By: Nikki Graham, Bank of America Austin Market President
bigBANG! has come at a critical time. This year’s theme, Equity in Action: The Next 100 Years!, provides all of us the opportunity to learn, discuss, and create actionable items to build a better and more equitable future. This year has been unlike any of us have experienced in our lifetimes. The health and humanitarian crisis has challenged cities across the nation while exposing long-standing discrimination.
The global pandemic is disproportionally affecting communities of color, and we have seen firsthand the consequences of systemic disparities in racial, gender, and economic equity. From George Floyd to Breonna Taylor to Jonathan Price, to the low-income neighborhoods and frontline workers hit hardest by the coronavirus, we know we must work together to do better.
In September, I had the opportunity to participate in another valuable conversation with SVP Dallas during the Texas Tribune Festival. The session, Texas Responds, was a discussion with city managers from Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio, and the CEO of Giving Blueprint, Kimberly O’Neill. Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk noted the death of George Floyd laid to bear what many have known for a long time: we have systemic inequities, and we need sustainable change.
Each speaker agreed that change would come when we all work together. Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax encouraged the private sector to contact their local governments to begin a dialogue. Erik Walsh, San Antonio’s city manager, argued, these permanent, systemic changes will come with investments over the long term, which is why SVP Dallas is asking us to look at the next 100 years, not the next few months.
Bank of America knows that the response to racial and economic inequity takes the whole community working together, including local governments, businesses, and citizens. In June, the bank made a $1 billion, four-year commitment to advance racial equality and economic opportunity by focusing on four key areas, including:
- Up-skilling and reskilling jobs initiatives, particularly for Black and Hispanic/Latino individuals through partnerships with community colleges, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), and Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI)
- Addressing the health effects of coronavirus on underserved communities
- Supporting minority entrepreneurship, such as through investments in Minority Depository Institutions, CDFIs and Black and Hispanic/Latino-owned businesses
- Affordable housing
Bank of America’s commitment reiterates that of SVP Dallas and bigBANG!: when we build systems that are equitable for all races, genders, and economic backgrounds, we expand prosperity for everyone and grow the economy. As the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg once said, “real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.”