The religious leader is working to improve the lives of Black Americans with a bank that has a history of alleged discrimination.

F our years ago, T.D. Jakes estimated he needed $100 million to start a foundation to help solve sociological issues, such as food deserts, where people live more than 10 miles from grocery stores that sell fresh food. Jakes has also pointed to insufficient housing and a lack of STEM learning for children in underserved communities to better prepare for a digital world. Jakes, the founder and pastor of Dallas-based mega church The Potter’s House, went public with his proposal in January 2020.

Normally, before announcing such a gigantic initiative, a person would have some of the funds in hand. However, Jakes, 66, had no cash commitments.

“I’m not normal,” Jakes tells Forbes. “I stepped out on faith.”

On February 9, Jakes’ faith further revealed itself, in the form of a financial commitment from Wells Fargo.

He and the bank announced a $9 million grant to further the work to revitalize forgotten communities, especially “Black and Brown” communities. As part of the announcement, the parties said they earmarked $500,000 of the funds to Augusta, Georgia’s Laney Walker neighborhood, where they plan to build a needed grocery store.

It’s all part of Jakes’ bigger collaboration with Wells Fargo, America’s third-largest bank by assets.

Last year, the T.D. Jakes Foundation, T.D. Jakes Real Estate Ventures and Wells Fargo announced a $1 billion investment to refurbish underserved areas, building on the work already started by Jakes four years ago. Jakes wants to create more financial literacy programs and eradicate payday loan businesses preying on poorer neighborhoods. “Incrementally, we will attack some of the issues,” Jakes says. Already, he’s initiated mixed-use real estate development plans in South Florida that include senior housing. Jakes also convinced billionaire Tyler Perry to develop 95 acres around the decommissioned Fort McPherson military base near Perry’s studio lot in Atlanta.

“He’s working on the business, movies and films; I’m working on the grocery stores and the mixed-use and bike trails,” Jakes says.

Combined, the developments in Atlanta and Florida will include 2,000 homes, and over the next five years Jakes says they’ll build another 10,000 throughout the country.

“For years (Black Americans) had people making decisions about us without us,” Jakes says. “And often, even when well-meaning, it’s been to our detriment.”

Jakes heads the T.D. Jakes Group, which houses his nonprofit foundation and T.D. Jakes Ministry, which includes the 30,000-member Potter’s House. There’s also his T.D. Jakes Enterprises, which markets his 40 books and 10 films, some of which were produced and directed by Perry. Jakes’ website says the business division has amassed over $500 million.

In the partnership with Wells Fargo, Jakes says his company arranges the community outreach and develops real estate. Meanwhile, the bank can oversee some finance options for qualified mortgage applicants of the properties, including single-family homes.

But it’s here that things get sensitive, especially for Black consumers.

Over the years, Wells Fargo has developed a dubious relationship with Black Americans. In 2020, Bloomberg reported the bank declined nearly half its Black applicants (47%) looking to refinance mortgages in a low-interest-rate environment. In 2012, Wells Fargo paid $184 million in a settlement after allegedly discriminating against Black consumers by charging higher fees and mortgage rates. In 2017, the bank promised to create 250,000 new Black homeowners by 2027.

Wells Fargo declined comment.

Asked why Black Americans should trust Wells Fargo for financing, Jakes says CEO Charles Scharf appears “believable, committed and focused on making the corrections” to problems that occurred before he took over in 2019. “I’m here to represent our people in an on-going endeavor to build equity, opportunity; to build a commodity of affordable housing,” Jakes adds. “Wells Fargo is standing alongside to provide capital.”

View the video for more on Jakes’ $1 billion plan with Wells Fargo.


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