Occupied by BankofAmerikkka-
Occupied By BankofAmerikkka- Why thousands of poor peoples/migrant workers were left out of Bank Transfer Day
“I’m sorry there is nothing we can do,” the words sailed through the Bank of America lobby as though part of a stop motion scene in a horror movie. I stood there, mouth agape. My shaking hands clutching my 5 month old son’s stroller. Could it be? Could the oh so kind woman of color bank manager who had always said hi to me and my disabled mama, have just refused my desperate plea to reverse a $35.00 over-drawn charge after I explained to her that it would result in my baby not eating tonite?
This was less than six years ago when I was houseless with my mama and my son. I had explained to the bank manager that there was no way I could pay that overdrawn fee and that in fact if it was charged to my account it would drain the last few dollars in my meager account that I was going to use for food and result in entering my name in the “cheksystems” data base, which meant I could never open a checking account anywhere else. From that day on I became sickly dependent on Bank of America, as one becomes reliant on a drug dealer or a partner that abuses you, puts you down and steals your money and yet you come back for more, only to enmesh yourself further in the process of loss, abuse and dependency.
My sick relationship with BofA began when I was on welfare a few years prior, because BofA held the City contract with welfare so they “allowed” me to open a “savings only” account. I reflected on this whole sad part of my herstory when I heard about the People’s Reserve Credit Union being launched at OccupySF last week.
I finally got a job and was able to get my mama and my son out of my deep poverty and houselessness. The first pay-check I received I attempted to open a new account in a smaller “community bank” assuming my new employed status would be my access pass out of the chains of my criminalized past, “I’m sorry Ms. Garcia, we cant open an account for you, your name comes up on Chek-systems” . It was the same thing at three more banks I tried.
Fast foreward to last year when I tried again. This time I marched into three credit unions with my unemployment check, determined, albeit quixotically, to “take my money and POOR Magazine’s meager money out of the blood-stained walls of BofA. “Sorry, Ms Garcia, but we cant open an account for you, your name comes up in chek-systems” This time I was even more devastated by the impossibility of the situation. I was an advocate, an organizer and most of all a revolutionary who wanted nothing to do with the killing systems of corporate money-handlers, and as the co-editor of a poor peoples-led organization (POOR Magazine) who worked everyday to fight poverty and racism and displacement, in many times perpetrated by corporations like BofA and Wells Fargo, why were we eternally shackled by the corporate bank-pimp?
Sadly, what I came to realize is that what I and most of my fellow poverty, disability, migrant and indigenous scholars at POOR are before we are revolutionaries are po’. Shackled, stuck and supporting multiple racist and classist systems that end up being the very ones that kill us.
In fact in the scarcity model reality in which we fight to stay alive in, having a BofA or Wells Fargo account is preferable to the other huge majority of us poverty and im/migrante scholars who are forced to use corner liquor stores and check-cashing places that take huge fees out of our meager salaries and paychecks. Check-cashing places. I might add that are backed or owned by Citi-bank, BofA and/or Wells Fargo.
The enormity of this issue was brought up again when Occupy Oakland, Occupy SF and Occupy the Hood protested the predatory lending of all the banks in the foreclosure scandal as well as the support by several banks of the detention centers of migrante peoples specifically Wells Fargo. The massive actions by “Occupy Folx, in tandem with the infamous “Bank Transfer Day, were proceeded by a hearing held by John Avalos and other conscious SF board supervisors in the board of supervisors about San Francisco launching a community bank.
Fueled with all of the energy of bank-transfer day one of our family members, Toby, and I launched into yet another attempt to break the chains of BofA on POOR Magazine’s neck by contacting Phil Tings office who supposedly had launched BankonSF to address these very inequities.
Several phone trees and Phil Ting office personnel later, Toby looked at me and said, “no luck.” The only banks that are being referred also use chek-systems and/or don’t have the capability to run commercial accounts which we need for POOR Magazine. Upon hearing yet another reminder that we are owned by this brutal pimp I felt truly defeated.
Ultimately, these kinds of shackles can only be broken by moving entirely off the blood-stained amerikkkan dollars, reclaiming long ago indigenous stolen land and resources so we can grow our own food, build our own homes, teach our children and make and share resources in a really real community model like POOR Magazine is attempting to accomplish with HOMEFULNESS
In the meantime I am nervously excited about the possibility of the kind of truly community based peoples bank that OccupySF proposed last week. But, I wonder, will it really be accessible to poor peoples and im/migrant peoples who are excluded from most banks and credit unions that already exist. And do organizers understand that a really real “Peoples Credit Union” would not only think through who was supporting it but think through the “qualifications” required for being apart of it, such as not requiring a drivers license or California ID as one of their forms of required ID’s , not contracting with databases that “screen” out poor people, and that they wouldn’t require a ridiculously high “minimum” deposit to open an account. And that the Credit Union’s “insurance” wouldn’t be held by yet another shadow bank affilitate of Bof A or Wells Fargo, Chase or IMF like the poor Bank of Grameen in Bangladesh, a poor peoples collective banking circle, which eventually ended up getting pimped by the International Monetary Fund(IMF).. Maybe if a really real peoples bank was launched, we po folk could finally de-occupy ourselves with these killing bank-pimps forever.. maybe.