Get your Money Right

The glamorous world of Hip Hop and the real-life financial hardships of the African American and Latino communities united in Houston at Get Your Money Right, the National Hip Hop Summit on Financial Empowerment. Although some students at Texas Southern University may have attended this event for the sheer star power the Hip Hop Summit Action Network (HSAN) and Walmart brought together, it is certain that nobody left without learning at least one powerful lesson in financial leadership.

Dr. Benjamin Chavis, the co-founder and President and CEO of HSAN, moderated the event, which featured a panel with Russell Simmons, co-founder and Chairman of HSAN; financial experts Lynn Richardson, Byron Owens and Shannon Buggs; as well as entertainers Bun B, Alisha Renee, Slim Thug, Mad Hatter, and Jeremih. While HSAN is well known for bringing together celebrities, the crowd roared with excitement when actor-entertainer Terrence Howard was announced as a panelist and equally pleased when Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee made her appearance onstage.

HSAN is a national coalition united by the belief that Hip Hop is an enormously influential agent for social change which must be responsibly and proactively utilized to fight the war on poverty and injustice. Founded eight years ago, HSAN has held financial literacy summits coast to coast. “Young people have been ruining their credit earlier [than past generations] and we are here to teach them about the basic fundamentals of finances,” said Dr. Benjamin Chavis. This pre-emptive approach created a great fit for Walmart, which is dedicated to educating consumers about financial literacy through hands-on partnerships with organizations such as HSAN. Ron Acosta, Regional Vice President, Southwest Division of Walmart said, “Our partnership with HSAN in this event and ongoing financial literacy programs, along with expanded financial products, services and locations, are an extension of our core mission to help people save money, so they can live better.”

Understanding that the Latino community is a vital and growing part of the urban setting, HSAN hosted the first-ever Latino Hip Hop Summit in 2004. Young Latinos have a thirst to “stack the paper,” Dr. Chavis explained. The power to buy homes, and grasp the entrepreneurship opportunities that our country has to offer are a few examples of how financial empowerment can create an impact on the lives of college students all over the nation.

During the panel discussion, Terrence Howard advised, “One of the first steps is recognizing that money is not real, it is virtual. Keep your credit right. Keep your name right.” Audience members were asked to assess their lifestyle and make sure that their money is working for them and that they are not just working for their money. Panelists advised students to beware of the glamorous lifestyles they see on television and how they are usually short lived, as well as to not idolize people for what they have, but for their accomplishments and how they give back to the community. Hip Hop artist Bun B stressed the importance of education and brought up strong points about materialism amongst youth, “What good is having a nice car when you don’t have a driveway to park it in?” Mortgage Guru Lynn Richardson stressed, “One of the biggest things we all need to do is get a financial education, as well as an academic education.” HSAN gave students the Get Your Money Right workbook (available online at in English and Spanish) which prompted Richardson to say, “If you want to be financially free… get this workbook, take it, meditate on it, do what it says. Stop trying to look for short cuts, stop trying to get handouts, stop trying to figure out who is going to get you a record deal.” Other panelists utilized real-life financial experiences to explain the importance of financial literacy. Alesha Renee explained how she found herself in a financial crisis after a car accident. The hospital bills wreaked havoc and made it difficult for Renee to obtain any kind of credit. She stressed the importance of checking your credit report and keeping your finances in order.

Getting back to fundamentals by accentuating the importance of savings and living within your means was strongly emphasized. This comes as no surprise after the economic turmoil and hardships the nation faced this past year, making the Hip Hop Summit a vital tool in educating the next generation on “getting their money right.”