Anthony Walker: Use Divergent Thinking to Unstring Doubts Tied to a Fear-Embedded Financial History
Discriminatory financial practices like redlining and predatory lending can lead people to see an ample world through a narrow lens, emphasizing the need for divergent thinking. Some institutions, grappling with profitability concerns, engage in unethical policies and use psychological priming to influence people’s behavior and financial choices.
Deception behind policy text can contribute to an environment that is more susceptible to distrust and economic crime.
It’s a troubling art to skillfully shape hope and fear with bad ink. Persistence in creative thinking and financial education safeguards against emotional manipulation in finance. It can reduce involvement in what Anthony Walker, author of B is for Black Wealth, calls the Game of Extraction.
Anthony: If we surveyed our lives, we would see, a lot of it is a game of extraction. I believe that prison is the backbone of that game. When an area is depressed, that’s when they get a bunch of prison labor for free. I don’t want to say it keeps the economy afloat because I believe in my heart that it isn’t the best way to make an economy thrive. However, that’s what they are doing, extracting our labor. A lot of it at scale.
This game of extraction is detrimental to us as humans and the economy overall. We will all have to pay a price for the decisions that we make and our involvement in that system. It’s ugly and we need to recognize that a lot of times we are being used for our labor to continue to be extracted from. At times, I wonder if things could get worse than the crack era. While part of me believes the worst is behind us, another part feels like certain institutions are finding more ways.
How do you feel creativity and optimism is important to our generation?
Anthony: Identifying and unlocking our creativity is vital to personal growth and finding our purpose. I believe that people are made in the image of God (The Creator), and therefore, we have an intrinsic need to create and bring new things into existence. This question is powerful because I never saw myself as creative until I received the first completed copy of my book, B is For Black Wealth.
Since then, my life has been transformed because I now recognize my inherent need to create, and creativity infuses my daily life. To me, optimism is what keeps life light and joyous. Expecting things to go as they should is a tool for a more fulfilled life. Optimism helps us overcome anxiety, relieves stress, and increases the chances of achieving what we wish.
Overcoming systemic challenges for minorities and fostering social responsibility among financial institutions is challenging to achieve. Anthony is making progress in that direction.
Anthony: I’m an author, educator and entrepreneur. I have a curriculum called A Guide to Enter Generational Wealth based on the book B is for Black Wealth. It is a curriculum designed for adults and children to do together similar to the book. It helps them create an identity around money making, as individuals and as a collective family. It also gives them concrete and solid strategies, in order to become effective investors.
I teach curriculum, conduct workshops, and have a clothing brand called Finance Friday. We will be launching a new line in the fall. The ideas expressed on our merchandise are phrases such as, Black Wealth, Pay Yourself First, Love is Currency, and Buy Land.
Regarding certain locations being marked hazardous areas in practices such as redlining, we asked Anthony for his thoughts. The color-coded maps produced by the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation in the 1930’s explicitly categorized certain neighborhoods as high risk and ineligible for loans or insurance.
Anthony: Some people say that it is an economic strategy to depress one area or one group of people so then you could extract resources out of them in another way. I think that’s true. When an area becomes sufficiently depressed, it is often those who end up being sent to jail when they commit crimes to try to earn money. In jail, they are pretty much forced to work for pennies on the dollar. That is how labor is extracted.
The redlining policy was put into play in the 1930’s and later outlawed by the fair housing act in 1968. Despite some improvements, the lasting effects from redlining persist, directly impacting the ongoing uneven distribution of resources that still exist today.
Anthony: It stole a lot of wealth from black families and created a social system that we all dealt with the effects of, in the creation of what we consider the ghetto. That had a deep impact. It started out as an economic impact, but it turned into social impact as well. Some of that stuff honestly, is irreversible, and there is nothing we can do about what was lost.
Anthony emphasizes allocating attention to both alternate solutions and reparations instead of solely focusing on one.
Anthony: It’s a both-end thing, we shouldn’t be ignoring one for the other. I think that reparations is a legitimate argument and conversation that we should be having. There are people really organizing towards that end. I see some momentum in California, it may not happen nationwide, it might.
Most money is moved based on governmental policies, so we need individuals working on governmental policies with an economic lens, which is a real need for black folks. With that said, there are small things that we can do as individuals to improve our personal lives and our community’s financial well being. So for me, it’s a both-end thing. It's not about choosing one or the other.
Nothing is guaranteed, but we need people working on all fronts. I know it feels like we might be spread thin or giving too much energy for one thing or another, but the truth is we should all be aware of what people are doing on different fronts. We should be aware of the reparations and support that work, even if we are not directly involved. We have to be excellent on our end and in the areas we are working.
I appreciate the fact that we are getting some education around it in this generation and trying to hold people accountable for recompense, you know, as far as reparations and things like that are concerned. It’s a conversation that’s been brewing in California. I’m glad we are starting to make progress towards reparations from some of those shady practices.
Anthony touches on a few of the topics in his book that could help people take a creative approach towards reversing damages that were caused.
Anthony: B is for Black Wealth was written for children but it was actually intended for adults and children to read together. It gives us an opportunity to catch our young folks, young. By doing so, we can be prepared and become specialists when it comes to the idea of business for the next generation.
If we could get one million more of these books out into the world, that is one million more of our children that are educated, in a way that honestly, puts them ahead. Reading and understanding my book would give you more knowledge about business, finance, and entrepreneurship than ninety percent of the population. It's about executing on the information provided.
The way the book is written, gives parents that may not be the most educated on these topics, the opportunity to learn, within the construct of the book. So they are teaching and learning at the same time.
I don’t think we have to reinvent the wheel. There are existing structures and opportunities in place that we can utilize. Simple things like growing our own food, that is an opportunity for economic empowerment for ourselves and for our community.
Creating our own businesses and making them vertically integrated as much as possible, involving our people , allowing them to eat and to win off of those businesses. These are some of the ideas I hope people pull from the book I wrote.
How does B is for Black Wealth explore community development and economic empowerment?
Anthony: B is for Black Wealth differs from other financial and economic writings by its community focused approach prioritizing the collective over the individual. Often, we focus on individuals when we talk about finances, but I don't think that works for black folks. Throughout history, we've utilized a collectivist mindset in order to achieve any of the success that we have achieved so I think that, that’s the same way we have to approach economics.
That is something unique that we bring to the world of economics and finances. From a ground level, we are dependent on each other and have been interdependent. I hope we don’t lose that as we gain more economic mobility and education. We can’t be so smart that we forget the principles that brought us to where we are today.
How can we strengthen the curriculum of schools with more life awareness skills and strategies?
The way to strengthen curriculum within schools is to create it ourselves. Schools are very bureaucratic and are in desperate need of a community and outside programs help to do what they are not agile enough to do. Individuals, businesses and community members are all responsible for creating opportunities for students to learn in and out of the classroom.
We should focus on our child's financial future, we all care about it on some level. I think sometimes we just don’t realize we have the power to change their situation over the course of a generation but a generation is a long time. A lot can change in 30 years, even though we are not in a position to do for our children financially, or we don’t really see a way out of the condition we are in right now, I think that through education and implementation over time our children could really see a much brighter financial future than we had. The information is part of the foundation for sure.
Focus on ownership of creative work.
Anthony: I think creativity is absolutely important, and that’s one of the things we have continued to be successful through. Now, it’s important that we focus on ownership of our creativity going forward because we miss a lot of opportunities. In Black History Month, we talk about all the inventions black folks had, but we never talk about the families that own the rights to those inventions.
Take Hip Hop, for example. We know that it has been hugely influential. Yes, some black folks got rich from it, there are also many people outside of our communities who enriched themselves off of Hip Hop as well due to a lack of understanding about ownership. We are starting to understand that concept, and I think it is super important that we start to create with the idea of ownership in mind. So, when it comes to creativity, that is a big part of the conversation for me at this moment.
How hard is it to stay creative and what would you say to somebody experiencing this same issue?
Anthony: I think that it is oftentimes hard to produce a quality finished product but I think creativity is as natural as breathing. I think the problem is we live in a world where we are pressured to produce but quality art takes time, it takes a level of discomfort, frustration, disappointment, joy, love and laughter to produce beautiful things that are useful to others. I think we are most creative when we don't allow outside pressure to dictate our expression. Expression is ever present and so is creativity production is cyclical. It is important to let production run its course but keep our creativity at the forefront.
True beauty and true art comes from expressing what is inside of us. The more we focus on the inner person, the better we can be at expressing at a high level and expressing things that are actually beneficial to us as people. The more that we let our inner person get beat up and shrunk, depressed and depreciated and all those things, the more that our art will reflect that. It might be beautiful, but it’s not going to help us grow, because it will come from a place of lack instead of a place of abundance, a place of love.
Would you support the bill to eliminate private prisons?
Absolutely, I don’t believe that anybody should profit off of human suffering.
How have you overcome a trial and tribulation as a company using creativity and optimism?
Anthony: As a Black-owned business that started during the pandemic, funding has always been the biggest obstacle to obtaining my short term goals. One of the ways that my business has overcome that struggle and moved further along at a respectable pace is by partnering with others. I partnered with family friends to publish my book, I partnered with a seasoned educator to create a curriculum based on the book, and I partnered with family members to obtain trademarks for my clothing brand and most recently to secure some family land.
All of these partnerships were forged by finding creative ways for many people to benefit financially from one idea or action. Therefore, instead of having to hire and pay a lot of other people big money to bring my visions to life I partnered with people and lightened my load up front in order to share profits on the backend. To me all of these situations required a lot of unselfishness, creativity, trust and teamwork and all of them have helped many people reap great benefits.
It is also important for me to state that during that time I had many failed partnerships because nothing in business is guaranteed. This is why it takes courage and optimism to continue to trust and build with other people when the truth is it doesn't always work.
If you could have done three things differently, earlier, or better while building your brand, what would they be?
Anthony: I wouldn’t change much. Setbacks have given me a level of clarity that is only earned by going through the fire. With that said, I believe all early stage businesses need to keep good financial records, get a bookkeeper and a quality tax person as early in the game as you can, it will save you a lot of headaches down the line.
Will equality be something your brand will promote after this blog/interview?
Anthony: The core of my brand is about creating opportunities for Black people to thrive economically. My goal is to continue to strive for a better financial future for Black people, and if I am being honest, what is good for Black people is typically good for all people and creates a much more equitable society. So, my short answer is yes.
Love is Currency. When we focus on love we will create more organically, we will become more optimistic, we will give more freely and we will see each other as equals.
Names of your business partners and any necessary components to operate your brand.
Anthony: One of my biggest goals is for my business to be able to operate independently of me. Right now, most of my business processes involve me doing the work. I order, market, sell and send my books. I do have a really powerful team of people that work on other aspects of my business, but my goal is to continue to scale while also letting go of some of the day-to-day operations.