How Modern Blk Girl Is Teaching Financial Literacy to the Next Generation
Generally, money matters have been viewed as private keeping. However, Modern Blk Girl is altering that experience by providing a safe space to educate women on how money works. With funds being invested in the stock market at a record pace, Modern Blk Girl aims to shift the tide of exclusion to inclusion by being Black-woman owned and operated. From its inception in 2020 on the social audio app Clubhouse to amassing a community of over 200,000 women, Modern Blk Girl prioritizes financial literacy and wealth-building for women of color. We spoke to their founder, Tiffany James, and COO Sharlea Brookes about reshaping conversations in money management, being young Black women in a male-dominated space, and more.
The purpose is as essential as the actual thing in everything we do in life. So, what is the why behind Modern Blk Girl?
Tiffany James: Modern Blk Girl started because it is something the people wanted, honestly. Investing is something that has been part of my life for some time, and at the start of the pandemic, there was a surge and pique of interest when it comes to investing and women in that space. Financial literacy is changing from something hush-hush to a priority.
Financial conversations were taboo in the Black community.
TJ: Absolutely! I would see so many investing rooms in Clubhouse where there'd be hundreds of men, and I'd be the only Black woman speaking and challenging their theories and thoughts on money on those stages, which is something that women really appreciated.
And did that morph into creating your own rooms on Clubhouse, where Black women could learn from each other instead of having to push back against mansplaining?
TJ: We did a free room that started with about 500 people and then 1,000 people, and it continued to multiply from there to where we have a community of over 200,000 women. It was an organic growth because women wanted to learn from other women.
We can all stand to learn from women. So, what is the hardest part of being a Black woman in a white male-dominated space?
TJ: A lot! To the point that getting press and people covering us was an issue. We have to prove ourselves five times more than the average man would need to know when it comes to the knowledge and information we share. The obstacles for us are sometimes daunting, especially when male privilege gets others into rooms that we have to fight to be in.
I can't imagine how infuriating that can get because Black women have been the pillar of every movement in this country, if not the world. How do you all feel about dispelling the misnomer that Black women can't work together? Is it on purpose or happenstance?
TJ: Everything that has happened when it comes to Modern Blk Girl has all happened organically; women wanting to support women. When we first started, 80 percent of the team was not paid. Our entire team is now paid, but for a while, they weren't, and these women dedicated hours of their lives to this mission.
Sharlea Brookes: A big misconception is that Black women can't work together because of cattiness, but in actuality, it's usually someone on the outside stirring the pot. We love working together, and we all protect each other. Sure, there are disagreements, and that's part of running a business, but it's to find a solution instead of trying to hurt each other and, in turn, the business.
Outside voices only have pessimistic agendas.
SB: Indeed! That's when things, typically, go astray, which is why I love how tight-knit we all are. We communicate and respect each other's voices which helps us stay on the same page.
As the adage goes: Communication is key!
SB: Communication, honestly, can make or break any relationship – it's not limited to romantic relationships. So long as communication is key, which it has been, nobody's bad energy can interfere with our progress.
TJ: We leave room for people to be the women they are. Unlike the norm in corporate cultures, we're very empathetic to how women feel, think, or whatever they may be going through because we're women and humans just like them.
Is there any time that egos get the better of empathy when it comes to individual goals in this collective?
TJ: We definitely have moments, but that's why being a team is so important because everybody in a leadership position is very open to hearing feedback and taking it into heavy consideration. Granted, decisions will be made, and not everybody will be happy, but even that is something that can be discussed. There's a level of respect we have for each other across the board.
SB: We're all guilty of those moments, but that's what makes roles so important. It goes back to the question you asked earlier about purpose, and the open dialogue we have has cultivated a better relationship between us to work towards our common goal. Our teammates can come to us and ask anything because there's a bigger picture here. We don't have time for any ego to disrupt our mission.
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I notice the use of the term leader instead of boss.
TJ: Because we are a collective, and we all have a role that we fell into, but someone has to lead. Business is like a car; no matter how much more important others think one part is, the car doesn't work without all its moving parts being functional. Our story will be one of the greatest told when it's all said and done because regardless of how corporate America has structured businesses, we are a movement, and we are a sum of our parts.
How can you assure and reassure the Black community that they'll be able to take something productive away from your program?
TJ: We give you multiple options and find what's best for you. We're more fluid than the standard trading groups. You can be a day trader. You can be a long-term investor. You can be a swing trader. You can invest in crypto. You can trade five times a day, etcetera. Investing has to be tailored to who you are and want to be.
SB: It comes down to education. There are an ample amount of things you can do in any sort of market, whether it's the stock market, crypto market, or forex market. Are you willing to learn how to do it so that you can apply the knowledge on your own based on your comfort levels? Unfortunately, a lot of trading groups are callout groups. They'll call out specific things or companies, "get in, get out," and that's very dangerous because it lacks the foundation that education affords everybody. Once the callout groups are done, it leaves traders stuck in the wind, and we're making sure that everyone is self-sufficient through our programs while encouraging everyone to continue to learn as they go.
The application of knowledge is power. Would you mind explaining what Teen U is?
TJ: That's my favorite part of everything that we do! Teen University is a branch of Modern Blk Girl that educates young girls from 14 to 19-years-old about investing and the market. We teach them how to actively use the information we share with them in the financial world. Also, we give two girls a month $500, but the goal is to give every girl in this class $500. Hopefully, instead of giving out a single $10,000 college grant, we can give out multiple. The 14-19-year-olds are sponges, and I remember how influential that time was for my development as a young woman. So, we want to make financial literacy part of that growing experience.
That's admirable. Closing the racial wealth gap seems to be an important part of your mission. What would you say to members of the Black community that view that as another means to Black capitalism?
SB: The goal isn't to have another round of classism. The focus is on access to resources because the wealth gap isn't just about money. The wealth gap is a disease with numerous symptoms, which include education, healthy food, clean water, etcetera.
Everything mentioned influences the Black community. Who are your biggest influences?
TJ: I love Oprah's approach to everything. She did what she needed to do while being her authentic self as a Black woman and then eventually branching out and doing her own while owning it.
SB: Issa Rae has definitely become an influence for me over the past few years. I see a lot of my personality in her. Now she's starting to blossom on the business side because she has all these different verticals, from acting to music to investing and creating a beautiful synergy map.
They sound exactly how I would imagine a Modern Blk Girl to be. So, who is a Modern Blk Girl?
SB: There is no specific form or look. Modern Blk Girl is anyone with the willingness to be educated on financial literacy and more to be able to take care of yourself and your community.
TJ: Modern Blk Girl is everyone, even men. It's about us understanding the Black dollar and understanding money, period. Financial literacy leads to financial freedom, which allows us to breathe and be the best version of ourselves. Money is taught to be the root of all evil, but it can be the root of all freedom and happiness.