In honor of Juneteenth this year, The Brooklyn Bank, also known as BKBNK, assembled some of the biggest, most influential wealth-building leaders and game changers to offer attendees financial knowledge at the Kings Theatre in Brooklyn. The free, one-day event was hosted by Brooklyn Bank CEO Jude Bernard and co-hosted by The Breakfast Club’s Angela Yee. DJ Skatz provided the catchy tunes of the day choosing to make hip-hop the unofficial soundtrack of the event.
The first-of-its-kind financial forum featured several panels, discussions, and workshops with powerhouses such as NY Times best-selling Personal Finance Educator Tiffany “The Budgetnista” Aliche, Award-Winning Educator, Dr. Jatali Bellanton, and Earn Your Leisure podcast hosts, Rashad Bilal and Troy Millings, to name a few.
BET.com was there for it all. Here’s a look back at some of the highlights from this Juneteenth's incredible forum.
From beginning to end, the theater was packed with attendees from all over New York City. Most were Gen X, with a few millennials sprinkled in. There were a fair amount of couples, groups of girlfriends, and even one woman carrying her months-old baby. I sat behind a woman who attended with two pre-teens. As the panelists gave advice and tips, she glanced at them eagerly throughout the event to make sure they were taking notes.
When I first walked in the theater it was completely quiet, but once Bernard took the stage, the energy in the room immediately changed. The crowd stood up and gave him a standing ovation. Since the event also coincided with Father’s Day, Bernard gave a shout out to all of the fathers in the room. He asked half of the audience to scream out “real estate money” and the other half to yell “stocks money”, for a minute or so, which kept the crowd buzzing with excitement.
“Just like how the slaves did not know that they were free for years, is the same way we don’t know that we have access to financial freedom for years,” he stated.
Bernard also shared the reason why he is so focused on bringing financial literacy to the Black community. “I hate being the only one in the room, I hate when I’m on a first class flight and somebody asks me, ‘so what do you do,’ like it’s strange because Black wealth is not normalized. Many of y’all that can get the information, so come and join me.”
Investing In Brand You
As business gurus Tiffany the Budgetnista, Sabine Franco, Ellie Diop, Sheneya Wilson, Shaquanna Brooks, Tonya Rapley, and Aristotle Varner all took the stage, the electricity in the room made you understand that you were someplace important about to receive the details of a mission you have been tasked to complete. One of the nation’s top personal finance expert’s Ash Cash moderated the panel as each of these brilliant minds gave valuable financial advice on how to start a business and the power of investing especially during a time when many are fearful of a recession. The main focus of the discussion was the best way to establish credit, build generational wealth, and make your money work for you.
Ellie Diop, founder of the YouTube show, Ellie Talks Money, stressed the importance of becoming “recession rich,” and clarified that there’s never going to be a perfect time to start a business. “We can’t rely on a job or on one string of income. Now is the time to form that LLC, take your skills that you already have and give it to the marketplace, build your business credit, and make sure you have multiple streams of funding. That is how we’re going to make sure we stay above the recession.”
Aristotle Varner is a military-veteran and the founder of Aristotle Investments. He shared his advice for making smart moves with your money. “Plant seeds now…seeds turn into trees. You have to know what stocks are going to last during the recession and buy when people are fearful.”
Change Your Mindset
Real estate investor and entrepreneur Jullien Gordon encouraged people to look deeper, way beyond their vision boards if they want to reach true success and find ways to change their mindset around wealth.
“Your financial systems are broken,” shared Gordon. “It's not about how much money you accumulate, it’s how much you circulate. The only way to get financial freedom is investing. Slavery is not over, we are still dealing with mental and monetary slavery.”
He also explained that while many of us are more interested in purchasing the most expensive shoes and clothes, too many of us have never thought deeper about investing our money into anything bigger. The sentiment made the crowd nod in agreement.
Playing In The Real Estate Game
Storm Leroy, Reshauna Scott, Welby Accely, Brian Waldron and Dr, Jatali Bellanton sat down with entrepreneur and mortgage banker, Matt Garland to discuss how to be a bonafide player in the real estate game. Throughout the panel, the recurring theme was how to manage a fear of the unknown, especially within the current state of our economy.
“Do not listen to fearmongers. This is exactly what we’ve been waiting for; this is your time. Don't run away from the fire, run to the fire. This is where you want to be,” shared Welby Accely, a multiple, multi-unit rental owner and house flipper.
Real estate investor and entrepreneur Storm Leroy, discussed the importance of taking action, instead of waiting for the market to change.
“Act your wage. If you have $10,000, there is somewhere you can buy a house. If you have $20,000, there is somewhere you can buy a house,” shared Leroy. “You’re doing this for your legacy. This is bigger than everybody in here. This isn’t about your children. It’s about your children’s children.”
Lessons To Elevate Your Business
One of the more popular discussions featured Earn Your Leisure podcast hosts Rashad Bilal and Troy Millings who have become wealth building powerhouses. The hosts talked about how they developed their brand and podcast, the importance of having something to offer, and getting people to like you, which has clearly been part of their recipe for success.
“I want to encourage everybody to do yourself a favor, take the time out to use resources to educate yourself because this revolution will be monetized and you already know it’s going to be televised,” said Millings, in his lessons on how to elevate and expand a business.
After Bernard thanked everyone for coming out, I got up from my seat and walked into the lobby. It was still packed to the brim with attendees who were newly filled with the knowledge to better secure their financial futures. As people mingled with old friends and networked with new friends. I could clearly see that every person had been touched by what they experienced that day. The hope is that with this newfound sense of power on Juneteenth, Black people will finally be able to achieve freedom in every sense of the word.
Ali McPherson is a freelancer based in New York City.