BankBlackwell, the first African-American Internet bank, received deposit insurance approval from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC), clearing the way for the bank to complete the $17.5 million public offering it requires to commence operations. BankBlackwell, which will operate as a savings bank, is offering up to 1,664,000 shares of its common stock at a public offering price of $10 per share. Target markets are major metropolitan areas with large African-American populations and strong community churches. These include Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, New York and Washington, D.C.
Blacks, regardless of income levels, were about three times as likely as whites to borrow through more expensive “subprime” mortgages last year, according to a Federal Reserve lending survey. The report, based on data collected from 8,853 lenders, is the Fed’s first attempt to look for evidence of racial and ethnic discrimination in the booming business of exotic mortgages and subprime lending. Among low-income home buyers, about 39.2 percent of Blacks but only 12.9 percent of whites took out high-priced mortgages, which the Fed defined as loans with interest rates about 2 percentage points higher than those for “prime” customers with good credit. Analysts say subprime mortgages are a major reason that home ownership rates have climbed sharply among African-Americans and Hispanics.
Two real estate agencies in New York’s Westchester County that allegedly treated white apartment-seekers better than Black ones agreed to have their staffs undergo remedial training and submit to federal oversight for three years. Patricia Forgione’s Realty Network Inc. and Green Tree Realty and Relocation Co. Inc. were described as the worst offenders in a study that secretly tested 25 Westchester agencies and found nearly half discriminated against minorities. Five other agencies referred to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development were investigated by the state Human Rights Commission, which reached a settlement with one.
The Trefoil Collection of elegant dinnerware from the Black-owned firm Trefoil Inc., Brooklyn, N.Y., is now on permanent display in the “Gallery on Six” showroom at 7W Mart, the new location of the New York Gift Building at 7 West 34th Street in New York City. Manufactured in Austria, the globally successful collection features a signature curvilinear form patented by architect and designer Herb Bennett. Bennett dubbed the form “trefoil” to reflect its three-sided nature and established Trefoil Inc. (www.treefoinonline.com ) to market and distribute the collection.
The U.S. Small Business Administration and Junior Achievement Worldwide launched the Web site “Mind Your Own Business” at www.mindyourownbiz.org  to support the growing interest in entrepreneurship among teens. The site provides five easy-to-navigate steps on business ownership, each with valuable information to help take teens from brainstorm to business. SBA unveiled another teen site, Teen Business Link, at www.sba.gov/teens , which includes streaming video, animation and interactive sound clips and which lays the foundation for the next generation of entrepreneurs by providing tools and resources on small business basics.
Hospitals are courting nurses with everything from free accommodations, signing bonuses and paid tuition to lawn care and concierge services such as dry cleaning. In Albany, N.Y., St. Peter’s Hospital offers nurses a year of school loans paid off for every year they commit to work at the hospital. The national vacancy rate for registered nurses, currently estimated at 13 percent, is expected to balloon to 29 percent by 2020, according to the American Nursing Association. The American Hospitals Association estimates 75 percent of hospital vacancies are for registered nurses. The crisis is expected to be compounded as older nurses begin to retire.
Virginia Polytechnic Institute is hiring a director for its multicultural program and reorganizing several offices to help improve campus diversity, including retention and graduation rates. The Multicultural Programs and Services unit will focus on coordinating cultural and educational outreach aimed at making underrepresented groups feel more comfortable on campus. The school has seen a steady drop in applications from Black high school students since 2001. The decline continued during the most recent admissions cycle, with Tech seeing an 8 percent drop—from 1,111 to 1,020—in applications from Black students.
Video Game Courses
From New York’s Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Pratt Institute to the University of Colorado, schools around the United States now offer courses or degree programs in video game studies, development or design in response to the digital media industry’s appetite for skilled workers and the tastes of a new generation of students raised on Game Boy and Xbox, industry groups say. Programs such as the University of Washington’s certificate in game design, the Art Institute of Phoenix’s B.A. in game art and design and the University of Pennsylvania’s M.A. in computer graphics and game technology are fast becoming a feeder system for the $10 billion-a-year video game industry.
South Africa Business
The United States-South Africa Corporate Council, www.us-sa.org , is a new private sector initiative in New York City dedicated to promoting bilateral trade, investment and tourism between the United States and South Africa. Membership is open to U.S. companies already doing business or interested in doing business in South Africa. The council’s president and CEO is Mymoena “Mona” Davids, founder, Azania Holdings International Inc., a South Africa- and United States-based firm.
A committee made up of historians, community activists and representatives of congressional leaders will oversee the creation of a monument honoring slaves kept by George Washington at the first presidential mansion in Philadelphia. Washington and John Adams both lived at the site—now a wide sidewalk along Market Street— from 1790 to 1800, the years that Philadelphia was the nation’s capital. Historians say the site was also home to at least nine of Washington’s slaves. The $5.1 million monument project is expected to be completed by July 4, 2007.
Grant for Activists
Author Yvonne Bynoe and Soft Skull Press created a $500 “Stand and Deliver: Agent of Change” grant to be awarded in April 2006 to an outstanding community-based or college activist. Bynoe, an expert on the intersection of culture and politics who co-founded the Urban Think Tank Institute in 2000 and served as its president for four years, says she developed the award to support the work of emerging community leaders who are effectively addressing difficult social issues. The application deadline is Dec. 15. Application requirements can be obtained at www.yvonnebynoe.com .
Lenora Fulani, who ran for president in 1988 and 1992 on the New Alliance Party ticket and who is a perennial candidate for state and city offices in New York, was removed from the executive committee of New York’s politically influential Independence Party for allegedly saying that Jews “function as mass murderers of people of color” and “had to sell their souls” to acquire Israel. Fulani says Democrats were behind her ouster because of concern she was leading fellow Blacks away from the Democratic Party. She remains a leader of the Manhattan wing of the Independence Party.