This month’s theme is financial health and wellness.
The financial health of the BIPOC community is a concern that’s been at top of mind for VT PoC since our inception. Our mission is to advance the prosperity of all BIPOC individuals in Vermont…yet this is a challenging topic because we, as a group, have been historically excluded from accessing money since, let’s be real, 1619. Where so many white Americans have built up their wealth since that time, or even since the 1990s, it has become even more difficult as inflation has worsened since COVID-19 effects have worsened inflation. We’re now seeing it in the cost of eggs and gas.
While managing wealth for the average (read: white) American used to be simpler, it has always been distinctly difficult for the BIPOC community. The GI Bill, which failed to secure benefits for Black WWII veterans, in addition to rampant redlining, and white supremacy in other aspects of American culture and institutions, prevented people of color from not only gaining wealth, but preserving and passing on what they had to begin with. While 20th century policies like the GI Bill were far from the only (or even the strongest) cause of wealth disparities between races in the United States, it’s one indicator of how important it is for people of color to understand traditional financial systems and how to be financially healthy. This pattern can be seen close to home, too. In Burlington, only 0.2% of homes are owned by Black residents despite 7% of the population being Black.
Within the BIPOC community, we know that buying property and similar large assets are a means to building wealth, but there are an incredible number of barriers that prevent us from doing so. Most people do not get rich on salaries alone – investing is critical to building wealth. Outside of overt racism, we have a harder time for a surprisingly simple reason: geographic location and lack of accessibility to banks. Banks have a say in nearly every aspect of wealth management, yet even in 2023, racist policies (notably redlining) make finding a bank in BIPOC communities relatively rare muchless one owned and operated by BIPOC themselves. This prevents physical access to banks, and it becomes time consuming and expensive to reach banks outside of where we live. Even when physical access is not the problem, community members seeking financial services still face barriers due to lack of respect, lack of initial capital (money needed to start using their services), or simply lack of services to assist BIPOC specific circumstances. Simply put: banks don’t meet us where we’re at.
What can be done to help shrink the wealth disparities and heal financial trauma? For starters, it helps to educate yourself about financial health and to push for financial literacy in schools. The earlier people learn about different avenues for increasing and preserving wealth, the more they can earn and save for over time. Regardless of where you are at, there are many community-based resources to support self-education. And trust us: you are NOT alone. VT PoC Network, The Root Social Justice Center, and CVOEO are just a few local organizations that are offering financial literacy and wellness workshops right now. BIPOC- owned businesses offering similar counseling include Vermont Consumer Credit of Shelburne, CQ Strategies of Burlington, and many others, which you can find more information on via the VT PoC BIPOC business directory.
For those hesitant to work with banks, credit unions are a great alternative, as they are non-profits who invest in local small businesses and communities compared to corporations. Opportunities Credit Union, which has locations in both Burlington and Winooski, have lending services specifically for immigrants. But what about more complex moves? Investing can be scary, but the best solution to calming these nerves is finding conservative investments. For instance, you could consider government issued bonds, which have guaranteed returns over a certain time period. See Treasurydirect.gov for more information.
If you are someone who considers themselves unfamiliar with financial health concepts, or even if you are, it helps to have someone to talk to about your concerns so that you can start saving for the future. The more you know and the more tools you have to support you, the more likely it is for opportunities for growth to come to you on their own. For those interested in learning more, the Vermont Professionals of Color Network is hosting a seminar on financial literacy through the end of this year. Got a topic you’re interested in? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or check out the webinar series to register for an upcoming session!
About the Author
Dylan Rhymaun moved to Chittenden county in 2017 and now resides in Winooski. He’s a writer and artist who professionally works in Investments for education and disability savings. Dylan has also worked with the VT PoC Network briefly via the VT Health Equity Initiative and looks forward to continuing to support the organization. View more of their work at dylanrhymaun.com.
Banner image credit to Isora Lithgow Creations.
VT PoC Spotlight Feature
Meet Gamal Alsalahi
Our member spotlight this month is on Gamal Alsalahi. Gamal has lived in Vermont for nine years and worked in education and management before leaving his home in Yemen for the US. Since then, he completed a master’s program and began a career in banking. He learned a lot over his time in the financial sector and believes in raising more financial awareness within the BIPOC community. For more about Gamal, click here!.
Resources & Updates
VT PoC Monthly Financial Literacy Series (virtual)
VT PoC is hosting a monthly Financial Literacy Series free and open to all BIPOC community members. Each month, we will be exploring a new financial health topic. The next workshop is focused on personal finances on April 6 from 6 – 7:30pm via Zoom. Click here to register for one or more workshop!
Money Matters: BIPOC Financial Liberation and Wellness Series (in-person)
The Root Social Justice Center is hosting two more in-person Money Matters workshop series. FREE and in-person in Brattleboro. Register here.
Homebuyer Education Workshop (March 7-9, 2023)
We understand, it’s a tough housing market right now! In an environment with limited inventory and raised interest rates, Homebuyer Education classes give you the tools you need to know what you are up against and plan a course of action. This course is $99.00 and will grant you a Neighborworks Homebuyer Education Certificate* and a one-on-one counseling session to discuss your specific financial situation and answer all of your questions. Click here for more information.
Soul Food Sundays [In-person]
Every second Sunday of the month, join The Roots Social Justice Center for a soul food potluck in a BIPOC affinity space! Bring a dish to share; all ages welcome. Click here for more info.
UVM Inclusive Excellence Symposium
An evolution of UVM’s Blackboard Jungle, the symposium sessions are dedicated to creating spaces where all members of our community can participate in authentic dialogue, valued reflection, and expanded learning to promote inclusive excellence for all. This year’s event features Loretta Ross, Rabia Chaudry, D’Lo, and Maimouna Youssef aka MUMU FRESH, y’all!! March 21-24 at varying times. $20 community members. Click here for more and to register.
Education for Social Justice Conference with Education Justice Coalition of Vermont
On April 1, The Vermont Educators of Color Association, the Education Justice Coalition of Vermont, and other ally groups are planning our first annual Education for Social Justice conference. As a Coalition we’ve been connecting in groups and pockets throughout the state for the last five years and now is the moment to bring people together. The conference will be free to attend and open to educators, students, parents/caregivers and community organizers who are working towards justice in our schools. You can learn more about this conference here. Register here.
Comedy for Peace
The Argosy Foundation is hosting Comedy for Peace on Wednesday, April 12, 2023, at All Souls Interfaith Gathering at Meach Cove Farms in Shelburne, VT. All ticket proceeds are being donated to Vermont-area nonprofits. This event features four (4) comedians sharing humor via an interfaith lens. Shows feature Muslim, Jewish, and Christian stand-up comedians taking on topical issues, laughing at themselves and each other along the way. Performance is followed by a Q & A with the comedians. Tickets available at Eventbrite for $10
Free tax preparation services
Did you know that there are free tax preparation services available across the state? Click here for eligibility; note that total family income cannot be more than $60,000 annually. To find your local tax assistance organization, click here.
Vermont Prize Applications open until 3/31
The Vermont Prize is awarded to one artist annually. Last year, Will Kasso Condry won the inaugural award for his incredible fine art work. One winner receives a monetary prize of $5,000, and their work is showcased and archived on vermontprize.org and on social media. Applications for The Vermont Prize are accepted from visual artists currently living and working in Vermont. There is no fee to apply. Deadline is March 31, 2023 at 11:59pm. Click here for more and to apply.
Vermont Arts Council Creation Grant Open
Creation Grants support artists in creating new work. Grant funds may be used to compensate the artists for time spent creating new work, to purchase materials, or to rent equipment or space for the process. This highly competitive program is reviewed by an independent panel of practicing artists and arts professionals. Both established and emerging artists are encouraged to apply. This year, artists have the option of participating in the People’s Choice Creation Grant Award. Check out this link for more information and application resources. Deadline is April 3 at 1pm.
Apply for the REI Navigate Program!
The Navigate program supports emerging Black, Indigenous, Latina/o/x, and Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) entrepreneurs in the outdoor industry by offering opportunities to connect, learn, and grow. We provide funding, mentorship, curated programming, and access to REI’s experts in production, distribution, marketing services, and talent.REI’s Path Ahead Ventures Navigate Program’s application window is open now through March 12th. Apply to Navigate | Path Ahead Ventures | REI Co-op
802 Opportunity Grant – Free Tuition at CCV
Vermont Student Assistance Corp. announced the 802 Opportunity Grant: free tuition at the Community College of Vermont for Vermonters with a family income of $75,000 or less. Click to learn more.
SAVE THE DATE – VT PoC BIPOC Job Fair
Looking for a career or considering a new one? VT PoC will be hosting our first ever BIPOC Job Fair at The Flynn on Saturday, April 1 from 2-6pm. Join us to meet with vetted employers, values workshops, and, of course, snackies. Click here to register.