By Ben Lashar
When Nate Turnipseed’s mother first enrolled him in 100 Black Men of Indianapolis’ Dollars and Sense program, he initially wasn’t happy to spend his Saturdays learning about investing in the stock market. Then he developed a passion for it.
During his second year in the program, Turnipseed won second place in the local chapter’s stock portfolio pitch competition despite his partner dropping out at the last minute.
“I was really nervous,” Turnipseed said. “I was kind of sick at the same time. I remember my nostrils were flaring up. … Apparently, I did really good.”
Getting ahead in 2019 requires financial wisdom, so local chapters of 100 Black Men, including the Indianapolis chapter, offer Dollars and Sense: a free 16-week financial literacy program. The program transforms how youth such as Turnipseed view money.
“We’ve seen students work on Wall Street as a result of the program,” Andre Givens, chairman of Dollars and Sense at 100 Black Men of Indianapolis, said. “… That’s a huge moment. When I see the outcome of the hard work, that pays dividends.”
The lesson plans are a combination of coursework from the University of Phoenix and lessons created by 100 Black Men. Volunteer instructors lecture, mentor and assign projects. There is also a pre and post-test to measure participants’ progress. Givens said the average score of the first test is 34% and the second test’s average score is 79%.
The program also changes students’ philosophies about money. Givens said when most students begin the program, they only see money as a way to buy material items like clothes. Through learning about investing and portfolio building, students learn they can do more than spend money at a store. They can save and invest for the future.
TJ Daniel, a senior at Brownsburg High School, presented an investment portfolio in the Dollars and Sense financial literacy investment competition in March. The 100 Black Men of Indianapolis offers the free course as a way to improve the financial knowledge of youth.
“That’s the attitude we have to break before we can dive into the core of the program because as long as our students have this false perception of wealth, our community will still be in disparity,” Givens said.
Givens said the program teaches personal finance lessons such as saving and budgeting and places a large emphasis on investing in the stock market. Students get to experiment with an app called Student Stock Trader where they invest a fictional $100,000 in a stock market simulation that follows the same changes as the actual stock market. Seeing what causes their virtual stocks to rise and fall is a good way for students to learn both the do’s and don’ts of the stock market and how quickly investments can change.
“Last year when the market took that 800-point drop, next Saturday the class was chaotic,” Givens said. “Students were like, ‘What’s going on? I lost half my portfolio.’ That gave us a critical moment to explain what happened in the market.”
At the end of the program students compete in groups of two to pitch potential investment portfolios. They win scholarship money based on how they rank. Students who perform well, such as Turnipseed, compete at the national level. Last year, the Indianapolis group Turnipseed competed in took first place.
“It really felt good because lots of hard work came to fruition, and it shows you can do anything as long as you stick to your task and keep working hard,” Turnipseed said.
The next Dollars and Sense course will begin Oct. 26. While Turnipseed will not attend because he’s now a freshman at Ivy Tech Community College, he’s excited a new group of students will learn financial literacy.
“I really wish they teach stuff like that at school because I feel like you are actually going to use that later in your life,” Turnipseed said. “… It gives you discipline, and if you know how money works and how to use your money properly, you’ll definitely gain more wealth.”In this social media age, where a viral video can turn a barely known artists into a rising star and superstars are anointed after a couple of YouTube hits, sitting down and talking with a Grammy award winning artist who’s had multiple chart topping hits and still drawing crowds after forty plus years in a business full of one hit wonders and has beens, was an opportunity this R&B fan wasn’t going to let slip away.
Stephanie Dorthea Mills rose to national prominence and became a household name in 1975 when she played Dorothy in the Broadway musical, The Wiz. She was eighteen at the time but far from a novice to the stage. Before starring in The Wiz Stephanie had already appeared in the Broadway musical Maggie Flynn, won Amateur Night at the Apollo for six weeks straight and opened for the Isley Brothers.
With such a broad and lengthy career, I was pretty much at a loss for where to begin our interview. From the moment she answered the phone with a cheerful, “Hi, this is Stephanie!” in her familiar soulful alto voice, I knew this wouldn’t be your ordinary interview.
We scrapped our plans for a standard interview and decided to have a one-on-one conversation. Our conversation covered a wide range of topics, from the music industry, to today’s entertainers, education and Black children, and the importance of maintaining the Black community.
When I caught up with the legendary singer, she had just completed an outdoor learning exercise with her middle school aged son, who she home schools. “My son was diagnosed with a form of Down Syndrome. I felt it was important that he not view his condition as a limitation, so he attended mainstream schools during his elementary years. The social environment in middle school is drastically different as well as the overall education experience. I decided homeschooling was the better option for multiple reasons, but primarily for his safety and exposure to broader leaning opportunities.”
As she talked about the differences between today’s schools versus the ones she attended, I could definitely relate, having attended and graduated from a segregated school. When I made her aware of it, we shared a few laughs about those days. Finally, Stephanie said, “I believe it is crucially important for our children to have an African American teacher in their formative years.”
I could not agree more.
Regarding today’s artists, Stephanie says many of them have a hard time surviving in the business because they don’t understand the value of fans. “I enjoy doing concerts like the upcoming show with the Whispers, in Fort Lauderdale because we are around people who we have a forty plus year relationship with. It is a wonderful feeling. There’s nothing like it.”
I asked her what it was like being an eighteen-year-old with all the accolades and attention. She talked about how Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald and Sara Vaughn visited her backstage after one performance and the conversation they’d had. “They were trailblazers. Legends. They were talking like my Mother but sounding like aunts.”
If you follow Stephanie on Twitter, then you know she does not bite her tongue. She reminded me that she was and will always be a Brooklyn girl. “It is unfortunate that we have some African American who do not know their worth. I know my worth and it does not require that I withhold speaking truth and biting my tongue.”
Spoken like a true Brooklyn girl.