William Booker
Category: 2022 High School Winner

William Booker

Film has always been a medium of art that has captivated me, especially when it encapsulates the history of my nation and community. In March 2021, the NAACP honored the movie “The Banker” with its coveted Image Award. The Image award recognizes the outstanding performances and achievements of minorities who promote social justice through their artistic work. Based on a true story, the film depicts two black men – Bernard Garrett (Anthony Mackie) and Joe Morris (Samuel L. Jackson) – who built a real estate empire in California in the 1960s, only to see their work toppled by racism as they embarked on buying a bank in Texas. Witnessing these two men overcome significant obstacles provided moments of extreme pride for me. The highs were short-lived and unsettling at times as I learned of the impact that bigotry and systemic racism played in their lives.

Following the film’s release in March 2020, I witnessed the greatest amount of social and racial unrest I have seen in my lifetime. Witnessing these events was both sad and disheartening. However, I have taken the lessons I gained from the story of these men and have used them as inspiration as I grapple with many of the same challenges we still encounter at this present time.

Bernard Garrett, in part, has stirred my passion for my work in finance as I seek to impact my community beyond the business world. Garrett, along with Morris, used his business acumen and influence to uplift the African American community. These communities had been underserved, exploited, and discriminated against for generations. Whether it was historical discriminatory lending practices like redlining or present-day payday lending, these practices have negatively affected my community. I am now committed to leveraging my financial passion to provide the resources, knowledge, and inspiration to close the gaps we have seen in our country for far too long.

I took the opportunity to do just this during the school year that I learned of Bernard Garrett. In my AP Seminar and Research classes, I committed my school year to research the economic and financial gaps in the United States. This research has been invaluable to my understanding of how to serve my community. Much work remains, and this field has little black representation. I encountered this during a recent internship at a wealth management firm. As the only minority person among the three statewide offices, I often felt the weight of being the only black person in the room. My sense of loneliness pales in comparison to what these two pioneers must have felt, and their resolve, bravery, and perseverance gave me the courage and inspiration to remain focused during the periods of loneliness. As I embark on my college journey, I am committed to building on the legacy of “The Bankers” – Bernard Garrett and Joe Morris – to shape the world through my financial passion.