Introducing Keena Atkinson and Britney Sinclair
by Jasmine Zapata, MD
Welcome to this week’s edition of Brown Girl Green Money. We are a social network of women of color working to reach financial freedom and inspire each other along the way! This week I have the honor of introducing you all to the two newest members of the Brown Girl Green Money Crew: Keena Atkinson and Britney Sinclair! They are two amazing young women with amazing stories who are passionate about achieving personal financial freedom and helping others do the same. They will be serving as the Madison Chapter co-presidents and will be doing tremendous things to help further BGGM’s mission not only through social media but through live events as well. Check out a portion of our interview below!
JZ: Thanks for taking the time to chat with me today ladies. Can you tell me a little more about yourselves? Where did you grow up? What is your background? How did you get interested in personal finance, financial freedom, etc.
BS: Well I am a mother, most importantly. I am also a BLACK woman, lover of sunsets, music, and all things magic. I am currently chasing a dream while managing my minimalist lifestyle. I recently (last year) started a business, called BreSocial. I provide services such as, social media consultation, social campaigns, and social events. My business mission is to connect people within the community to create collective impact and change the world. The vision is to make sure the client’s social presence maintains authenticity and the brand’s message reaches with integrity and intent. As a member of 100state, I had the pleasure of working on several projects, such as; Intellectual Ratchet, GoodPoints, 100arts, LKB, ESUCEO Inc, and so many others. I’m surrounded by motivators daily. Other than my small business, I also work several part time jobs. So I am a busy mama. I tell everyone I’m from Madison. Lived here for years. But I was born in Joliet, IL, raised in Gary, In then back to Madison when I was 15. Verona graduate…Wildcats! I never completed college, but completed courses. After having my son during college I was determined to AT LEAST continue to learn and find my passion. While taking courses I would take internship opportunities with entertainment companies learning more about marketing and the music business. So I am pretty much self taught. #blkgirlmagic! I do however plan to complete my degree once my babies are old enough, and debt is close to being paid off (have to pay my own tuition, the struggle). I was homeless for over a year, so I knew a problem needed to be fixed if I didn’t want to be in that position again. It was time to be accountable for my own actions. Although I could blame the world for my downfall, I knew I needed to do what was important for me. Finances are the source of the problem so why not seek help. I talked to my friend Keena, and figured I’d express my need for a financial accountability partner. Of course I don’t think about myself, so when Keena said we should invite others to our financial accountability sessions I was down!
KA: I lived in a lot of states. I have been here in Wisconsin since 1999, so about 17 years. I moved here the year i started 6th grade, and of course have lived in Wisconsin the longest so far. My mom, stepfather and sister live here, along with my two children and my sister’s three children. I am a single mother, recent UW-Madison college graduate with a BA in Psychology, and currently working in an executive management position here in Madison, and also doing hair through my small business KNaturally. I have been interested in personal finance, and financial freedom since about 2009. During that time, I had gone through a snowball of financial failures. My son’s father had recently been sentenced to a lengthy prison sentence, my job had relocated to St. Louis, and with no job, I was no longer trying to keep up the juggling act in the payday loan circus. I eventually found a good lawyer and filed bankruptcy. The possibility of a fresh start and a second chance made my entire life feel lighter, and I was determined to take a proactive approach to my finances this time around. When Britney told me she wanted to start a budget, I shared with her an interest in an accountability partner. We sat down immediately, and started brainstorming ideas, and we put out feelers that day for other people who wanted to join us, and here we are!
JZ: Wow that is awesome! What do you think is the biggest challenge women of color face today in regards to personal finance?
BS: We don’t work together enough. We are too strong, too independent and too ashamed to ask for anyone’s help. I see this problem more with mothers of color. It’s like we know we can bare it all, but if your friend/family finds out you can’t make rent… your black woman card can be revoked! If we come together, help each other watch kids, prep meals, and save money we will become a force to be reckon with! Because we all may not come into this world with silver spoons, we could help each other reach our financial goals. KA: Sometimes it feels like people just expect us to just know everything. This sounds crazy thinking about it now, but I used to close my eyes, swipe my debit card and just hope that the transaction would approve. On top of that, I even worked at a bank when I was in high school. But even then, I was not thinking about a budget. Even then, however, no matter how much I made, $50 would always directly deposit right into my savings account. One habit I learned early from my mother was to save a portion of my income. Our parents and the people who raise us are so important and influential in our lives. I think that the biggest challenge that women of color face today in regards to personal finance is that the basics that are passed down from generation to generation in non-minority households are not always passed down in our households. Not because our parents and elders chose not to, but if you were raised in a household where the head of household was a single parent, and that single parent lived check to check, and often had to decide whether to pay the lights, phone or heat, then your caregiver simply did not even have the opportunity to show you, let alone teach and talk to you about something such as a CD, or a money market account, or financial freedom. This is why hearing people talk about black americans and the challenges that we face being our fault when the issue is so much deeper than that. Yes, we are capable of financial freedom, but many of our black families who are in poverty are being compared to and held to the standards of non-minority people and families who have been building for centuries on top of fertilized soil and so free that they are equipped with tools passed down from their elders so that they can speak and show financial success to their children and grandchildren. I think learning about finances starting at a young age and even in school will help level the playing field. Education starts at home, but again, we can only teach our children about the things that we know about, and we don’t know everything as individuals.
But, there is power in numbers, education and experience. When we come together as a community to empower and uplift one another, nothing can stop us . I think that if we as women of color can learn and demonstrate these habits, the impact will spill over into our children and families. When people talk about black women, the first word I usually hear next is “strong” but I think that women of color sometimes confuse “strong” with “I don’t need help” or “No one should know that I am struggling” or “I may be a single mom, but I cashed out on my kids for Christmas but now i’m broke until taxes come in” and that contributes to MORE issues. So, I think that we should reexamine our idea of strong black woman, and I think that we should not think that it is a requirement to struggle, or to feel isolated or alone. “Strong” black women are supportive of one another and encourage each other to do and be greater.
Part II to be continued in next week’s issue.