Caroline Altagracia, a student at the University of Albany, said she became interested in cryptocurrency while still in high school.
“It’s definitely been an empowering journey,” Altagracia said. “I feel like when I was initially intimidated, I kind of had to get past that and really understand that, you know, I can invest in this, I can learn from it along the way.”
Cryptocurrency and NFTs (non-fungible tokens) could attract more minority investors who have historically had barriers to traditional financial investment options like the stock market and real estate, according to some in the space.
“Our communities have been excluded from the financial system, we have not been able to participate, when you look at what has happened in the banking sector, and even on Wall Street. So … decentralization is an opportunity for us to not having barriers to entry and also participating and also being producers,” Cleve Mesidor, who leads the advocacy group, National Policy Network of Women of Color in Blockchain, told ABC News.
Decentralization means that cryptocurrency – which is digital money – is not under the control and regulation of standard financial institutions.
Through crypto boot camps, Altagracia, who is Latina, said she learned most of the ins and outs of digital currency from Carlos Acevedo, her former high school teacher who ran crypto boot camps. -currency through his organization, the Crypto Community Project.
A native of Bronx, New York, Acevedo, a Latino and former English teacher, said he entered the crypto world after investing in dogecoin — another digital currency — in 2014 to help raise cash. funds for the Jamaican Olympic bobsled team.
Two years later, Acevedo said he started investing in Bitcoin and Ethereum (two other crypto platforms) after learning the fundamentals of cryptocurrency through podcasts and YouTube.
As his confidence grew, he said he decided to take on another challenge: passing on his knowledge of cryptography to his students.
“During my lunch break, [students] saw me watching YouTube videos, they saw me listening to podcasts, reading and they wanted to make money with bitcoin,” Acevedo told ABC News.
“And so my lunch club kind of organically became a way for students to learn more because I started teaching it. It really reinforced my own understanding,” he said. .
Acevedo said minority groups are drawn to the crypto world because of the opportunities to build wealth and gain financial independence from other financial institutions.
“Young people, minorities, people who may not have been educated, in quotes, about the traditional financial system,” Acevedo said. “They might see this, especially the anti-establishment in the crypto sphere as more attractive to engage with,” he said.
“People not only see this as a way to gain financial knowledge, but also to take advantage of it and build wealth that they feel like they’ve been missing out on.”
Sheika Reid, is an African-American woman who works in human resources for a technology software company, and also manufactures NFTs (non-fungible tokens) for black artists.
NFTs are a form of currency with intrinsic value that runs on the Ethereum blockchain. Reid told ABC News that NFT coins can be bought and sold using different forms of crypto.
Reid said NFTs provide a platform for black artists to have their work recognized.
“Specifically for black artists…there’s this opportunity where people who have never made money from their art before are making, you know, six, seven figures,” she said. “I knew this was a unique opportunity to engage people who have been left out of the conversation but bring a lot of value to the crypto space,” she added.
Digital platforms like Open Sea, considered the largest NFT marketplace, allow a wide range of artists to profit from their work.
“Creatives can now first protect their intellectual property, monetize their work, and also create a marketplace. Creatives across the country have made more money in the past two years than they have in the past decade. And it’s a boom for local towns and their economics,” Mesidor said.
Accessibility to all users is the appeal of crypto, according to Mesidor.
Without the need for a bank account or college degree, Reid said cryptocurrencies give marginalized groups autonomy over their investments and peer-to-peer transactions.
“It’s up to us to figure out what are the ways for us to create wealth intergenerationally so that we can, you know, have the opportunity to prosper economically,” Reid said.
As the government begins to review the regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies, Mesidor said Black and Latino innovators, entrepreneurs and small businesses need to have a seat at the table and be part of these conversations.
“Too often, we’re not just shut out of the mainstream financial system, we’re shut out of policy-making, so, as a result, we end up with the same laws perpetuating the same inequalities,” Mesidor said.
The financial empowerment of Latinos, according to Acevedo, is one of the main reasons he continues to teach cryptocurrencies and shape the younger generation of investors.
He said what students learn in the classroom can potentially have an impact across borders.
“What you have here is the ability for Latinos in the United States to create crypto enclaves and knowledge that will then hopefully be transferred back to their home country,” he said. declared.
“I strongly believe that if to give prosperity to people and their families, you know, I trust them more to do that than what the institutions have demonstrated in the last 10 years.”
The ability to create generational wealth with cryptocurrencies is a long-term goal for many black and Latino investors, according to Mesidor.
The road to reach the goal, however, is not easy.
“Generational wealth is something that takes a long time to build, especially for communities that have been historically disadvantaged and historically excluded,” she said. “What we can do is move towards financial inclusion [and] focus on economic empowerment, which is rooted in financial literacy.
And the path to financial empowerment still has its drawbacks. The crypto market crashed in late January, wiping out over $1 trillion.
“Never risk money you’re not willing to lose,” Acevedo said.
Still, as he nears graduation from college, Altagracia said investing in cryptocurrencies is a stepping stone to building wealth for years to come.
“Crypto was an opportunity for us to finally take control of our financial lives, for us to apply the knowledge we have and find ways where it’s a benefit, not just for us in our future, but also for our families,” Altagracia said. .
“When it comes to minorities investing in crypto, there has been a lack of trust in the systems, but I feel like crypto has provided us with a new opportunity to be involved.”