As executive director at the Association of Black Economic Power (ABEP) in Minneapolis, Debra Hurston is dedicated to removing social stigmas and finding financial solutions that allow Black residents of her community to thrive.
ABEP was formed to lead the development of newly named Arise Community Credit Union, which is undergoing the state and NCUA chartering process while it continues to gain financial support from the community and Minnesota credit unions.
That said, Hurston never thought founding a credit union would be so rife with challenges.
“I call it ‘the dance,’” she says. “We go back and forth. It’s a dialogue, but it’s a heavy lift. I didn’t understand how challenging it would be at the outset.”
At the same time, the rewards have been equally significant.
“We couldn’t have done it without the help of the Minnesota Credit Union Network,” Hurston says. “It’s been so heartwarming. Now I live and breathe the credit union culture.”
The response from both the community and state credit unions reflects the power of that culture in Minnesota.
Arise Community organizers have received more than $2 million in deposit pledges from the community, Hurston says. Meanwhile, Minnesota credit unions have raised more than $1 million in capital contributions and $4 million in deposit pledges, says Andrea Molnau, vice president of communications and engagement at the Minnesota Credit Union Network.
She says Minnesota credit unions are demonstrating the sixth cooperative principle: cooperation among cooperatives.
“We've had credit unions not only donate funds to the capital drive, they've also assisted in fundraising,” Molnau says. “They've lent expertise. Some credit unions have donated staff members and staff time to help with project management and compliance. It's been truly remarkable to see Minnesota credit unions come together to really address economic disparities in the community.”
Those disparities were highlighted in the wake of the tragic deaths of Philando Castile in 2016 and George Floyd in 2020.
“The community that gave birth to this idea is a predominantly minority and Black community, and they have had a history of negative experiences with financial institutions,” Hurston says. “That community is also riddled with payday lenders.
“It's the same community that was involved in protesting Philando Castile's and George Floyd's murders,” she continues. “So they decided, in addition to addressing the policing injustice, they also wanted to address the economic injustice. They wanted a Black-led credit union that was open to everyone—a place where when you walk in, you feel like you belong from the moment you open that door.”
The newest member of the Arise Community team is CEO designee Dan Johnson, who began operationalizing the organization in September. Johnson, who previously worked for Wells Fargo, most recently served as a branch manager with Geico Insurance.
Johnson says he’s received support from the board of ABEP and credit unions.
“I’ve listened twice as much as I’ve talked, or at least I hope I have,” he says. “There’s always more work to do, and I prioritize around days full of meetings.”
He says working with other credit unions has eased the stress of that workload. “They’re saying, ‘Let’s figure this out together.’”