Questions About BlackFem's Mission and Organization

+ Why does blackfem teach wealth and financial literacy?

Very simply, financial literacy is the understanding of how money and finance works. Obviously that is incredibly important, particularly for those with lower socioeconomic backgrounds, people of color, and women generally. But, it also isn’t enough if you are a person who was graced with the task to dismantle the institutional and societal structures because of your identity markers. This is where wealth literacy comes in. If financial literacy is the ‘what you need to know to be more financially successful than you otherwise could have been’, then wealth literacy is the ‘how you can put your knowledge to use to increase your net worth.’

To find out more, click this link to read an article by our Founder and CEO Chloe McKenzie about the importance of teaching wealth and financial literacy.

+ How is BlackFem Different From Other Financial Literacy Organizations?

BlackFem is different from other organizations in the following ways:

  • BlackFem teaches wealth and financial literacy
  • BlackFem is in schools
  • All of BlackFem's curriculum is customized and infused with the experience of low-income communities of color
  • BlackFem’s team combines both financial experts and teachers
  • BlackFem utilizes and supports teachers in schools
  • BlackFem is a non-profit and its workshops are free
  • BlackFem is a community-based nonprofit, and the majority of the BlackFem team is women of color
  • BlackFem is focused on and builds community coalitions and has a whole community approach
  • BlackFem is inclusive

To find out more, click this link to read an article explaining these differences by BlackFem board member George Tepe.

+ Do you facilitate one-time workshops?

BlackFem has recently shifted its focus to working exclusively with schools to implement the BlackFem At School programs. The kind of change our team fights for so tirelessly every day is the kind that requires an equally consistent, concerted effort over time on the part of our partners. It is this same rationale that drives our insistence that our programming be adopted during the school day. Just like we do not believe in a one-size-fits-all model for our classrooms, we do not believe that a one-time approach is the best way to serve our communities and promote long-term, systemic change in the fight to close the wealth gap.

+ Why do you focus on women and girls of color?

In the American economy, women of color face greater economic segmentation and disadvantage than any other social demographic. Though women of color have higher college completion rates than their male counterparts, half of all single Black and Hispanic women have zero or negative wealth. More strikingly, the median wealth for black and Latina women since 2007 is $100 and $120 respectively according to the Center for American Progress.

BlackFem provides opportunities for women and girls of color to build and sustain wealth to help correct the extreme resource deficiency that characterizes this demographic. By helping the most disadvantaged in our society and by reducing their financial exploitation, we can improve the financial standing of the entire community.

+ Are there opportunities for students who are not women and girls of color?

BlackFem's At School programs are open to all students. With regards to In-House programs, BlackFem periodically hosts family sessions that are open to parents and boys as well.

+ What does it mean that BlackFem has a "whole community approach"?

BlackFem, of course, teaches students of all ages, but we do not stop there. We teach our teachers. We provide parent materials with all of our programs to allow parents to continue the financial discussions at home. We offer a free online adult program with more advanced financial topics. We partner with financial institutions to give our parents the opportunity to talk with financial planners and advisors while we conduct our programs with their children. Finally, all of our families, students, and teachers can open fee-free bank accounts.

As a community-based non-profit, BlackFem is dedicated to working closely with all the communities that we serve. We target the lowest income neighborhoods in the country and build community coalitions to help cover the cost of BlackFem’s At School programs. BlackFem works with local elected officials, companies in the school’s district, and school leaders to select the schools with the most need and to secure funding for our programs. All change starts with the local community, so BlackFem works to ensure we are on the ground with community leaders.

+ How can I get involved?

Volunteering with BlackFem can take many forms. If you are a lawyer, you can volunteer your legal services. If you are a banker or financial advisor, you can guest teach or co-teach a course or workshop with us and assist our families with learning more about useful banking and financial products. If you are a student, you can assist us with community outreach. We cannot wait to work with you! Click this link to volunteer!

To become a sponsor to help bring BlackFem to your community, click this link.


Questions About BlackFem's Teaching Methods

+ Isn't Finance Too Complicated for Kids? Shouldn't you dumb it down for them?

Finance is not too complicated for kids! Schools already teach incredibly complex subjects like atomic physics and molecular chemistry; finance is not more complicated than those subjects. However, it is import to bring together both financial experts that understand the complexities and teachers who know how to take complex subjects and make them accessible to students.

BlackFem rejects the idea that finance should be "dumbed down" and simplified in order to kids to learn it. We believe that such mentality is built on and feeds the notion that girls of color do not have a place in finance. We never lower our academic standard. When teaching the cash flow statement and balance sheet, students build cash flow statements and balance sheets with assets and liabilities worth thousands of dollars. When students learn about income taxation, they review and make real 1040 forms. When students learn about IPO's, they review real prospectuses from the SEC EDGAR database. We love surprising both schools and parents with the amount of knowledge our students learn!

+ What is BlackFem's pedagogical method?

BlackFem uses a teaching model centered around interactive "investigations." All classes begin with a short "mini-lesson" in which teachers give a crash course in the substantive material for the day. After the mini-lesson, students are divided into small groups to do an "investigation" to immediately apply the concepts that were just taught. Classes often end with group presentations to the class.

For example, for our kindergarden lesson on compound interest, students are first taught the benefits of compound interest and then pluck fake money off physical "money trees" and "reinvest" the money by burrying it under the tree. Each tree has different interest rates and students learn how compound interest can help their money grow.

When balance sheets are taught, students build a balance sheet with realistic assets and liabilities. When income taxation is taught, students build and review real 1040 forms. When credit scores are taught, students act as bankers, review credit reports and decide on whether to extend a line of credit and the interest rate. The investigations not only reinforce the substantive material, but it allows practice working in a group and presenting their ideas and builds confidence that they can succeed in finance.

+ What other advocacy programs do you offer?

BlackFem works closely with elected officials, other governmental units, and nonprofit organizations to increase opportunities for students to learn wealth and financial literacy. BlackFem hosts office hours with nonprofits and schools, it provides workshops with governmental agencies, and works with elected officials to craft policy and bring BlackFem programs to their district. In addition, BlackFem publishes articles about current trends in finance and the treatment of women of color by financial institutions.

+ What are the empowerment components in your curriculum?

Our core values of empowerment and social justice are achieved through the content of our programming, our commitment to reducing economic barriers to a quality financial education, and the long-term relationships we nurture with the communities we serve.

BlackFem programs place our students in positions to be empowered and thrive. Whether assuming the role of a loan officer or presenting to parents and students about a recommended financial course of action, our students immediately apply the concepts they learn to real-life hypothetical scenarios. By immediately applying what they learn, our students can feel confident when they confront these complicated financial situations in the real world.

BlackFem's cirriculum is infused with the experiences of the communities we serve. The characters in our hypothetical examples are women and girls of color. The companies we review and discuss are companies our students interact with every day. We make our examples as real as possible for our students so they can see the connections to their everyday life.

+ What is the first thing that you teach your students?

The first thing that BlackFem teaches is the status of wealth inequality in the United States and the Balance Sheet. After the first lesson, our students know how to calculate their net worth through their balance sheet. BlackFem's mission centers on the wealth of women and girls of colors and all of our lessons connect back to wealth. All future lessons ultimately come back to the fundamental question of "how will this affect my net worth." Wealth and net worth become engrained in our student's thinking from day 1.

+ How and why do you support teachers?

Teachers know how to teach, so BlackFem trains teachers, rather than part-time volunteers, to teach our wealth and financial literacy curriculum. Teachers know how to engage theirstudents, manage their classroom, and make curriculum accessible in the moment on an individual basis to their students.

However, teachers are already overworked, so BlackFem provides all lesson plans, anchor charts, visual aids, and student-facing and parent-facing materials necessary to teach our curriculum. In between full lessons, BlackFem provides additional enrichment materials to allow teachers to inject brief wealth and financial literacy discussions every week. BlackFem also conducts all necessary data analytics for our schools. In addition, BlackFem provides in-person and online teacher training. BlackFem’s online teacher platform provides detailed descriptions and explanations, video examples of other teachers teaching the curriculum, and the ability for teachers to give real-time feedback and ask real-time questions to the BlackFem team.

Finally, teachers deserve wealth and financial literacy too! BlackFem teacher training begins with our Financial Fitness for Teachers, a wealth and financial literacy course specifically designed for the financial circumstances and experiences of teachers. This program allows them to build their own comprehensive financial plan in addition to building their expertise in the financial concepts they will teach. Not only do students benefit from our partnerships, but teachers increase their wealth and financial literacy too!

Click this link to find out more about our teacher portal BlackFem Teach!