fb-pixel Skip to main content

OneUnited to host conference on closing racial wealth gap

OneUnited Bank photographed in 2016. The bank is leading a financial literacy conference this Juneteenth expected to draw 50,000 participants.
OneUnited Bank photographed in 2016. The bank is leading a financial literacy conference this Juneteenth expected to draw 50,000 participants.Pat Greenhouse

America’s largest Black-owned bank is fighting to get Black Americans one step closer to financial independence this Juneteenth.

Boston-based OneUnited Bank will host its inaugural “OneTransaction” financial literacy conference Saturday that urges Black Americans to tackle financial concerns such as how to buy a home, own a profitable business, improve credit scores, start a will, save and invest, and buy life insurance.

The virtual conference — which is expected to bring in some 50,000 attendees — will feature actress and comedian Tiffany Haddish, Daymond John from “SharkTank,” finance gurus, and several radio and podcast personalities.

“It’s not enough for me or you to be OK financially,” said Karen Hunter, a SiriusXM radio host and conference presenter. “If your community’s not OK, your family, then what good is it for one person to be successful?”


According to The Brookings Institution, the net worth of a typical white family in the US was $171,000 in 2016, nearly ten times that of Black families, at $17,150.

The goal is to make financial literacy a “core value” in Black America, and technology and the Internet play an integral role in spreading that message and creating change, said Kevin Cohee, chief executive and chairman of OneUnited Bank.

“We want Black Americans in ordinary conversations with each other to talk about what insurance they have, what stocks they’re thinking about, to bring those conversations to the discourse … of the community,” Cohee said. “The tools to do that have never really existed before and that’s the wonder of the digital age.”

For years, economists have documented the inequities Black Americans face in accessing housing. In 2012, Wells Fargo came under fire and paid a $175 million settlement after it was alleged the company charged high mortgage rates to Black and Hispanic people who qualified for better deals.


Many Black homeowners have experienced bias in home appraisals and financial processes. Early this year, for example, a Black couple in San Francisco said their home appraisal jumped $500,000 when a white friend represented them and replaced photos on the walls with her own.

Mehrsa Baradaran, a professor at the University of California-Irvine who will speak at Saturday’s event, outlined many of the policies and events — including Jim Crow laws — that prevented Black Americans from accumulating wealth, in her book “The Color of Money.”

“Foundationally, people need to understand that they’re not crazy, we’re not inherently poor,” Hunter said. “The very labor that built the wealth of America and yet denied the same people … from participating in it, has to change.”

Samantha Subin can be reached at samantha.subin@globe.com.