Why Are Some Black Residents Annoyed by Jay-Z's Bitcoin Academy?

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Jay-Z at NBA finals
Jay-Z at NBA finals

The saying goes that you never really forget your roots. But that might not be the case for hip-hop legend turned billionaire Jay-Z, according to residents of Brooklyn’s Marcy Park Housing Project.

Last week, Jay-Z announced on Twitter that he would be launching a “Bitcoin Academy” along with Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey in Marcy Park, where the rapper grew up.

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“Shout out to @Jack. #Bitcoin Academy, starting in Marcy, a place that taught me so much, is hopefully the first of many. The simple goal is to provide people tools to build independence for themselves and then the community around them.”

The program will take place over 12 weeks. Lamar Wilson, who runs the website Black Bitcoin Billionaire, is teaching the class along with Najah J. Roberts, founder and CEO of another crypto school called Crypto Blockchain Plug.

But in the time it took Jay-Z to pat himself on the back for bringing financial “independence” to his former hood, residents expressed major levels of skepticism to the Guardian.

“It’s kind of late to be doing that when people are trying to hold onto their dollars and everything is so expensive,” said 58-year-old retiree Myra Raspberry. “People don’t want to be investing money knowing that they might have a chance of losing it.

Residents of Marcy Park are 100% right to be cautious. This Wednesday, the bitcoin market hit a two-year low. And weekly headlines feature stories of investors who have lost everything investing in cryptocurrencies.

For a billionaire like Jay-Z with more money than he could spend in a lifetime, what’s a couple hundred thousand dollars in losses here or there. But for folks like Raspberry in public housing, where the average household income is $24,454 a year, according to the New York City Housing Authority, the stakes are significantly higher.

“Every dime I get got to go to rent, phone, TV, and internet. I don’t have money like that to be losing on. If I did, I would try to invest in something that’s more reliable, like the basketball game last night. You know I’m going to win something from that.”

Perhaps the most poignant message that Marcy Park is less than enthused about joining the cryptocurrency rat race are the photos of brochures lying limp on the housing project’s concrete ground.

If the rapper really wanted to help the community, Nyashia Figueroa, a 24-year old resident, said there’s a lot more he could do.

“If you want to do something, fix this place up,” she told the Guardian. “We have a basketball court with no hoops. Our parks is broken up in here. He should be doing more for his community, not no Bitcoin Academy.