The Oscar Nominated Film Every Credit Union Should See

Nominated as best documentary for this year’s Oscar awards, The Barber of Little Rock is a must see for every credit union believer.

The film is the story of Arlo Washington’s personal commitment  to bring financial services and hope to the black community of Little Rock, Arkansas.

The film produced by the New Yorker magazine is 35 minutes and can be watched online any time.


Story upon Story

Arlo is a barber who converts his basic role in the black community to one of broader service.  This story is told in this Next City article The Black Barber Opened the First Credit Union In Arkansas Since 1996. 

The film is Arlo’s first person account filled with dozens of examples of hardship. hope, and grant making through the CDFI he organized to make loans.

There are numerous examples of what it means “to be banking while black” and why there is little trust in the existing banking system. The film provides a brief history of black efforts for economic equality from the post civil war promise of “forty acres and a mule”  to modern day red lining in Little Rock-a city divided by inequality and a highway.

The film even shows learning empathy in the “two minute drill”  where two former incarcerated men learn to “see” each other’s hurts.

A Potential for Every Credit Union: Economic Justice Rights Wrongs

The film is a study in self-help.  It shows the need and power of putting money back into the community.  “A tree is known by the fruit it bears,” says Arlo. “If you have all the money and wealth you want, and don’t make an impact, what do you have?”

The film’s many residents assert multiple times  that economic opportunity brings freedom.  One says that if this (model) catches on, it will become a threat because people can see what they can do to be free.  There will be no more excuses for economic injustice.

People Trust Community FCU

The film’s story of Arlo’s efforts ends before the credit union he chartered is up and running.  There is a picture of the building and sign, but no recognition.

At December 2023, the credit union reported total assets of $4.4 million, loans of $326,410 and 445 members.  It has capital of 11% or $482,000.

The film was released just two months ago and has been viewed 352,000 times with 433 comments posted afterwards.

The impact of this enterprising person’s example  is extending far beyond the borders of Little Rock. It is a wakeup reminder for every existing credit union of the potential to change people’s lives and the trajectory of their community.

Viewing this current effort should be a catalyst for conversations in every credit union  trying to make a difference in their members’ lives.



One Reply to “The Oscar Nominated Film Every Credit Union Should See”

  1. Watching this during the Lenten season it showed me in a modern, beautiful way, how we are called to serve others. To lift up those less fortunate than ourselves. And good for the US government to provide billions of dollars in relief in the form of CDFI grants to make it relatively easy.

    95% of the loans Arlo made are paying on time. Some CEOs would look at that as a 5% delinquency rate and see it as too risky. That risk aversion in many instances has cost us reputation. Credit unions were founded on the principle of people helping people. Arlo shows us in this beautiful story what that means today. And what is possible if you have compassion, purpose, and trust.

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