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Blackonomics: Can I get an amen?

James Clingman | 11/12/2015, 10:17 a.m.
On December 3, 2015 the Collective Empowerment Group (CEG), formerly known as the “Collective Banking Group (CBG) of Prince George’s ...
James Clingman

On December 3, 2015 the Collective Empowerment Group (CEG), formerly known as the “Collective Banking Group (CBG) of Prince George’s County and Vicinity,” will celebrate a milestone achievement: Its 20th Anniversary. The CEG was established in 1995 by twenty-one churches, in response to discrimination and mistreatment by banks, some of which had financed church buildings but refused to make loans thereafter for renovations and business development.

Instead of wringing their hands, whining, and begging the banks to change, Jonathan Weaver, Pastor of Greater Mt. Nebo A.M.E. Church, rallied a few of his fellow ministers to respond appropriately to those banks. They used their collective leverage, via the members’ of their respective congregations, to obtain reciprocity from the banks that they chose to be “in covenant” with. Banks began to “compete” for the churches’ business by coming to the leaders of the CEG to make their presentations. In other words the banks did not interview the churches; rather, the churches interviewed the banks.

Important to note are the reciprocal relationships that evolved from the initiative of the churches and their refusal to continue doing business as usual. Both sides won. The banks understood the value of being in what was called a “covenant relationship” with this newly formed dynamic group, and the churches understood the leverage they had by working collectively and cooperatively, across theological persuasions, toward business solutions for their members.

The CBG became the CEG as a result of its growth from 21 churches to nearly 150 churches comprising 175,000 members and its desire to involve itself in other business relationships. The CEG’s aim was to be more holistic in its approach to the myriad of issues affecting the daily lives of Black people. Thus, as a result of CBG leadership recognizing the possibilities of doing even more business with other retailers, i.e. furniture stores, carpet outlets, and organizations involved in health, politics, insurance, professional services, and supplies, the name was changed along with the organization’s scope of service. Not-for-profit entities were also invited to work with the CEG, again creating mutually beneficial relationships and opportunities not ordinarily available.

The CEG Strategic Partners, usually small business owners and service providers, not only gain access to the individual members of the CEG with whom they can do business; they respond by offering discounts and other special considerations to the CEG members. Having helped start a chapter of the CEG in Cincinnati, Ohio, I can personally attest to the benefits offered by CEG Strategic Partner businesses.

Innovative, practical, bold, and beneficial are just a few words that describe the CEG, its leadership, and individual members and partners. CEG churches do not continue to complain about how they are mistreated despite spending significant amounts with businesses and depositing large sums of money into banks that do not reciprocate. CEG churches take the issue into their own hands, first by understanding the power of leverage and then by being willing to address any inequities that exist in their business relationships via their collective clout.