Updated: Mar 8, 2021
An interview with financial advisor and founder of the Black Wealth Matters, An Educational Series, Serria Rego, by Elizabeth Harris.
2019 revived Black Lives Matter and put a spotlight on systemic racism in the US and around the world. It reinvigorated a new generation of changemakers, initiatives, and organizations fighting racism and working to elevate their communities. One of these new initiatives that sprung out of this is the Black Wealth Matters, An Educational Series.
Led by Serria Rego, financial professional and activist, Black Wealth Matters, an Educational Series emerged as a way to combat the financial effects of systemic racism. Series 1, entitled “Voting and Health” featured an incredible lineup of doctors, public officials, attorneys, and environmentalists.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Serria about creating this educational series and the impact she has seen on her community.
Serria, you have a really cool background from modeling to finance. What is the story behind creating Black Wealth Matters, An Educational Series?
I’m from Chicago, born and raised but my family was from Mississippi. My grandma left Mississippi when a lot of the black folks were exiting the South (The Great Migration). I’m talking about her because she shaped a lot of my life and that put me in the position that I am now.
She had 12 kids, but she wasn’t able to bring them all to Chicago at once, so she brought a few. She couldn't read or write, but she was still able to get jobs. As I started growing up and becoming more aware of people and our limitations, I kept wondering why my grandma couldn’t read and write. Other friends had grandparents that knew how to read and write.
Coincidentally, I began to study money. The first book I read was Wealth Secrets of the One Percent, and it covered a lot of American history. That, of course, led me to slavery which then pointed me to Jim Crowe and how in the South, well after slavery, they were still kidnapping the black folks and not letting them go to school and making the kids work.
That’s why my grandma couldn’t read. Even though slavery was over, she was still being treated like a slave. I had no idea. As an adult, I blamed her for not being educated, not understanding that she wasn't educated because she wasn’t allowed.
I went down that rabbit hole learning more about black history in America. Then George Floyd was murdered on live TV. I remember being scared to watch it. I remember thinking, "I’m not going to watch it. It’s going to make me crazy!"
I remember I just saw a picture of it. I saw a picture of him on the ground and I had nightmares. I would wake up at like 2:30 in the morning. It was just so jarring for me.
When I started putting two and two together, I realized that it’s the system. When people say systemic racism, it’s everything. It’s so much that very few understand all of it.
I’ve recruited professionals to share little pieces, my intention is that through the exposure of all these little pieces, we can start putting the puzzle together so that we can ultimately dismantle systemic racism because systemic racism is the government and the direct result of it is poverty.
For someone new coming to this, how do you define systemic racism?
I define systemic racism as the entire system that consists of racist laws and a racist culture that creates poverty and harm in and towards the Black community.
Why do you think poverty is the biggest harm to the Black community? Why is poverty such a powerful thing?
America is capitalistic. America runs on money. People come from all over the world to take part in our capitalistic society. Capital is power. Capital is safety. Capital is a voice. Capital is everything. The lack of capital means you disappear. You’re exposed, you’re in danger.
When I think about a group being poor, slaves were poor. They had nothing. To keep slaves at the mercy of the system, the system had to keep them poor. Once Blacks started making money during the Reconstruction, in spite of the system, that became a problem. The lynching occurred. A majority of the people lynched were business owners.
The System has been more intentional about keeping Blacks poor than we realize. It’s in their best interest to remove us from money, to keep us poor, to keep us in debt. That’s why I think systemic racism and poverty are related, and why I think poverty is dangerous.
Poverty isn’t a tool. Poverty is a weapon. Poverty has been weaponized against the Black community.
That’s a powerful statement. But yes, if you are living in poverty, you don’t have the means or the capital to influence your system.
George Floyd died over $20. He got the attention of the police over $20. Poverty exposes you to things that keep you vulnerable that keep you in a position of not being heard.
In your series you have our experts talking about their field, but you also challenge them to learn about the history and the past of their area. How has that been for them?
When smart people realize that they don’t know something, they look at it as a great opportunity to learn more.
Another reason that I wanted to have this series is that there is an elite group in every race and sub-sector. Black elites are our educated, our entertainers are rich, but Black educated are the elite. I find there is a divide between the elite and everyone else and it’s getting bigger. All of my speakers are elite and I see this as an opportunity to merge reconnect them with everyday people. The speakers give out their contact information, social media handles, and welcome questions from the guests.
Can you talk about your team? You have such a diverse team putting all of this together.
My team is amazing. My right hand is a young lady named Kathy Flores. Kathy is from Honduras. She and her family raised supplies to help with the hurricane relief efforts there, and they went to Honduras to help distribute the supplies.
Jaime Haile is Jewish and she is very familiar with the struggles that impact Blacks. She combs the internet for great speakers. Fabiana is Indian, by way of St. Lucia and her children are Black and Indian. She knows the ups and downs of raising Black men.
Gilbert Aguilar is from an amazing entrepreneurial family and he loves history and making an impact. When I first started working with Gilbert, I didn’t realize that there was racism in the Latin community towards Blacks sometimes. He shared that with me.
It’s getting bigger and bigger, but they all have some connection to the Black community and humanity.
At the end of the day, I want to fight poverty. That’s my goal, I want to fight poverty. I can’t do it alone. My intention with the series is to find my tribe and find like-minded people.
What are some of the achievements so far from running the Black Wealth Matters, an Educational Series?
For me, the achievement is being comfortable with saying the term systemic racism. I wasn’t comfortable acknowledging racism for a very long time because I felt like it gave me an excuse to not fight. Well, what's the use? It’s just going to be this big System and I’m not going to win.
But now, I know that’s not true. Now I’m at the point where I just speak the same truth regardless of who’s in front of me. I didn't do that before this series.
What is your advice on how we can tackle systemic racism?
I would say learn about how it occurs. Then understand we all have a choice. Choice A might be a way to fight systemic racism and choice B might be a way to allow it to keep going. Choose A.
But to choose A, you need to know what A is. Research the history of systemic racism so you understand how the system is built. Find people who are educated. Most of the time educated people are not going to damage their reputation by lying to you.
I was having a conversation on the internet with a guy who was saying he was an observer. We don’t need observers. Get off your butt and figure out a way to be active, when in doubt support those who are active.
The next Black Wealth Matters, An Educational Series 2 will be focusing on “Policing.” To sign-up for the next session go to their website www.bwmeducationalseries.com where you can also see past speakers. Make sure to follow Black Wealth Matters, an Educational Series @bwmseries on Instagram and Facebook.
To keep up to date with Serria follow her on Instagram @serriasays and the entire team is on the Black Wealth Matters Series website on the “About Us” page.