Social influencers focused on financial education for the Black community are emphasizing a message of financial freedom this Juneteenth as the nation commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.
“I definitely feel the Juneteenth remembrance should have a level of economic understanding as a part of it,” Rashad Bilal of the Earn Your Leisure podcast told CNBC. “But I think the problem with holidays is that no matter what it is — Christmas, Easter, New Year’s — everything is just made as a celebration, and you lose the meaning of it.”
Bilal, a former financial advisor, added: “The importance of freedom both economically and social on Juneteenth is something that people should keep in mind every single day.”
Earn Your Leisure, which is focused on financial literacy, has more than 1 million followers on Instagram and is part of a growing movement of content creators providing insight and tips on the markets, real estate, cryptocurrency, entrepreneurship and more.
“Let’s see where it goes. Maybe it’s not just this holiday or a week or Black History Month. What if we can have this economic conversation on a daily basis?” said Earn Your Leisure’s Troy Millings, a former physical education teacher.
They’re also making an explicit link between goals of financial freedom today and the economic impact slavery had on America and its Black citizens.
“Understand that people literally died for finances,” Bilal said. “That’s what slavery was really about. It was a financial system that was put in place for free labor.”
“So when you see our ancestors actually sacrificed their lives and that was done for economic empowerment, it forces you to look at your finances,” he said. “You don’t want to just waste your money. You can actually use that money to change the trajectory of your family.”
Black Americans are at a disadvantage when it comes to wealth. According to a Federal Reserve study released in 2020, the median net worth of Black families in the United States was about $24,000. The approximate median net worth for white families was $188,000.
Other influencers spreading the economic emancipation message this Juneteenth include Ian Dunlap aka The Master Investor, Kezia Williams, the Wall Street Trapper, Philip Michael and Ross Mac. They have millions of social media followers, and each has their own niche but the same goal of helping the Black community balance their books and build wealth.
Dunlap told CNBC that he thinks economic freedom is just as important as social justice. “If we don’t have economic freedom and financial literacy we truly do not have justice,” he said.
Dunlap urges Black Americans to pay special attention to a 2017 report that forecasts the median wealth of Black households will fall to $0 by 2053 and to look for opportunities to invest. “I don’t want our people, our kids, our grandchildren to become destitute, and that’s the challenge we face if we don’t collectively take action,” he said.
Williams calls herself an “emancipation activist” as well as an influencer. Williams is the CEO of Black upStart, a company that provides education and support to early stage entrepreneurs.
In previous years, Williams has urged Black consumers to view Juneteenth as an opportunity to support Black businesses and post their receipts with the hashtag #myBlackReceipt.
“Invest in those Black entrepreneurs who will use those dollars that you spend with their business in order to give back to their communities and create products and services that our community needs and also build wealth for their family that can yield generational returns,” Williams said.
Michael, meanwhile, has a goal of helping 100,000 Black people become millionaires by 2030 through real estate. He boasts a $250 million real estate portfolio created from $850,000 in seed money from a relative.
“The asset class that has created more millionaires than any other is real estate. That’s one of the ‘easiest’ ways to get that point,” Michael told CNBC. “Really, what I want to do is normalize those conversations in a casual format where we can talk about our investment portfolio just as easy as we talk about a trip we went on or shoes we bought.”
The Earn Your Leisure podcast is considered a pioneer in the emerging space of financial influencers and has scored many high-profile people in the world of business, sports and entertainment to discuss their financial plans, mistakes and goals. Those guests have included Mark Cuban, Shaquille O’Neal and Steve Harvey.
The hosting pair also created the hashtag #AssetsOverLiabilities, which has become the philosophy of their content and a motto used on T-shirts and other merchandise. Bilal and Millings started their podcast in January 2019 with the goal of demystifying Wall Street for the Black community.
“We wanted to make learning about finance and generational wealth a cool thing. We wanted to make it a commonplace conversation,” Millings said. “I didn’t grow up with conversations like that at the dinner table. But imagine if we did. Imagine if at the barbershop we weren’t arguing about the best basketball player but we were talking about the top companies — what that could do to a neighborhood.”
Bilal and Millings say Earn Your Leisure has now evolved from creating content to truly educating the Black community about wealth creation.
“Educating is something that is sustainable over the long term,” Millings said. “In the formal setting the way you understand somebody’s learning is you assess. Our assessment is when we hear the feedback, when we go out and we see the people and they tell us about the stories or when they send us emails and saying, ‘This changed my life.'”