• Country: United States
  • Initial release: July 21, 2023 (United States)
  • Film Director: John Hoffman and Christine Turner
  • Running Time: 35 Minutes
  • IMDB Grade: 6.5

In the heart of Little Rock, Arkansas, a determined barber named Arlo Washington is waging a tireless battle against the deep-rooted racial wealth gap that has plagued his community for generations. With a visionary approach to community banking and an unwavering commitment to empowering the underserved, Arlo is spearheading a movement that could reshape the future of economic justice in America.

The Racial Wealth Chasm in Little Rock

As Arlo navigates the streets of his hometown, the evidence of the racial wealth divide is impossible to ignore. Crossing the I-630 highway, the stark contrast between the prosperous, predominantly white neighborhoods and the economically segregated Black communities is stark and undeniable. On one side, vibrant businesses and well-funded schools thrive, while the other side tells a vastly different story – boarded-up homes, a lack of basic amenities, and a startling absence of banking institutions.

Redlining and Its Lasting Impact

The roots of this divide can be traced back to the discriminatory practice of redlining, where lenders systematically denied mortgages and other financial services to Black residents, effectively confining them to the poorest areas of the city. This legacy of segregation and disinvestment has had a profound and enduring impact, leaving many Black families in Little Rock without the means to build generational wealth.

The Racial Wealth Gap: A Trillion-Dollar Problem

Arlo is acutely aware of the scale and complexity of the challenge he faces. As he puts it, “The racial wealth gap is not a million-dollar problem. It’s not a billion-dollar problem. It’s a trillion-dollar problem.” This staggering statistic underscores the magnitude of the task at hand, but it also fuels Arlo’s determination to find a solution.

Arlo’s Nonprofit Community Bank: People Trust

Recognizing the urgent need for economic empowerment in his community, Arlo founded People Trust, a nonprofit community development financial institution (CDFI) that aims to provide access to capital and financial services to those who have been historically excluded from the traditional banking system.

Addressing the Challenges of “Banking While Black”

Arlo’s personal experiences with the challenges of “banking while Black” have shaped his approach to People Trust. He has witnessed firsthand the disparities in the treatment of Black and white customers, where the latter are often offered a range of financial products and services, while the former are often turned away or given limited options.

Restoring Trust in the Financial System

By establishing People Trust, Arlo is working to restore the trust that has been eroded in the financial system, particularly within the Black community. As he explains, “We got the name People Trust because trust in the financial system is just not there.” Through personalized support, tailored loan products, and a deep understanding of the community’s needs, People Trust aims to be a beacon of hope and empowerment.

Empowering the Community, One Loan at a Time

At the heart of People Trust’s mission is a commitment to providing access to capital and financial resources to those who have been historically underserved. Arlo and his team work tirelessly to evaluate each loan application, looking beyond traditional credit scores and focusing on the individual’s unique circumstances and potential for success.

Overcoming Barriers to Small Business Ownership

One of the key areas of focus for People Trust is supporting aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners who have struggled to secure funding from traditional banks. Arlo recognizes that access to capital is a critical barrier to economic mobility, and he is determined to help individuals like the owner of Trucking Logistics, LLC, who was able to secure a loan to start his own auto repair business.

Addressing the Challenges of Generational Poverty

But Arlo’s vision extends beyond just supporting small businesses. He understands that the racial wealth gap is rooted in a complex web of historical and systemic injustices, and he is committed to addressing the challenges of generational poverty head-on. Through People Trust, Arlo provides emergency grants, rental assistance, and other financial resources to help community members weather unexpected crises and take steps towards financial stability.

Breaking the Cycle of Exclusion

Arlo’s work at People Trust is not just about providing financial services; it’s about dismantling the structures that have perpetuated economic inequality and creating a more inclusive and equitable future.

Challenging the Status Quo

By establishing a Black-owned bank in a redlined neighborhood, Arlo is challenging the status quo and asserting the right of his community to have access to the same opportunities and resources as their wealthier counterparts. His actions are a powerful act of resistance against a system that has long overlooked and marginalized the Black residents of Little Rock.

Inspiring a Ripple Effect of Change

Arlo’s vision extends beyond the borders of his own community. He believes that by demonstrating the viability and impact of a community-driven, equity-focused financial institution, he can inspire a ripple effect of change that will reverberate throughout the country, empowering other communities to take control of their economic destiny.

Overcoming Barriers and Restoring Hope

Throughout his journey, Arlo has faced numerous obstacles, from navigating the complexities of the financial system to confronting the deeply entrenched biases and prejudices that have perpetuated the racial wealth gap. But his unwavering determination and his deep connection to his community have fueled his persistence.

Providing a Pathway out of Generational Poverty

For many of the individuals who come to People Trust, the opportunity to access affordable credit and financial resources represents a lifeline, a chance to break free from the cycle of generational poverty and build a more secure and prosperous future. Arlo’s commitment to their success is palpable, as he listens intently, offers guidance, and celebrates their triumphs, no matter how small.

Restoring Dignity and Empowerment

By treating each person who walks through the doors of People Trust with dignity and respect, Arlo is not just providing financial services – he is restoring a sense of agency and self-worth that has been systematically eroded by a system that has long devalued and marginalized the Black community. His approach is a powerful antidote to the dehumanizing experiences many have faced in the traditional banking sector.

The Ripple Effects of Economic Justice

As Arlo’s work at People Trust continues to gain momentum, the ripple effects of his efforts are becoming increasingly visible. Beyond the individual successes of his clients, Arlo’s vision is transforming the very fabric of the Little Rock community, inspiring a renewed sense of hope and possibility.

Revitalizing Underserved Neighborhoods

By channeling investment and resources into the neglected areas of Little Rock, Arlo and People Trust are catalyzing a process of revitalization that is breathing new life into once-forgotten neighborhoods. The boarded-up houses and vacant storefronts are slowly giving way to thriving businesses, well-maintained homes, and a palpable sense of community pride.

Cultivating a New Generation of Economic Warriors

But Arlo’s impact extends beyond the immediate boundaries of Little Rock. By sharing his story and inspiring others to take action, he is cultivating a new generation of “economic warriors” – individuals who are committed to dismantling the systems of oppression and building a more equitable future for all.

The Unfinished Journey Towards Economic Justice

As Arlo continues his tireless work, he knows that the path towards true economic justice is a long and arduous one. The racial wealth gap is a deeply entrenched problem, rooted in centuries of systemic discrimination and oppression. But Arlo’s unwavering determination and his unwavering belief in the power of community-driven solutions give him the strength to keep pushing forward.

Confronting the Challenges Ahead

Arlo is well aware that his work at People Trust will face resistance from those who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. The big banks and financial institutions that have long dominated the industry may see his community-focused approach as a threat to their power and influence. But Arlo is undaunted, driven by a vision of a more just and equitable world that he is determined to bring to fruition.

The Enduring Legacy of Arlo’s Crusade

Regardless of the challenges that lie ahead, Arlo’s legacy will endure as a testament to the transformative power of grassroots activism and community-driven solutions. By empowering the underserved, restoring dignity and hope, and inspiring others to follow in his footsteps, Arlo is leaving an indelible mark on the fight for economic justice in America.

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  • In the face of overwhelming odds, Arlo Washington’s unwavering commitment to closing the racial wealth gap in Little Rock stands as a beacon of hope and inspiration. Through his tireless efforts at People Trust, he is not just providing financial services – he is rewriting the narrative of what is possible when a community comes together to demand economic justice. As Arlo’s story continues to unfold, it serves as a powerful reminder that the path towards true equity and inclusion is paved by the actions of courageous individuals who refuse to accept the status quo.