Members of America’s crypto community aim to teach financial literacy by discussing Bitcoin at local meetups and neighborhood “corner classes.”
Bitcoin is becoming one of the biggest buzzwords in the world. Data from a July 2021 survey conducted by analysis firm Exploding Topics found that roughly 1,700 American adults, or 89% of participants, had heard of Bitcoin. A recent survey from the cryptocurrency platform Paxful also found that 95% of women out of 1,555 females polled in the United States were familiar with Bitcoin.
While Bitcoin’s (BTC) presence is notable, there still seems to be a lack of understanding regarding BTC and cryptocurrency. For instance, Paxful’s survey discovered that 43% of women polled in the United States want to learn more about Bitcoin, even though 95% of these individuals know that BTC exists. In addition, underprivileged communities and minorities have expressed interest in learning about Bitcoin and crypto as digital assets gain popularity.
Bitcoin in low-income American communities
In order to bring crypto education to those who need it the most, grassroots initiatives are launching throughout the U.S. that target disenfranchised communities.
For example, Najah Roberts, CEO of Crypto Blockchain Plug — a Black-owned crypto education center based in Inglewood, California — told Cointelegraph that she will soon be traveling to 41 cities across the U.S. to help disenfranchised communities understand Bitcoin’s importance:
“From May 29 to July 13, my team and I will be going to different cities in the U.S. to help people download digital wallets, along with educating them on why Bitcoin is critically important to the black and brown community. We will be in some of the poorest cities in America, all within a 45-day time period.”
Known as “The Digital Financial Revolution Tour,” Roberts explained that this will be the second year she will travel across the country with a team of crypto experts to promote Bitcoin education. “We previously reached about 2,000 people last year, which was incredible given that the world was still coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Roberts said. Given the project’s previous success, Roberts believes this year’s tour will produce phenomenal results.
“We are going to be holding ‘corner classes,’ meaning we will set up shop on different corners in the middle of inner cities. Most of the people who stop by will most likely be unfamiliar with Bitcoin, while some may be familiar with it but want to learn more. My personal goal is to give everyone $10 worth of BTC just for registering.”
Roberts elaborated that the second Digital Financial Revolution Tour will begin in California in cities including Los Angeles and Oakland, and will then head to Las Vegas, Arizona and New Mexico. “We plan to go to the poorest places first, like Lake Charles in Baltimore. We picked the most disenfranchised, unbanked and underbanked areas to get folks educated.” Rather than hosting “corner classes” outside neutral locations like a local church, for instance, Roberts explained that groups will congregate in front of beauty shops and neighborhood storefronts. “I try to be objective about locations so everyone feels comfortable to come out and learn.”
While the idea of traveling across 41 different cities in the U.S. within a 45-day timespan may sound difficult, Roberts shared that the biggest challenge this year is to help people in low-income communities understand why they actually need Bitcoin:
“We have to meet people where they are, even if that means going to housing projects or neighborhoods where politicians never even visit. Our goal is to not only get people to understand Bitcoin but also to change the way they think about money. This is about financial literacy and understanding how money works.”
Roberts isn’t the only one aiming to bring financial literacy to the masses. Bitcoin analyst Tony Tate told Cointelegraph that no one ever talked about money when he was growing up due to community values. “No one ever talked about politics, religion or money where I came from,” he said. Yet, Tate stated that education has always been a priority for him, which is why he believes educating disenfranchised communities will make it easier for individuals to understand the potential of cryptocurrency:
“People should be afraid of fiat money because it’s not backed by anything. Blockchain, however, is backed by proof-of-work or proof-of-stake mechanisms, so getting this education in the hands of people who don’t have a lot makes it easier for them to understand.”
In order to accomplish this, Tate recently launched Litchain, a Bitcoin educational initiative expected to spur economic growth in the rural town of Gaffney, South Carolina. “We opened the doors of the first Black-owned Bitcoin data center in Gaffney. The 20 modular data centers will house Bitcoin mining computers and create jobs that pay $60,000 or more,” he explained. The Litchain Corporation’s new data center is one of Tate‘s first three mining centers in the U.S. He said that the company aims to open 144 more across the country:
“All the time, we hear about mining companies opening their doors somewhere, but we never see the faces behind them. It’s very important that I open a BTC mining center in a community where people can associate a name and face with cryptocurrency adoption. This will make mass adoption happen faster.”
Tony Tate at the opening of Litchain’s Bitcoin datacenter in Gaffney. Source: Litchain
In addition to the Litchain data center, Tate said that he is launching a five-year crypto education initiative on crypto literacy:
“This project will provide courses in crypto education to minorities interested in learning about crypto assets. Education materials and outreach efforts will explain how crypto assets work and how they differ from traditional payment formats to illustrate how crypto could offer benefits to blacks and minorities that have been historically discriminated against by traditional banks.”
According to Tate, this initiative will include a grassroots campaign, digital advertising and online courses provided by LitU, which is Tate’s online university that will also feature pop-up community classes in Philadelphia, New York, Washington D.C., Houston, Chicago, Atlanta, Detroit, Cleveland, Charlotte and Charleston. Tate hopes these initiatives will inspire others to look at Bitcoin as an improved financial inclusion system and a major step in closing the racial wealth gap in the United States. “Everyone has to wrap their minds around crypto before the world wraps their arms around it,” he remarked.
A look inside Litchain’s Bitcoin datacenter in Gaffney. Source: Litchain
While both Roberts and Tate are launching large scale initiatives, crypto influencer and YouTuber Wendy O told Cointelegraph during NFT LA that she will soon be launching a local grassroots initiative in Los Angeles to teach youth between the ages of seven and seventeen about Bitcoin, cryptocurrency and nonfungible tokens, or NFTs. Wendy O explained that she will partner with the Los Angeles based Self-Care Lab Boxing and Fitness Club to host monthly meetups to teach children about the blockchain and crypto ecosystem:
“In reality, anyone can participate in crypto. For instance, I come from an underprivileged neighborhood in Los Angeles, which is why it’s important for me to include everyone in this initiative. I’ve hosted dozens of meetups in LA county since 2018 to create a place for people to learn about crypto without having to pay thousands of dollars for a conference ticket or be shilled coins, or even Bitcoin for that matter.”
Related: NFT LA: Attract the mainstream, focus on Web3 and use cases
Like Roberts and Tate, Wendy O wants to use cryptocurrency education as a way to promote personal finance. “Financial literacy isn’t taught in schools, unfortunately. But, when individuals learn how money works, they are able to change their spending habits and even break away from generational curses,” she said. Wendy O explained that when she initially learned about Bitcoin in 2011 and was able to better understand fiat money and inflation. “I think these kids will be able to take this information and retrain their minds to do things differently than previous generations.”
Getting grassroots initiatives off the ground
While it’s extremely notable that grassroots initiatives are being launched by members of the crypto community, it’s also important to recognize the challenges that may arise along the way.
For instance, Roberts pointed out that last year’s Digital Financial Revolution Tour was entirely self-funded, noting that she hopes to secure sponsors this year. “We are in the process of speaking with the hardware wallet provider Ledger, as we aim to give everyone physical wallets and show them how to store their seed phrases.” Wendy O also hopes to partner with a cryptocurrency wallet provider or an exchange to ensure that food and drinks for her monthly meetups can be covered. “I would like to give $25 worth of BTC to everyone who attends,” she said. Regardless of sponsorships, both Roberts and Wendy O are optimistic that their projects will teach those in need about financial literacy simply by explaining how Bitcoin and cryptocurrency work.
Grassroots initiatives sponsored by crypto companies have proven to be very successful given the added help. For example, GoodDollar — a nonprofit protocol for financial education and inclusion in Web3 — launched an ambassador program early last year to allow its 350,000 community members to distribute free crypto universal basic income to anybody with access to a cell phone and an internet connection.
Jessica Salama, community lead at GoodDollar, told Cointelegraph that individual GoodDollar ambassadors are making headway in spreading the word about crypto by showing others how to use and access digital currency.
She said that GoodDollar ambassador Etugbo Obokparo Stephen in Nigeria has hosted local meetups at his university to help fellow students open their first digital wallets and begin learning Web3, crypto and blockchain fundamentals. “His initial gathering was the first blockchain conference ever held in his locality,” Salama said.
To promote Crypto Education @gooddollarorg and I helped a student in Nigeria to get a new smartphone to study and start his Crypto journey. It's my desire to do more. I was suppose to go around Schools early this month to further do Crypto Education… pic.twitter.com/dXAkgTU86J
— StevE (@StevE78846497) April 7, 2022
Stephen further told Cointelegraph, “I’ve always communicated with people on social media, but when I joined GoodDollar’s ambassador program, I was able to bring more people into crypto because they supported my initiative financially and with words of encouragement.”