Nyashia Figueroa, a 24-year-old resident of Marcy Houses in Brooklyn, says Jay-Z has lost touch with the community she grew up in.

Jay-Z’s bitcoin school faces skepticism in former housing project: ‘I have no money to lose’ | jay z

Marcy Houses, a 28-acre public housing development in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, is best known as a pillar of rapper-turned-mogul Jay-Z’s New York personality. Built in 1949 as part of the New York City Housing Authority’s push to accommodate the city’s low-income residents, Marcy fell into dangerous disrepair while growing up in the 1970s when Jay-Z, real name Shawn Carter, was growing up. above.

“Where I come from, Marcy boy, nothing is nice,” he raps in “Where I Came From”. “Marcy me is like I always will be,” she says in 2017’s Marcy Me.

But while hip-hop’s first sanctioned billionaire is determined not to stray from his roots, residents of Marcy Houses have voiced their displeasure and doubts at Carter’s latest venture, Bitcoin Academy – a series of free “financial literacy” courses available only to Marcy tenants. summer.

On Wednesday afternoon, as bitcoin markets scraped two-year lows, several residents were aware of the cryptocurrency classes launching next week, a project backed by Carter and his friend and crypto supporter Jack Dorsey, founder of Twitter. (At least some of the flyers advertising the course, spilled on the ground buildings.)

“It’s a little late to do that when people are trying to hold onto their dollars and everything is so expensive,” said 58-year-old retired Myra Raspberry. “People don’t want to invest money knowing they have a chance to lose.

Raspberry said he saw the news about bitcoin’s collapse and was not interested in taking the course.

“Every penny I get goes to rent, phone, TV, and the internet. I don’t have that kind of money to lose. If I did, I’d try to invest in something more reliable, like last night’s basketball game. You know I’m going to gain something from it.”

He said he hadn’t heard anyone in his community talk about bitcoin. “People who want to make money, not lose.” According to the New York Housing Authority, the average household income for public housing residents in New York is $24,454.

This is how Jay Z’s Bitcoin Academy gets distributed on Marcy Ps… I’m just throwing it in the lobby… lol

“financial literacy” pic.twitter.com/BQNdSO1Far

— Dealer (@Coach_HugginsJr) 14 June 2022

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This is how Jay Z’s Bitcoin Academy gets distributed on Marcy Ps… I’m just throwing it in the lobby… lol

“financial literacy” pic.twitter.com/BQNdSO1Far

— Dealer (@Coach_HugginsJr) 14 June 2022

The 12-week Bitcoin Academy course will be taught by Lamar Wilson, who runs the Black Bitcoin Billionaire website, and Najah J Roberts, the founder and CEO of a real crypto school in California called Crypto Blockchain Plug.

“The simple goal is to provide people with the tools to build independence for themselves and then for the communities around them,” Carter said. tweeted outHe calls the course at Marcy “the first of hopefully many.”

A spokesperson from the Bitcoin Academy told attendees that they will receive a free mobile hotspot device and a smartphone with a data plan as they sit down for lectures on topics like “What is money,” “What is blockchain,” and “How to get it.” scammed.”

The Academy also plans to give students a small amount of bitcoin worth around $20-25 once they learn how to set up their own digital wallet.

An outdoor event held in Marcy over the weekend attracted a large and eager crowd, mostly old and young, the spokesperson said.

But the young Marcy Houses tenants who spoke to the Guardian were unenthusiastic. Nyashia Figueroa, a 24-year-old resident who plans to work as a caregiver for people with intellectual disabilities, said the Bitcoin Academy seemed useless to residents.

Nyashia Figueroa, a 24-year-old resident of Marcy Houses in Brooklyn, says Jay-Z has lost touch with the community she grew up in. Photo: Wilfred Chan/The Guardian

“Half the people who will go to that class will probably go to the class for the $25 you get. The other half of people will likely take what they learned and eventually forget it.”

Figueroa said the bitcoin class showed how disconnected the rapper was from his former home.

“If you want to do something, fix it here,” he said. “We have a hoopless basketball court. Our parks are torn apart here. He must do more for the community, not the Bitcoin Academy.

“The only thing I can say he really did for us was the Christmas stuff. He would come every Christmas and give the kids free toys or like wallets and perfumes and little mp3 players. That’s fine, not bitcoin.”

Figueora added that the holiday draws have not been held for a while. “She stopped hanging around and then it was only her mother who came for a long time. And now I don’t even know if they do it anymore.

“This represents where he’s from and all that, but it does nothing for us.”

A hoopless baseball field at Marcy Houses. Photo: Wilfred Chan/The Guardian

Carter has directed some of her philanthropy, including scholarships and toy gifts, to more than 4,000 residents of Marcy’s, predominantly Black and Hispanic. The Shawn Carter Foundation’s last toy draw took place in 2017 and cost $8,452, according to Carter’s wife Beyonce’s website. The Shawn Carter Foundation did not immediately send a request for comment.

“I want to learn how they became millionaires and what to exchange and what not to do,” said Luis Rivas, a Marcy resident, expressing his enthusiasm for the class.

Rivas, who is unemployed, said he met Jay-Z when they were both teenagers. “Now he’s a billionaire and I still live in the goddamn ghetto.”

Since its announcement last week, Bitcoin Academy has faced criticism from tech commentators who accused the project of preying on financially vulnerable people. Some have likened the marketing of crypto to how predatory lenders targeted people of color with subprime loans at the start of the 2008 housing crisis.

Cryptocurrency advocates have long championed the technology as a way to build a new financial system for low-income people.

Marcy Houses is the residential project in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood where rapper Jay-Z grew up. Photo: Wilfred Chan/The Guardian

A 2021 research report commissioned by Gemini, a major New York City-based cryptocurrency exchange, argued that cryptocurrency could benefit the unbanked populations in Mexico, India, and Indonesia.

Citing centuries-old unofficial Latin American financial traditions, the article argued that cryptocurrency companies can “develop and digitize” practices that “help create wealth for poor communities and allow them to thrive in places deemed unprofitable by traditional banking standards.”

But recent cryptocurrency disasters have cast doubt on this vision. Last month, the so-called “stablecoin” Terra, which uses an algorithm to keep the US dollar stable, suddenly collapsed, rendering billions of dollars worth of digital tokens worthless and taking the fortunes of countless investors with it.

Since May, the price of bitcoin, the first cryptocurrency, has nearly halved as more investors flee from digital assets. Crypto companies are laying off hundreds of employees.

A Bitcoin Academy spokesperson acknowledged the broader uncertainty in the crypto market, but said it wouldn’t hinder the course at Marcy Houses, which will focus on financial education. Instructors Wilson and Roberts did not respond to requests for comment.

Even some local cryptocurrency fans remain skeptical.

Gerald, who lives in Brooklyn with Marcy’s friends and family who refuse to give his last name, runs a small charity that gives people bitcoins. But even he said “financial literacy” won’t solve Marcy’s “biggest problem: lack of capital, lack of resources, and lack of funding for our communities.”

“Teaching bitcoin to someone who doesn’t even have $100 in their savings account doesn’t help,” he told the Guardian via social media. “Then there are so many places to do in Marcy Projects?! These people are just trying to survive and see the next day.”

According to Gerald, the image of Bitcoin Academy brochures scattered on the floor said a lot.

“The fact that it’s like that on the ground. It honestly symbolizes how people feel about poor people in general. At first glance, people seem to want to help, but once you start peeling off the layers, you realize that no one really cares.”

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