Since its inception in 1967, Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation (Restoration) has created meaningful, life-enriching programs for thousands of young people. Colvin Grannum, Restoration president and CEO told Our Time Press,”Restoration seeks to disrupt and close the racial wealth gap. Our programming supports young people entering and graduating from academic and occupational programs that position them for upwardly mobile middle-income jobs and wealth.” On this page, Yemisi Onayemi and Tyler Carlton’s respective views show they are on their way up the ladder.
Yemisi Omayemi: Breaking Barriers Through Tech
I came to Brooklyn from Nigeria and attended Boys and Girls High School my senior year. Building a better financial future has always been a priority for me especially coming from an immigrant background.
As a keen technologist with a passion for social justice and the economic independence of disadvantaged people in any community, one of my career goals is to become a software engineer. The adrenaline rush from hustling, dreaming, and achieving goals: financial, career, educational, and even spiritual, is only a part of what makes life worth living and helps keep the dream of a better future alive.
In whichever way we spin it, when it comes to pursuing one’s dreams and forging ahead in life, financial stability is very important regardless of age, gender, and sometimes, regardless of race. (For most non-Black people all they need to fulfill a dream is to have a dream – Think about that!) Yet for many Black and Brown folks, a stable support system is hard to find or when available, does not have adequate resources to help the individual move forward in the pursuit of success. The importance of community development organizations like Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation is unparalleled when it comes to being a strong support system for many people like myself. With the unfortunate reality that I have to work twice as hard not just as a woman, but as a Black woman; just as most other Black women before me did; hopefully not after me, I pride myself in learning from female leaders dominating their fields through networking or attending events.
I was thrilled to receive a full paid sponsored ticket to attend The Virtual Grace Hopper 2020 conference for women, one of the largest conferences for women in technology. The conference reinforced among many other salient points, the importance for organizations to prioritize the “human” element when harnessing modern technologies to achieve their vision.
While Restoration strongly focuses on improving our performance management system, we affectionately call RD or the Restoration Data warehouse, and employing the brightest minds to help foster the iterative improvement of the system – it was clear during the summer of 2020 as COVID-19 invaded our spaces that Restoration truly understood what it meant to prioritize the “human” element.
Restoration prioritized and met the needs of the mostly Central Brooklyn community members down to the most easily neglected and often forgotten needs such as food (Hard to believe food insecurity is a concern in a city as wealthy as New York) and air conditioners, which for many people is a luxury (We all know in the Summertime that air conditioners come through nicely. Amen!!). These were some of the many needs met by the Center for Personal Financial Health and the Center For Healthy Neighborhoods. This is what leveling the playing field looks like. Because if we are to truly analyze the impacts that these acts of love and support will have on our clients – for someone to know that they are cared for – that one impact alone provides room for them to thrive and brings hope.
Aligned with its vision to bridge the racial wealth gap in Central Brooklyn, Restoration launched its Breakthrough Tech Program, an intentional, well-thought-out program for people who have invested time in breaking into the Tech field, however, are still earning below the average earnings in the Engineering and Technology space.
As a current employee at Restoration, I was a bit scared and hesitant to apply. I approached my boss Stan Lyubarskiy to ask for some advice in regards to applying as a relatively new employee of Restoration. He encouraged me, and this support was endorsed by Executive Vice President Ms. Tracey Capers. I believe it takes an organization that not only cares about what they get from you but cares about your growth as an individual and sees your value as a community member to push you forward towards your goals.
My technical career journey led me to attend a software engineering boot camp. There, I was equipped with the skills to be hired for my current role as a Business Data Analyst at Restoration. This journey now leads me to the Breakthrough Tech Fellowship upon my acceptance into the program with 19 other fellows in less than a month. Although I am getting ready to wrap up my role officially at Restoration and excited about what the future holds for me through this program, I plan to continue contributing towards Restoration’s vision by volunteering to work on special technical projects.
My time at Restoration has been nothing short of spectacular, one full of growth: intellectually, emotionally, and especially financially; due to the financial counseling sessions offered by Restoration, my credit score has greatly increased, bringing me closer to my goals as a financially stable woman. I look forward to a life long partnership with Restoration in every way possible not just because I love our vision but because I’ve met some amazing people on this journey of keeping my dreams alive.
About Yemisi Onayemi
Yemisi Onayemi is a Business Data Analyst with Restoration. She was recently accepted into Restoration’s inaugural class of the Breakthrough Fellowship Program, a partnership with Marcy School, to provide advanced career opportunities for people of color. A Nigerian immigrant, she came to Brooklyn at 18 where she graduated high school at Boys and Girls High School. She also completed programs with Per Scholas, General Assembly, and recently received a scholarship to attend the Virtual Grace Hopper Conference. Yemisi is also a talented singer who loves to act and plans on fulfilling her dreams as an actress.
Tyler Carlton: Understanding and Addressing the Racial Wealth Gap
Racial wealth disparity in the United States has complex and nuanced origins that are incredibly important discussions to have.
Not discounting this history, my hope is to advance a conversation, starting with understanding the racial wealth gap, moving to why it should be narrowed and ending with ideas that could materially improve the finances of communities of color.
First, I think it is important that I point out that we live in a capitalist society which I believe is an inherently good thing. Capitalism drives innovation and competition which result in largely positive macro forces. Since there is competition in our economic system, inequality is simply an unavoidable aspect of our society.
Then why write this you might ask?
Yes, inequality is and in all likelihood, will continue to be an inherent quality of our society but I don’t believe that race should have a high correlation to financial net worth. In my view, a person’s wealth should be directly correlated to the value that they produce rather than an arbitrary characteristic like the color of their skin.
Mind the Gap: Let’s define and understand the racial wealth gap
Financial net worth is a relatively easy calculation. It is the value of the assets you own minus the total liabilities that you are responsible for. Assets are things that have value like savings accounts, retirement plans, and other forms of owned property. Liabilities are financial commitments like auto debt, student loans and credit card debt among others.
According to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, in 2016, the typical white family had about $160,000 in measured net worth while the typical Hispanic family had about $21,000 in net worth and the typical black family had the least, at about $16,000 in net worth. Needless to say, the racial wealth gap is pronounced. Most of the financial net worth the average family in the United States is closely tied to homeownership. Unsurprisingly, the groups with the lowest rates of homeownership, also had the lowest net worth. Why? The factors are many but there are two main forces at play. First, homes are an example of an asset that increases in value as time goes on and secondly, for homes that have loans, a portion of the monthly payment goes to pay down the loan effectively acting as a piggy bank for the family who owns the home.
According to a 2016 study, people on opposite sides of the financial net worth spectrum lived on average 10-15 years longer than their peers with lower net worth — more than an entire decade!
Not only is life expectancy highly correlated with net worth, but health, stress and personal satisfaction after the age of 55 are as well. A simple number in a bank account or on a spreadsheet should not determine all of these factors that so greatly impact our lives but it does. — A steadfast focus on building a strong financial net worth can become the building blocks for a longer life, better health and increased happiness. Now, the question is no longer why, but rather what and how. What is the roadmap to closing the racial wealth gap for communities of color and how can those ideas translate into specific circumstances?
Financial net worth has two counterbalances; one side with assets and the other side with liabilities. In order to begin to close the racial wealth gap on an interpersonal level, I believe that the best first step is to learn. Prior to the Great Recession, a median non-white family was more likely to own a home but, a large portion of these loans were significantly sub-prime or predatory loans designed to maximize the number of loans available without much thought to protect the consumer.
When the Great Recession hit, homeownership of non-white families dropped much faster than for white families. I strongly believe that if any family were to truly understand that their home loan was the one of the most dangerous style of loan, they would not have pivoted to better quality loans. The wide scale loss of homes in the Great Recession, for non-white families in particular, underscores the importance of protecting your net worth from dangerous forms of debt and understanding all aspects of your finances. From high rate auto loans to credit cards, it is incredibly important to understand the terms of your contract, the costs to service those debts and ensure that you have the ability to repay.
Make a plan!
Figuring out your financial goals is an incredibly important step because your goals inform your journey to them.
Building a portfolio of assets might sound challenging and maybe even impossible but, you have a powerful force working on your side: compound interest. When you buy appreciating assets, the gains that those assets produce compound on each other. I invite you to play around with a compound interest calculator to really begin to appreciate the scale that compound interest can deliver.
Rome was not built in a day, a month, a year or even a decade but knowledge paired with consistent progress paired and determination is a recipe for building financial net worth.
For many, building a portfolio of assets, learning about your finances, making a financial plan and carrying it out might sound challenging and maybe even impossible but, community organizations like Restoration are here to help you get started and help you along the way. Restoration’s mission is to pursue, “strategies to close gaps in family and community wealth to ensure all families in Central Brooklyn are prosperous and healthy.”
The Net Worth
Financial net worth does not equal who you are or what you are worth but your finances are directly tied to the options and opportunities that you, your children and your children’s children will have so it is imperative to understand and manage this metric.
ABOUT TYLER CARLTON
Tyler Carlton is a junior at Boston College where he studying biology and chemistry. This summer, Tyler interned at Restoration where he worked on a range of special projects, including hosting a webinar, How and Why to Start Investing: Lessons from a 19-year-old.
Before the pandemic, Tyler Carlton did not have much experience in finance but, found enjoyment in research of all kinds. Once the pandemic rolled around in March, his plans to work with a research scientist and take courses over the summer were derailed; he found himself at home without much to do. As he was looking around for internship opportunities, he stumbled upon the TV personality Jim Cramer and heard, “Riches are made in recessions” and to believe that the world was ending was “betting against science.” Tyler’s curiosity spiked; he believed in science because he had an appreciation and understanding of it. Within 3 months, researching between 3 and sometimes 9 hours a day, Tyler racked up an impressive 201% return, beating the market’s 40% return in the same time period. He says, “I spent almost 300 hours in the first couple months learning terms, strategies and listening to really smart people about investing. It was not easy… I believe anyone can do it but, only if they are willing to put in the time and effort to learn.”