ABOVE: Michael A. Grant
Michael A. Grant, who has gained a national reputation for his advocacy for Black economic empowerment for nearly a quarter of a century, has announced that he is resigning from the presidency of the National Bankers Association (NBA) effective Dec. 31.
“After nine years, I feel like I have taken this organization as far as I can take it,” Grant said in an interview with the Trice Edney News Wire this week. “I used the NBA as a platform to promote Black economic empowerment because I feel honestly that that is where we are right now in our evolution in this country.”
He continued, “But it’s more than just wealth. There are issues that are ancillary and tied into this wealth. If you look at us in terms of what’s happening to us with incarceration rates, look at how our system of justice treats African Americans, look at how we are positioned in business and what networks are we in or not in. From every level of government to the private sector, we are still not first class citizens.”
It is this level of insight that has not only sustained Grant at the NBA, but will now take him to the next level of his career, according to those who know and support him. Grant publicly announced his resignation at the close of the NBA’s 90th anniversary celebration October 6.
In an interview, he said he has accepted the presidency of a Black-owned mortgage banking firm’s regional office in his hometown of Nashville, Tenn. He is withholding the name of the new firm until it is officially announced, but he describes it as a position that will give him greater freedom to exercise his passion – speaking on issues of economic empowerment across the nation.
“Michael came to the NBA with a lot of energy. The excitement that he came with, that excitement has doubled. He’s been a great, great spokesperson for us and a leader for us to continue having our banks to provide services for the minority community across the country,” says Alden McDonald, CEO of Liberty Bank in New Orleans. “He’s stayed on task and he’s communicated our message extremely well to the people in government to the people in corporate America and to the banking community as a whole. He was always able to communicate what African American banks and minority banks have done for this country.”
McDonald also praised Grant for his ability to coalesce. Grant is among the three founders of Black Wealth 2020, a movement that aims to increase Black business ownership, Black home ownership and business with Black banks by the year 2020.
“He understands the importance of servant leadership and will be truly missed in the capacity as president and CEO of the National Bankers Association,” says Ron Busby, President/CEO of the U. S. Black Chambers Inc., a co-founder of Black Wealth 2020.
“Under his leadership, the bank Black movement was created and well received. And he understands that affordable and accessible credit is one of Black businesses’ primary concerns. We look forward to his continued success and advocacy for African-Americans in his future endeavors.”
Serving as NBA president since 2008, Grant credits the co-branding of the organization with his working in sync with a proactive and visionary board. But, his individual leadership has long been recognized in the Black business community.
In 2014 the Minority Business Development Agency of the U. S. Department of Commerce honored him with its Legacy Award for Lifetime Achievement, in recognition for a person who has “played an integral role in the creative, technical or professional progress of minority business development over the course of his/her life.”
Grant’s roots are deep in Nashville, where he grew up as one of 17 children. In 1990, he organized a statewide meeting in Tennessee that brought together church leaders and entrepreneurs in an all-day seminar titled, “Black Economic Development Through the
Church.” The event was covered by JET magazine.
He has served as president of the Nashville Branch of the NAACP; a fundraiser of the NAACP’s Tennessee State Conference of Branches, and co-founder of the Greater Nashville African-American Chamber of Commerce. He says he will commute often to DC to continue his role among the leadership of Black Wealth 2020.
“Michael has been in the forefront of addressing the issues that prevent Black banks, and all Black businesses, from gaining their fair share of opportunities for success. His departure is a major loss for the NBA, but I am glad to know that Michael will stay active with Black Wealth 2020, and will continue to bring his energy and commitment to our coalition,” says Jim Winston, president of the National Association of Black-owned Broadcasters, also a co-founder of Black Wealth 2020.
Grant is launching out with a vision that was strongly articulated by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who had begun leading an economic justice campaign after the passage of the civil rights and voting rights acts.
“It seems to me that the only way that we can finally close the gap and make the pledge that we say when we’re saluting the flag – ‘one nation, under God with liberty and justice for all’ – the only way that we can make that a reality is for Black Americans to take financial control of our destiny so that we’re not walking around with a feeling of entitlement or the belief that somebody else is going to provide health, education and welfare for our people,” says Grant. “Nobody is going to do that for us but us…The thought leaders in our race whether in Africa or the Caribbean or in America, they’re pretty much getting on the same page. Economic empowerment is where we’ve got to be.”
Meanwhile, the NBA board will begin the task of seeking new leadership. “Michael Grant has been an outstanding advocate for the NBA and its member Banks,” says Evelyn F. Smalls, NBA board member and President/CEO, United Bank of Philadelphia. “He was relentless in connecting both public and private leaders with NBA CEOs to ensure that collaborative business relationships could evolve and that the member banks would have a presence and voice as public policies are discussed.”
The groundwork he has laid will continue to work even after he has gone from NBA, she said, pointing to his leadership in bridging the gap between NBA banks and the Small Business Administration as a major example of his string of accomplishments.
“With the ongoing presence of the SBA leadership advocating for NBA banks to utilize the various SBA loan programs to support the growth and sustainability of small businesses, we found a winning business strategy for the bank and its clients,” Smalls said. “These SBA loans support small business growth while creating and retaining jobs yielding real economic impact in the bank’s region.”