Tone down the rhetoric on Black museum’s money problems


Who would ever say that the legendary and renowned Dorothy Bridges would be involved in harming her legacy and imprint on a community bank, Franklin National Bank, which has done so much for the African American community under her leadership?

Thus we are puzzled by the attacks on Franklin National Bank (“Stalled museum now battles bank,” Star Tribune, September 1, 2012), and, by implication, on Dorothy Bridges, who was CEO of FNB from 1999-2008 and put all of her energy, her soul, and her vision into making Franklin National Bank the best it could be (doubling the bank’s assets to $116 million).

She did more for the African American community than any other bank. During her tenure at Franklin National Bank, we heard about the institution’s generosity, sensitivity and openness, a legacy crafted by Ms. Bridges.

Ms. Bridges departed to Washington, D.C. and then returned last year to be a senior VP of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. All signs point to a community bank that stayed the course.

Upon her return to Minneapolis, Bridges said her “mission is to support job creation” in the Fed’s ninth district, consisting of Minnesota, northwestern Wisconsin, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. So why the attacks when so many of those who are part of the core leadership of the Black community in Minneapolis have borrowed significant amounts of money from Franklin National Bank and then defaulted?

We need to stop being silent about the troubling number of Black leaders who have defaulted or who are in the process of defaulting on loan obligations to FNB, often due to their “sharing” loans with friends and family, taking away from their stated mission. The shoe is now on the other foot.

People now see how dangerous it is to play the race card when allegations and contentions are not supported by the facts. We must accept that not everyone is a good manager of financial responsibility and accountability, losing focus and failing to improve on a church or expand another Black nonprofit, or in an attempt to save a longtime youth agency as diverted funds sabotage stated dreams and visions.

The sad attack on Franklin National Bank is an attack striking out to wound the very institution that has, in fact, made every attempt to help them carry out their agendas. This is the battle we see waged by the Black historical Museum against Franklin National Bank, the state of Minnesota, and Hennepin County.

The fact that negotiations are taking so long reflects the museum’s problems. The museum took a $1.2 million loan from FNB, $1 million from the state of MN, $1.5 million in bonds from the City of Minneapolis, $500,000 from five Minnesota corporations, and $300,000 from other sources. And the museum still can’t open?

The museum has failed to meet the condition of the State of Minnesota for granting its monies: that FNB would have first position in a default, or otherwise tax payers of Hennepin County and Minnesota would have to pay. To continue, the museum has to put up new collateral, which it claims it doesn’t have.

Clearly, Franklin National Bank is not the villain, is not an evil community bank. It would have been difficult for it to fall in that direction given the nine years of dedicated leadership by a woman who is also chairperson of the NW Area Foundation, a board member of the Minneapolis Foundation, and holds numerous other prestigious directorships and positions.

There needs to be a toning down of the rhetoric and attacks, especially by those leaders financially supported with loans from Franklin National Bank. Then all can come together and begin a process of healing and stop playing the race card and confusing all communities, regardless of race, creed, color or national origin.

This column carries on the legacy of MSR’s founding publisher Cecil E. Newman (see the documentary “A Black History Chronicle Exclusive — Cecil E. Newman: The Friendship, the Life and the Legacy,” produced by Productions and available on YouTube). Those in the documentary state that if Cecil Newman were alive today, he would still say, “We aren’t working hard enough.”

The documentary reported Cecil’s principles that the paper had to be “critical when necessary,” that “we can’t let friendship with individuals or organizations dictate what will or won’t be written.” Cecil was “a watchman.” He “held them accountable.”

Stay tuned.


Ron Edwards hosts “Black Focus” on Channel 17, MTN-TV, Sundays, 5-6 pm, and hosts Blog Talk Radio’s “Black Focus V” on Sundays, 3-3:30 pm and Thursdays, 7-8:30 pm, providing coverage about Black Minnesota. Order his books at Hear his readings and read his columns, blog, and solution papers for community planning and development, at Columns are archived at