“I am a significant woman.” Somehow, this phrase coming out of social work educator Velma Banks sounds like a spiritual mandate as opposed to a haughty self-affirmation. Banks exudes tranquility, wisdom and a firm connection to a higher power. For that past 20 years, Banks has been sharing her unique training methods with adults and children through her company Banks Enterprise. By using presentations, workshops and one-on-one session, Banks is on a mission to let people know just how significant they are. Born and raised in Marshall, Texas, Banks learned early on that sharing was something she enjoyed doing. “We were a church family, so I did a lot of readings and presentations in church. I remember wanting to be a communicator, an initiator.” And that she did.
After graduating from Wiley College (setting of the film “The Great Debaters”), where she was on the debate team, Banks went on to get a master’s degree from the Atlanta University School of Social Work. The charismatic 20-something then moved to New York, where she did further study at New York University and a couple other universities around the country, including MIT. God and culture are two very important aspects of Banks’ life, and they are the guiding forces of her diverse activist and professional background. She helped establish the National Association of Black Social Workers, Black Solidarity Day and the gift store in the Studio Museum of Harlem. She’s a very active member of Abyssinian Baptist Church, helping mostly with the alternative approaches to healing. In addition, Banks has several programs geared toward children and adults that are intended to build self-esteem and provide cultural enrichment. “I’m a legacy person. I’m a transformer. I’m a transforming agent for people,” said Banks. One popular program Banks facilitates is called History Makers. With that program, children 7 and up learn about proud Black legends of the past, such as George Washington Carver and Mary McLeod Bethune through engaging two-hour presentations. “I found that the parents were getting as much out of it as the children because they did not know their history, either. One thing that I think we need to start doing is enrichment in the womb and ground the children so that when they enter into the school system, they have something to hold on to. Today, schools are missing the cultural reference point and the God-consciousness,” said Banks about the impact of her Children of the Light programs. Another important aspect of Banks’ work is keeping the legacy of Whitney M. Young, Jr. alive. Young was executive director of the National Urban League from 1961 until his death in 1971 and is largely credited with launching the organization into more of an activist position. “We have been doing tributes for Young on March 11 for the past 25 years. We keep Young’s life active. I want people to walk out saying, ‘I didn’t know he did all those things. I want to know more.’” Through the one-on-one coaching, presentations and professional training workshops, Banks ultimately wants people to have a deeper understanding of their own being. “I want to help people discover the better part of themselves and learn how to let God shine through them.” For more information about the services available through Banks Enterprise, visit http://banksenterpriseonline.com or call (212) 724-5482.