Civil Rights Leaders Protest Deutsche Bank Thwarting Effort of Black Group Seeking to Buy Iconic Crenshaw Mall & Appeal to Rep. Maxine Waters

Press Conference: Civil Rights Leaders Protest Deutsche Bank Thwarting Effort of Black Group Seeking to Buy Iconic Crenshaw Mall & Appeal to Rep. Maxine Waters

Downtown Crenshaw Rising Makes Black History by Breaking All Fundraising Records to Support its Bid to Collectively Buy the Iconic Black Commercial Center, Yet Face Racism from Deutsche Bank’s DWS

Los Angeles, CA - Following months of building a massive coalition of hundreds of local/Black community organizations and waging multiple campaigns to defeat development partners of Donald Trump and Jared Kushner, in the final two weeks of February, Downtown Crenshaw Rising (“DCR”) shattered all fundraising records by quietly raising over $28 million from philanthropists and an additional $6 million in letters of intent from impact investors to support their bid to buy the iconic Crenshaw Mall. The Black-led nonprofit community development corporation and activist group has also secured strong letters of interests for an additional $20-37 million from donors and values-aligned investors to support the DCR bid, and identified multiple large impact investment firms to cover any amount not raised through philanthropy.

Despite a massive community coalition, historic financial support from a who’s-who of philanthropists and socially responsible investors, and offering the highest bid, the sellers of the Crenshaw Mall (Deutsche Bank/DWS) are engaging in what civil rights leaders are calling overt racism to deny the Black collective the opportunity to buy its Crenshaw Mall. 

A press conference is being called to demand Deutsche Bank/DWS sell the mall to the people of Crenshaw through Downtown Crenshaw Rising.

WHO: Black Civil Rights & Business Leaders including Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles, NAACP, Southern Christian Leadership Conference-Greater Southern California, Baptist Ministers Conference of Los Angeles and invited Black celebrities and major philanthropists

WHEN: Wed, March 24, 10am call time; 10:30am press conference start time

WHERE: Across from the iconic Crenshaw Mall in the parking lot of Krispy Kreme, 4034 Crenshaw Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90008

“Through Downtown Crenshaw we are displaying to the world that it is possible for Black people to collectively control Black spaces, beat outside gentrifiers and create a new more just model of redevelopment that uplifts communities like Crenshaw without uprooting long-time residents and merchants,” said Damien Goodmon, Board Member of DCR and a descendant of L.A.’s historic Blodgett family. “We understand this is a threat to gentrifiers and bankers whose entire business model is based on displacing marginalized residents and locally revered mom-and-pop businesses. We just hoped the sellers of the mall would take our money, get out of the way of Black self-determination and maybe even see this as an opportunity to show that there is a better way.”

DCR’s financial backers include local Black celebrities, and some of the biggest names in philanthropy like the Kataly Foundation, Regan Pritzker and other members of the Pritzker family, several members of the Disney family, Resource Generation LA, Kat Taylor and over 150 donors, foundations and investors who support building a reparative democratic economy in Crenshaw that lifts up the Black community and addresses systemic challenges and inequities. Multiple national organizations including the American Sustainable Business Council/Social Venture Capital, labor unions including AFSCME 3299 and SEIU 721, Black investment entities including Kuumba Collective of the Capital Region, and social impact investment firms including Natural Investments, Chordata Capital, RSF Social Finance, and Candide Group, and local Black politicians have expressed support for the Downtown Crenshaw project.

The Crenshaw Mall is currently owned by a private equity firm invested in by over a half-dozen public pension funds, including Los Angeles County Employee Retirement Association, UC Board of Regents, Texas Teachers, New York City Teachers, and the New York City Employees Retirement System. The pension funds required the firm contract infamous Deutsche Bank/DWS to sell the iconic Crenshaw Mall. 

“Backed by the best of community-friendly financial partners, we offered a higher bid and more generous terms than anyone,” said DCR Board Chair Niki Okuk. “We showed them our bank statements with tens of millions of dollars in it, along with signed pledge letters and letters of intent from the biggest names in California philanthropy. We grew our dream team of developers. And we are the only bidder that has been meeting openly with the community to craft a collective community vision. Yet we’ve been met with silence from Deutsche Bank’s Tim Ellsworth. To get anything out of them we have to send white emissaries. It is disappointing, and it’s a big mistake to think Black folk are going to take this lying down.”

“We will not allow the overt institutional racism by Deutsche Bank/DWS to continue on our Crenshaw Mall or anywhere,” said Rev. William Smart Jr., of the SCLC-Greater Southern California. A letter sent today by Black civil rights and business organizations calls on the Chair of the House Financial Services Committee, US Congresswoman Maxine Waters, to act immediately to work with the leaders to “remove the racially restrictive covenant that Deutsche Bank/DWS has placed on the Crenshaw Mall.” They are also calling on the public pension funds to terminate Deutsche Bank/DWS’ contract as well as all other Deutsche Bank contracts given their pattern of anti-Black racism.

The Downtown Crenshaw plan seeks to buy the Crenshaw Mall, stabilize the mom-and-pop merchants of color, and build out the community’s vision of a modern 21st century urban village, based on principles of community wealth building, that includes housing affordable to local residents, a state-of-the-art production studio space, urban gardens, an over 6-acre park, business incubation space, and sit-down restaurants, and implement an environmental master plan that would establish a new higher standard for green development in an urban community. The plan would be built out by established and reputable developers while under the control of the community’s nonprofit.

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(Photo by Paulo Freire Lopez from 9/24/20 Downtown Crenshaw Press Conference) 

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