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My Dream Deferred: A Young African American Woman Tells Her Money Story

SOURCE: GreenMoney Journal


by Amberjae Freeman, COO of Etho Capital (formerly with Swell Investing) 

The U.S. is a wealthy country but the distribution of wealth is criminally uneven, even when correcting for an individual’s output. You need look no further than the proliferation of how many hourly workers have to make use of the limited social safety net services available (e.g. food stamps) to understand the situation.

Suffice it to say, my relationship with money is informed by not having any growing up. To my mother’s credit, I didn’t realize how poor we were when I was young. My mother was a master at masking the situation. She always made sure I had a little money to buy a book during my elementary school’s book fair each semester. She knew how much I loved to read. Trips to the public library and free days at museums and science centers were how we spent our leisure time on weekends. We would go to thrift shops and used record stores for books and vinyl.

The word enrichment is a noun according to the dictionary. To my mother, it was a verb. She encouraged me to learn. She supported my indefatigable curiosity.

As I got older, I understood better how much my mother sacrificed and struggled to make ends meet. The thing that held my mothers’ finances back in addition to that missing high-school diploma was being black and female in the U.S. My mother was so smart and very well read, but she was also always underpaid, woefully underestimated, and completely misunderstood. This is common for black women, no matter their education level, professional status, or industry.

My mother insisted that I go to college, but she didn’t have to push, I was delighted by the idea. I wanted to learn so that I could build the skills needed to care for her the way she had for me and my brothers. For me, money is a tool. Nothing more. When you have it, you don’t think about it. When you don’t, its absence is palpable.

The absence of access to resources in general, and capital in particular, is even more pronounced for many in developing countries. In school, my focus of study was global and international development: I wanted to improve the lives of the most vulnerable everywhere. However, what I realized rather quickly in the field is that access to capital is a major barrier. What good is your idea if you can’t bring it to market? If you can’t bring it to market, how can you scale it? The answer is, you can’t. I learned this first hand as I watched farmers in East Africa struggle to grow enough to eat, let alone grow enough to transport any remaining goods to the sales stalls. I was on a research fellowship in Rwanda, tasked with reviewing business plans and identifying potential investors for agriculture projects. I had no experience doing this exactly, but I learned quickly. I began to think, if the financial markets have all of the capital why not work there and leverage it for the social and environmental progress we wish to see? This is why I went into finance.

My money journey that began so meagerly has brought me to my current post after 16 years of professional struggle. Now, I am a fiduciary. I take this financial responsibility very seriously. My aim is to try to both protect and grow assets for investors, but to do so in a way that works in tandem with, rather than at the expense of our society and our environment.

Read Amberjae's full post along with the "Dream Deferred" poem from Langston Hughes here 



Tweet me: My Dream Deferred: A young African American Woman tells her Money Story by Amberjae Freeman of Etho Capital -- || #diversity #inclusion #stakeholders #financialfeminist #millennials #impinv

Contact Info:

Cliff Feigenbaum, founder
GreenMoney Journal and
+1 (505) 577-1563

KEYWORDS: african american, black, women, College, money, financial resources, Swell, Investing, Etho Capital, sustainable investing, esg, Dream Deferred, Langston Hughes, homeless, life choices, working poor, Wealth, distribution of wealth, personal finances, impact investing, international development, access to capital, Financial Markets, social issues, Poverty, discrimination, diversity, inclusion, equal pay, fiduciary, Investment Products, Clinton Global Initiative, social justice, Gender Issues, millennials, environment, climate, GreenMoney


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