Working for his father, the founder of Urban Ministries Inc.—an African-American religion media and book publishing company based in Chicago—Mel Banks Jr. couldn't help noticing the demand for Bibles aimed at the African-American consumer. So in 1993 Banks launched Urban Spirit, a book packager/publishing house specializing in producing Bibles aimed at that market. “It was ridiculous,” said Banks. “There were no Bibles that affirmed the African presence, Bibles that parents could use to show their children that African-American history didn't begin with slavery.”

Urban Spirit, in Atlanta, published the Children of Color Holy Bible under its own imprint that year, before partnering with the now defunct World Bible Publishers to release a packaged edition. According to Banks, the packaged edition sold more than 400,000 copies before WBP was acquired by Thomas Nelson and the book went out of print. Since 1993, Urban Spirit has published or packaged eight Bibles aimed at different segments of the African-American market, but the COC Bible was Urban Spirit's “big product” and, despite its initial success, Banks said the book remains out of print and he's had problems finding a new publishing partner. He emphasized that while all Urban Spirit Bibles are “theologically and biblically accurate,” illustrations in his Bibles represent biblical characters as “people of color” throughout. Banks complained that traditional Christian publishers often don't know how to market effectively to African-American consumers, and he also speculated that traditional Christian publishers may be wary of Bibles that “reflect the Bible's African origins.”

While he searches for a new partner for COC, Banks continues to put together new works. In 2007 the company packaged Aspire: The New Women of Color Study Bible for Zondervan, which is still in print. In January the firm partnered with Tyndale House to release Soul Infinity, a New Testament Bible aimed at the hip-hop generation. Banks oversees the business side, and he hires writer/editors like Stephanie Perry Moore and Victoria Christopher Murray—who write novels for black teens for such mainstream houses as Kensington and Pocket Books—to produce Urban Spirit study Bibles. Banks noted that while Tyndale House is publishing Urban Spirit's Soul Infinity, he's concerned that the publisher may actually be overemphasizing the African-American aspect. “The African-American market is great, but hip-hop is bigger than the black market,” said Banks. “Caucasian readers are probably the biggest market for hip-hop. Hip-hop is a global phenomenon.”