American Real Estate Professionals, Ayris Scales, President, National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc. Metropolitan Washington, DC Chapter, Donte Mills, Founding Partner, Mills & Edwards, and Congressional Hosts Gregory W. Meeks

U.S. House of Representatives NY 5th Congressional District; Chairman Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, and Hakeem Jeries U.S. House of Representatives, NY 8th Congressional District.

In addition we would like to send a special thank you to Jair Lynch Real Estate Partners for hosting the inaugural event at their latest real estate development, the beautiful ANTHOLOGY, on the historic H Street Northeast corridor. When asked about how we address the wealth gap Lynch says, “I think the inequality gap really starts with a commitment at our community level to take our dollars, invest them back into our communities, and back into our own businesses. This is where the wealth will really start to grow. Once we do that we can start to control our own destiny and then start addressing the agenda at a broader level.”

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Photo Credit: David McDuffie