Activists are calling on the largest bank in Chicago and the nation, JPMorgan Chase, to make billions of dollars in reparations to black neighborhoods in Chicago — or face “massive protests” at Chase branches “all throughout the city of Chicago.”
“We want billions back for what they’ve done to us over the years,” said activist and former mayoral candidate Ja’Mal Green at the press conference he called outside Chase Tower in the Loop Monday morning.
Green cited WBEZ and City Bureau findings that Chase had given out $7.5 billion in home purchase lending between 2012 and 2018 — but just 1.9% of that money went to Chicago’s black neighborhoods. Majority-white areas of the city got 79.57%.
Chase had the most racially disparate lending record of all Chicago’s major lenders, WBEZ found. The bank loaned nearly nine times more in a single majority-white community — Lake View on the North Side — than it did in all of the city’s majority-black neighborhoods combined.
Green is calling for Chase to give Chicago’s black neighborhoods $1 billion in grants and $10 billion in loans. He wants grants to go to home buyer assistance, small business start-ups and the creation of an African-American-owned bank.
Green issued a call to the black community — including churches — to “stop depositing your funds in Chase Bank immediately.” He said if Chase failed to respond to activists’ demands, “we’re going to be announcing massive protests all throughout our city, starting here at Chase Tower and at Chase Banks all throughout the city of Chicago.
“We want every Chase shut down in this city until they come to the table,” he said. Green made his statements with just a handful of other activists — one waved the Pan-African flag behind him — but by 5 p.m., 54,000 people had viewed his statements on Facebook Live.
A Chase spokeswoman told WBEZ she had no comment at this moment.
Tiffany Harper, First Deputy City Treasurer, also spoke at the press conference. Harper said WBEZ’s reporting had “made visible an inequity many of us have known about for years” and had “ignited a firestorm that is necessary and welcome.”
Reading a joint statement by City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin and Illinois State Treasurer Michael W. Frerichs, Harper said banks “have systematically denied black communities and families the financing needed to buy homes, start businesses and pay for education, creating a wealth gap larger than any so-called advanced nation.”
Conyears-Ervin and Frerichs are planning to host a Juneteenth virtual town hall about reversing systemic racism in lending and black disinvestment across Illinois. Harper said the CEOs of BMO Harris Bank and Northern Trust will attend, and other bank CEOs are invited.
“We hope that it is a first step in a call to action for the banking industry about the systemic racism issues that affect lending in the black community,” Harper said.
Asked what cities can do about bank lending given that it’s mostly regulated by the federal government, Harper said it’s clear the Community Reinvestment Act, the federal law passed in 1977 to ensure banks lend in all communities, has not been enough to achieve equity in lending in black communities.
She said the City Treasurer’s office has come up with its own score cards for banks that go beyond what the federal law measures. “I think what you will see across the nation and in Chicago is people standing up and making a different standard, a different metric, a different measurement.”
Many financial institutions with wide disparities in lending between Chicago’s black and white communities received high marks from federal regulators for their performance under the Community Reinvestment Act.
Linda Lutton covers Chicago neighborhoods for WBEZ. Follow her @lindalutton.