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Posted under: Culture

The Founders Of 'The Keys To Black Wealth Summit' Drop 9 Gems On Gaining Financial Freedom

'If we want to thrive in 2021 and beyond it is pivotal for us to invest in ourselves.'

In 2016, a white family’s net worth was ten times the amount of a Black family’s. When we discuss the concept of freedom in the Black community, we’d be remiss if we didn’t include financial literacy. 

On Juneteenth, The “Keys to Black Wealth Summit” debuted to provide attendees with helpful tips on securing financial freedom while creating generational wealth and closing the racial wealth gap. To do so, the summit featured speakers such as Romeo Miller, Master P and LisaRaye McCoy among others. The Black millennials who co-founded the virtual summit, David DeBerry II, Brandy N. Avery, Lemar Pughsley and Frank Cage sat down with Blavity to discuss the conference.

1. Blavity: Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us today. Why don't we start with some background info, what are your professional backgrounds and what made you all come together to launch the Keys to Black Wealth Summit?

David DeBerry II, CEO: I have been a financial service professional since 2011. I help individuals, families and businesses achieve financial freedom through leverage and investing. 

Keys to Black Wealth was birthed back in February of 2019 with the purpose of eliminating the racial wealth gap and creating generational wealth. Our brand features edutainment which is a combination of education and entertainment. COVID-19 forced us to go from in person events to virtual events. The summit/conference fell in line with our big quarterly events…this one was the first virtual Summit. 

Brandy N. Avery, Co-CEO: I’ve served as a multi licensed Financial Service Professional and Entrepreneur for the past 15 years. I help people understand how to grow, build and sustain wealth by teaching them how to utilize financial tools and concepts: such as credit, budgets, cashflow, life insurance, investments and much more.  

We launched Keys to Black Wealth out of frustration. Black people represent the least amount of tangible wealth of any  racial group in the US. This is an economic crisis.

Photo credit: Comfort Photography(l-r: Brandy N. Avery, Frank Cage and Lemar Pughsley and David DeBerry II).

Lemar Pughsley, CMO: In 2013 I started my own sport specific training company working with athletes and other trainers to make sure our athletes are best prepared. In 2015 I was recruited on co-founder David Deberry’s team to help educate people on financial literacy and implementing financial strategies. David was the Maestro as far as bringing us all together.

Frank Cage, CBO/Graphic Designer: My formal background starts in 2008 where I birthed CageDesignStudios, a graphic design and branding company. I was contacted by David DeBerry in the winter of 2019 to work on the visual presentation that we now know as Keys to Black Wealth. We launched our first event February of 2019 and the rest is history.

2. What do you each believe is the biggest misconception pertaining to wealth in the Black community?

DeBerry: There is a misconception that we don’t have the power to create wealth. I believe that is false. We have to teach our community how to turn connections, income and spending power into tangible wealth. Wealth is something that can be inherited and passed down. I believe that it is a shift in mindset that needs to happen in order for these misconceptions to be eliminated.

Avery: I believe the biggest misconception is the belief that building and sustaining wealth is complicated and unobtainable.  There are two key principles that must be digested before we tackle how to build black wealth. Number one, wealth is a mindset. Number two, building wealth is action. 

Pughsley: I believe the biggest misconception is that we can’t work together to deliver a high quality product and also make money together.

Cage: The biggest misconception I see in our community is that “being” rich is more valued than “becoming” wealthy.

3. What are some instant practical tools that young Black people can employ to start building wealth and how did the virtual summit distribute these tools?

DeBerry: I have stated that the only difference between the U.S. and a third world country is our ability to borrow money. Our house, car and degree were all acquired by accessing credit/debt which can be leveraged. So young people should learn how credit is calculated the same way they learn algebra. 

Attendees at the summit were able to learn tangible tools from multiple credit counselors. They learned what makes up a credit score, how to remove negative and inaccurate information, and most importantly how to leverage their credit to acquire assets instead of liability.

Avery: Today, every young Black person can start their wealth journey by respecting their credit and checking their credit score and report four times per year . There are many ways to leverage credit to build wealth, but first every young person must become aware of the importance and the power of credit. 

Secondly, young Black people should understand, it is not about how much money you make, but how much you keep.  Using a budget to operate your cash flow is a concept that can also be applied today, right now.  During the summit, we unpacked many of these wealth building tools.  We invited credit experts who essentially gave us a million dollars worth of credit game!

Photo credit: Comfort Photography

Pughsley: I think that having an understanding of credit and how it works, how to build it strategically and also how it can be leveraged to acquire real estate and home ownership. In our Virtual Summit we dove into both from building and repairing credit to owning real estate and buying back the block.

Cage: The position of “ownership,” you can’t establish generational wealth without it. Ownership is the pipeline to transfer from one generation to the next. During our summit we invited specialists in diverse areas such as real estate, credit, business trademark and copyright who taught on these areas.

4. What were the first steps that each of you took to start your financial freedom journey and what was that experience like?

DeBerry: The first step I took was educating myself on the subject. We have seven keys to creating generational wealth and the first key is financial awareness. I think this should be everyone’s first step because you don’t know what you don’t know. And when you don’t know something someone could take advantage of your lack of knowledge. A speaker at the Summit said, “ignorance is expensive” and that is so true. 

Even when you’re working with a financial professional that person should be taking the time to educate you on the subject and the product they are offering you. It feels liberating and empowering when you learn the language of money.

Avery: Being a survivor of homelessness and extreme poverty, I had to claw my way to the starting line; then I had to start. My experiences proved to me that it does not matter where you start from, you can take those L’s and turn them into lessons to improve your financial situation.  You have to want financial freedom just as bad as you want to breathe.

Pughsley: The first step I took was to get my own life insurance. My mother passed in 2017 with no personal life insurance (insurance outside of employer). That mistake cost us $500K+ in wealth that would’ve been left to our family.

Cage: The very first step I took was becoming a business owner. I found out very [early] on the limitation of a 9-5 was not for me. I didn’t like the idea of asking permission for a raise, or  that the decision of spending time with my children should come from a person who cared more of what I could produce versus who I was as a person.

5. For those who may not know where to start in developing financial literacy, what would you suggest?

DeBerry: Mentorship is the shortcut to success so I would suggest people find someone(s) that has their finances in order and ask them what exactly did they do to achieve that success.

Avery: Mentorship is the fast tract to success, having a financial mentor or financial coach will prevent you from making costly money mistakes. I also suggest becoming actively engaged in a financial literacy community, such as Keys to Black Wealth. Surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals will 10x your financial knowledge level. 

Pughsley: I would start with sitting with a financial advisor or financial coach who can accurately identify where you’re at in your financial journey, what your financial goals are, and what’s the best strategy to get you there.

Cage: Join a community with like-minded individuals. Coming from a background where financial literacy was not spoken about, it's been pivotal and profitable to build relationships with individuals who are like me, think differently, and have the ability to communicate on a level of my comprehension.

6. What do you believe are some of the barriers in the Black community that prevent us from having financial freedom and generational wealth? How do you think we can overcome those barriers?

DeBerry: First I believe it’s mental. We have to first want to be financially free and build generational wealth. Sometimes it’s taboo to talk about money in the Black household. We have to start having the conversations with ourselves and our families. Building wealth is a “team” sport. It’s hard to build true generational wealth on your own so it’s key to form partnerships and collaborate. 

Having little to no access to capital is also a barrier. It’s hard to play the game of capitalism without having capital. Once again mentorship is the shortcut to success! Which is another reason for Keys to Black Wealth to bridge those relationships between mentors and mentees.

Avery: Knowledge without application is a false sense of progress. There must be a wealth plan in place, then that plan must be activated. We must look at the challenge of building generational wealth as social responsibility. We do this by first shifting our mindset and understanding that wealth is a lifestyle. Then we 10x the learning curve by seeking mentorship and working with financial advisors.

Pughsley: I believe a huge barrier we face is simply trusting each other. We often think that someone from our own culture is going to have a stigma towards being either “unprofessional” or the services are insufficient. I think to overcome the barriers we have to be willing to build relationships with people and meet them where they are. We also have to be willing to give Black entrepreneurs a chance and our support.

Cage: Exposure and access to information. Recent technology has positioned us where this should no longer be a barrier, however due to language barriers conversions rates are low, thus the reason Keys to Black Wealth has taken the approach of Edutainment as a core way of delivering our information.

7. The Summit had some influential and established keynote speakers like Master P and Romeo? What were some standout moments of the workshops?

DeBerry: The standout moments for me was the transparency from all of the speakers. Major companies are looking to do business with Black owned businesses, now it’s up to us to be ready to do business with those companies. 

Master P specifically talked about starting his pancake & rice brand many months ago before the George Floyd incident happened. Now companies are pulling down racially insensitive products off of the shelves. That is making room for black owned companies that have products to get shelving space in the big stores. 

Avery: Our guest speakers blessed us with tangibles that can be applied now.  From Dawn Dickson giving us the keys on raising business funding, to Master P and Romeo discussing many things, but I believe their stance on ownership in the Black community is most applicable during our current times.  

The Norwood family (Mr. Willie Norwood, Sonja, Ray J and Brandy) representation of the Black family and how they have managed their wealth, and even more importantly Mr. Norwood shared strategies on how he passed those tools to his children.  Mrs. Norwood made a special appearance and dropped keys on how they have charged Ray J with carrying the torch next! This was powerful to witness.

Pughsley: The biggest moment of the summit for me was ending the weekend with Master P and Romeo. Learning from someone with a similar background as the vast majority of our audience and gaining keys to freeing ourselves of poverty.

Cage: My most prized moment has to be hearing about a gentleman, while in jail, who made Collect calls to have the phone placed on speaker to hear the narration of the summit.

8. What advice do you have for Black people who are just starting out on their journey to financial freedom?

DeBerry: My advice would be to know specifically what you want and if you don’t know then concentrate on finding out. There are many different areas of finances: taxes, insurance, investments, real estate, etc so it can seem daunting trying to learn all of them right away. If the stock market interests you then focus on that area, if real estate interests you then focus and find mentors in that area.

Avery: The best way to predict the future is to create it.  Start with visualization. See the future you want for yourself, then craft clear financial goals that will lead you to your future.  

Pughsley: I would say, don’t be afraid to start no matter how bad you think it looks. Seek a mentor in your perspective field.

Cage: Work at your pace and understand that financial freedom isn’t an option, but rather our only choice.

9. Can you explain the significance of the Black dollar in ensuring the current uprisings have a sustained impact?

DeBerry: This is a great question. We want the uprisings to have a sustained impact. We have to CAPITALize on this moment. I emphasized CAPITAL for a reason. We operate in a capitalist society. The biggest indicator of injustices, crime, unemployment is poverty. Black people own less than 2% of this nation’s wealth. When you don’t own the land in which you walk on, you will always be subjected to someone else’s rules, regulations and laws. Black people must focus on building an economic base before anything else.

Avery: A common theme that has become apparent during the current uprising is the lack of ownership within the Black Community. Without ownership there is no power. Without power there is no independence. In a capitalist society, the Black dollar must be mobilized and strategically positioned to sustain impact. 

Pughsley: Understanding how little we as Black people own if we don’t develop a mentality to properly acquire and implement financial principles.

Cage: Without currency circulation in our community we are on total [reliance] of someone’s generosity in helping us build community-wide group economics. I think it’s safe to say that if we are still debating that Black lives matter in 2020, if we want to thrive in 2021 and beyond it is pivotal for us to invest in ourselves.

The Keys to Black Wealth's e-book, 7 Keys to Generational Wealth offers a general overview on the keys to financial freedom. Visit the site to obtain plenty of gems on finances and businesses. Readers can follow Keys to Black Wealth on Facebook and Instagram.

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A Detroit native, Kenneth 'Kenny' Williams Jr. is a self-described cultural critic and visual storyteller. While at Michigan State University, Kenneth received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications and went on to obtain his Master of Arts degree in Public Relations. Kenneth's passions include pop culture, writing, and using his skill sets to actively and positively promote the narratives of Black people and Black culture. Interested in seeing more from Kenneth? Follow him on Medium at https://medium.com/@kennethwilliams310