Photography by Dvvinci Photography

The Black Community has a projected net worth of $0 by 2053.

Ashley Fox, founder EMPIFY, and former Wall Street Analyst is working to shift that narrative. Ashley’s idea of financial wealth was dramatically altered when she was exposed to massive amounts of wealth on Wall Street. From this experience, she began to see the expansive possibilities of wealth and was inspired to teach a wealth-building mindset in her own community.

Ashley created EMPIFY to bring the exposure, tools, and resources that wealthy people know, believe and are taught to a community of people who want to be more financially secure but don’t know where to start. Since 2013, she has built a series of EMPIFY programs that have empowered students in Philadelphia, New York City, and Atlanta schools. Ashley also gave EMPIFY courses to incarcerated youth who came from Rikers Island Prison in New York.

Participants enter EMPIFY’s Wealth Builders program with a very limited perception of what wealth looks like.

“Many of our students believe that wealth looks like an old white man wearing a trench coat,” explains Fox.

However, by way of EMPIFY, Ashley is redefining the way that black people see wealth. What many thought was once so complicated, she has found a way to make culturally relevant and easy to understand while showing the community how to get it done.

“EMPIFY shows the community that you can actually be a regular girl with a pair of Nikes, wearing a t-shirt, and be wealthy,” explains Ashley.  “I intentionally do not wear black and blue suits when I teach. I also change my hair often because I want to redefine how our community views wealth in America. Wealth does not have a color, and we all need to debunk the idea of what wealth looks like, so that we believe it looks like us,” she continues.

EMPIFY’s latest initiative, The Black Male Educators Wealth Building Program, is an innovative partnership with the Black Male Educators Convening and United Way, which has helped 15 Black male educators in Philadelphia learn how to invest. The free summer program was offered once a week for five weeks to help better grow, support and build Black men in education.

The impetus for this partnership surfaced from the need for more financially empowering spaces for Black male educators. This need came full circle through Ashley’s experience working with incarcerated young men in New York City. She witnessed too many black children at Rikers Island Prison without role models and/or father-figures in their lives.

She asked herself, “What if they went to school and saw a strong black man that wasn’t stressed out about money? What if they had relationships with strong black men who were happy?  What can I do to prevent kids from being incarcerated?”

In response grew EMPIFY’s Black Male Educator course to train Black male educators to be investors and build wealth.

In the beginning, many of the men felt awkward or uncomfortable talking about money, they were skeptical. Only four of the twenty men had invested before and none of them felt confident in their investing abilities.

“They came to class with the misconception that you need a lot of money to invest,” explains Ashley. “Our program taught them that in order to gain wealth you must build it with your mind before your bank account.”

Developing this mindset was foundational because the educators were doubtful of what they would be able to get from the course. Ashley explains, “oftentimes our community gives up or doesn’t think it’s possible to gain wealth because they’ve grown accustomed to not having it.”

Over the years, Ashley has heard many stories that her students, adult or youth, have told themselves about money and have chosen to believe. Some have told themselves the story that society sets it up so they can’t do it. As a result, they have a voice inside of them that tells them they can’t do it.

“Whatever story or reason you come up with, it will either propel or prevent you from being able to do it.” Ashley Fox

As the course progressed, the men’s views about money did too. “EMPIFY removes the layers of the negative stories that are on the hearts and minds of adults and young people in our community,” reflects Ashley.

In just a few weeks’ time, she saw the Black male educator’s capacity and understanding of the stock market increase dramatically. There were many moments where the men engaged in deep conversations on their own, speaking about what they were going to invest in and evaluate why it was a good or bad investment.

Ashley recalls, one of the educators who referred to her as “teach” enthusiastically coming to class the third week exclaiming, “I’ve been up all night researching, I’ve got my list of stocks, I know what I want to buy and I’m ready to invest!”

In just five weeks’ time, the men understood the basics of the stock market, how to select good investments, and identified which stocks they wanted to own. By the last session, each educator learned how to actually invest, opened their own brokerage accounts, and purchased their first stocks.  As a culmination to the course, each educator received $200 to invest. Collectively the Black male educators invested $4,000 thus increasing their aggregate net worth as a community.

The course showed them how to start building small, managing money differently and setting just a little aside each month.  It demonstrated to them that when they focus their thoughts and beliefs on things they desire, they can change the trajectory of their lives.

When asked how this experience might affect the students these men served, Ashley responded, “Now they see themselves as investors. When you walk around as an investor – you feel stronger, you have a better hold on your money; you walk differently, you talk differently, what you believe is possible is different.” In the case of the Black male educators – this confidence and knowledge will trickle down to their students.

Ashley encourages all of us to begin thinking like investors, “gaining wealth requires us to do something different individually that can massively change the black community collectively. We need to focus on bettering ourselves, recognizing the opportunities that are out there, and make it a priority to get involved. It’s opening our minds and hearts to say we can do this, we deserve this; and if we actually believe it’s shifting the black narrative, it’s our duty to do this as black people.”

EMPIFY has a wealth-building online app-based community that anyone can join. Included in the membership are weekly classes, tools, and resources to guide members through their financial journey. Beyond the toolkits and courses, the community offers a safe space for people to be supported and encouraged by one another and experts. Currently, there are more than 600 members in the community. To join the Wealth Building Community visit

“I just push people inside the door. Once they see what’s inside – they realize there is so much out there – they want more, and they want the guidance to get there. Too often as black people, we just stand at the door. We want to go inside, we may even peek in a little bit. EMPIFY gets you through the door, and once you’re inside, you realize you belong, and we show you how to get it done until you no longer need us [EMPIFY].”

Lafayette Barnes

Lafayette Barnes IV is a third-generation publisher. He is the grandson of founder Calvin W. Rolark, and son of current publisher Denise Rolark Barnes. Born and raised in S.E., DC, he attended school across...

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