What does a hip-hop recording have to do with investing? A lot, says Duane Davis, co-founder of the Coalition of Black Investors (COBI) in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, who says the song “Money, Power and Respect,” recorded by the Lox, “speaks volumes.” Many of the problems African Americans face have an economic base, he says. “When [we] focus on creating wealth, there will be a different type of power that will come with controlling that type of money.”
Davis, who has 15 years of experience as an investment counselor and works as a broker with First Union Brokerage Services, also in Winston-Salem, co-founded the for-profit organization nine months ago with his wife, Carol, to address the needs of the African American investor. Davis claims he, “the dreamer,” conjured up the idea of a clearinghouse of information to help black investors, while Carol, “the doer,” helped get things off to a start. “The most important thing is to educate African Americans [about] the importance of saving and investing,” Davis says. “COBI’s job is to form a network so individuals can communicate about building wealth. That way African Americans as a group can flex more financial muscle and wield more influence.”
The Davis family practices what it preaches, instilling in their children the value of investing in products they buy. “Daddy, I like Kool-Aid,” Davis’ five-year-old daughter once told him. “Can we buy Kool-Aid stock?” His son, who’s two and a half, loves Michael Jordan. “He’s had three pairs of Air Jordans, but I can tell you, he owns stock in Nike, too.”
A turning point for Davis preceded COBI’s birth: the Million Man March. At one point, he recalls, the men were asked to reach in their pockets for a dollar and wave it in the air. “The image is vivid in my mind,” he recalls. “All those hands waving dollars–it proved to me the power of ‘one.’ One dollar didn’t mean that much, but the power of a million single dollars put together is what made the difference.”
Then and there Davis saw the potential power African Americans hold in their wallets. “If we can harness 2 million black investors saving $25 or $100 a month, you’re talking about millions of dollars a month, billions of dollars a year.”
So, what does COBI offer right now? For a membership fee ($10 for individuals; $10 for investment clubs plus $5 per member), you’ll receive a list of African American brokers and brokerage firms, a quarterly newsletter, a guide to starting an investment club and other educational material. The group also organizes investment symposiums around the country.
Recent events included a week of investment in conjunction with the National Urban League, culminating in a “payday,” when participants began putting their newfound financial savvy to work. Davis says 15,000 people across the country took part. Upcoming plans include a national conference in Washington, D.C., September 17 and 18, when the group plans to bring potential investors, investment clubs and investment professionals together for an exchange of ideas.
Keep in mind,