A Voice That Needs to Be Heard

by Emera De Los Santos

Emera attended one of our workshops at Amherst College and she wants to tell you why our programs are so important.

On October 18th, BlackFem Inc. held a wealth management workshop as part of their Dollar and Sense Series at Amherst. The purpose of the workshop was to help upperclassmen become more familiar with the financial decisions we would have to make after graduating college, along with introducing us to different ways to begin developing wealth. We created balance sheets with estimates of our future incomes and expenses, which allowed us to personalize our strategies. Many of us realized that the real world was much more imminent than we had anticipated, but most importantly we saw how our finances and expectations lined up with reality. The workshop was definitely an eye-opening experience since many of us realized how far removed we are from a deep understanding of both our current and future finances.

Although the workshop taught me a great deal about how I could organize myself financially, that was not my biggest take-away. Instead, I realized there is so much about the wealth-building process I did not know and should have learned somewhere along my schooling. Attending the BlackFem workshop, opened my eyes to a whole new world — one that has been systematically inaccessible to most people of color, to people like me. Prior to attending the workshop, I believed being rich and wealthy were rather similar ways to define an individual’s socioeconomic status. The reality is that wealth adds a level of security not present in simply being rich, as it is not something that everyone who belongs to a high social class possesses. More importantly, I learned that despite not having prior access to this world with proper planning I too, can accumulate wealth. I listened attentively during the workshop since most of the things being discussed sounded like secrets that had been kept from me. I also thought deeply about what knowing this information meant in terms of preparedness for the real world and how privileged I was to receive it.

As a student at Amherst, I’ve been able to learn about topics such as systemic racism, class difference, inequality along with other debilitating systems that are pervasive in our society. Apart from learning about these issues in the classroom, I’ve seen and experienced how these various factors dictate so much of an individual’s life. Many of Amherst’s white students for example, come from economically privileged backgrounds and are either well versed in their finances or do not need to worry about them. Yet, the contrast between those students and the majority of the students of color on our campus is striking — as topics related to wealth are hardly ever discussed in that fashion amongst this group. This has allowed me to understand why BlackFem made it their mission to provide wealth and financial literacy to girls and women of color, since we are the ones who do not have access to this knowledge.

Growing up, thinking so much about money and particularly the accumulation of money was viewed as taboo and hardly ever discussed. Stocks, credit, trusts, and real estate investments were things I would associate with white people. This was mainly because these were topics that I knew my family and other families I knew never spoke about or dealt with. My ideas regarding finance were only further supported as I saw that while applying to Amherst, the financial aid application asked for a list of each family’s stocks, assets and trusts. Attending Amherst was my first experience being in a white dominated environment, and it also happened to be the first time that I was exposed to ideas regarding wealth, such as the ones that were asked about on the application. I see BlackFem as an organization that aims to combat this notion that wealth and financial literacy exist in a world that only privileged white people have access to. I joined BlackFem because I want to help make sure that Black girls know that this world is also open for them, and from now on, it always will be.

For more information about our Dollars and Sense Series, please click here.