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Watts ‘On Our Block’ event on financial empowerment


In MoCaFi founder Wole Coaxum’s words, “Social justice without economic justice is like one hand clapping.” This statement helps to provide insight into the dilemma between the Black community and financial protection. In order to effect change there must be a strong foundation (i.e. financial foundation). On Sept. 9, MoCaFi, a Black-owned turnkey fintech company hosted an event called “On Our Block”  which aims to provide financial resources such as cash assistance, mobile banking, and financial programming in the hope of creating financial wealth for those in need. Event hosts included MasterCard, Think Watts Foundation, TransUnion, and SGL. “On Our Block” was a free community pop-up event.

“On Our Block” was held at Ted Watkins Park from 12 pm-3 pm. Ted Watkins Park is located at 1035 E. 103rd St. in Watts.  MoCaFi is a financial technology company, which provides access to banking services for underserved communities. “On Our Block” events are happening in New York, Birmingham, Saint Louis, Ferguson, Los Angeles and Cleveland.  MoCaFi is committed to closing the racial wealth gap by expanding banking services—such as direct deposit accounts and financial literacy tools—to communities of color.

This event aimed to provide financial literacy, education, coaching, guidance, and an opportunity to create wealth that will span a lifetime. The event included a keynote panel on transitioning from renting to homeownership. Local figures, members of MoCaFi and Manyell Akinfe-Reed, Director of Financial Education at MoCaFi, and Think Watts founder, Brandon Salaam-Bailey were in attendance. In addition to the panel, one-on-one financial advising was available, residents enjoyed free food and drinks and music by local musician, DJ Bad.

MoCaFi was established in 2014 and has held events following the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teenager. During this time, Wole Coaxum observed the social justice plaguing the black community and began to reflect on the lack of financial resources surrounding attempts to provide social justice. MoCaFi serves 50 million unbanked and underbanked Americans. In addition, MoCaFi offers a prepaid Mastercard, an FDIC-insured bank account, and a money management app.

Steve Royster, head of Community Banking and Marketing said, “MoCaFi is really part of the origin story of our founder Wole Coaxum. He founded the company while he was an investment banker at JPMorgan Chase and working in small business banking; looking to find solutions to serve the unbanked community, specifically Black and Brown communities and was frustrated. When the Ferguson uprising happened, looking at the news and at the social justice work that was happening, he said to himself, “Where are the financial institutions to support the social justice work?’”

Royster offers a wealth of information, in speaking about the systemic discrimination and socioeconomic barriers that make banking for Black citizens challenging. Distrust and systemic discrimination in banking took place in traditional brick and mortar banks dating back over two centuries saying,

Royster says, “History repeats itself and informs us. Dating back to the reconstruction era; there was a reconstruction of the slave economy. After the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, Freedman’s Bank was established in 1865. Blacks were able to participate in the economy. Freedman’s Bank was set up as a place to deposit and build wealth but turned out to be mismanaged and funds weren’t being invested properly. Millions of dollars were lost, starting a trickle down effect where there is now distrust.”

Royster continues to note that there was continued skepticism amongst the Black community during the Jim Crow era when banks were segregated.  “MoCaFi is a community neo-baker, neo in a sense that we aren’t the traditional brick and mortar, but we are a new way of bringing resources to your bank account,” he said.