What the Work Looks Like

By Aura Bogado Jul 06, 2015

Some eight years ago, Alpha Amadou Diallo, a 30-something, Bronx-based activist born in Guinea,  started thinking about how he could improve the way working people of color bank. Diallo eventually realized that the entity he created should serve a population that big banks rarely serve: poor, frequently criminalized immigrants to the United States, including folks from West Africa.  

On the way to establishing the service he plans to call the Pan-African Credit Union (PAFCU), Diallo has studied finance, worked in banking and law, and set up a development entity focused on completing the chartering process for the credit union.

The Pan African Credit Union, says Diallo, will serve seven communities in The Bronx, New York, where 96 percent of the residents have low and moderate incomes and 98 percent are non-white.

Via a random survey necessary to creating the credit union, Diallo and his team have secured about 430 people who have expressed interest in the venture. Next, Diallo is planning to raise $300,000 through donations from charitable foundations, individual philanthropists and everyday donors.

Part of what stands out about Diallo is how he understands the fear that some poor people and recent U.S. immigrants of color have about banks. Saddled with high-interest check-cashing and, for some migrants, memories of bank runs back home, many underserved people hold the belief that storing their money under a mattress is the best option. But Diallo says he dreams of a place that can keep members’ money safe, provide low-rate loans and cut fees for the vital remittances they send  home.

Just as remarkable is the disciplined way in which Diallo works toward realizing his goal of starting PAFCU. Here’s his typical day by the numbers.