Hip-hop icon Jay-Z (right) joined with Twitter founder Jack Dorsey for a "Bitcoin Academy." (Photo courtesy of LatestLY)
Hip-hop icon Jay-Z (right) joined with Twitter founder Jack Dorsey for a "Bitcoin Academy." (Photo courtesy of LatestLY)

Hip-hop icon and business guru Jay-Z recently teamed with Twitter founder Jack Dorsey to announce a new “Bitcoin Academy” for underserved residents — particularly those in Brooklyn’s Marcy Houses where the rap pioneer grew up.

The duo announced the academy would offer one year of in-person and online classes through September 7, only for Marcy residents.

They plan to add other locations for the program designed in collaboration with Crypto Blockchain Plug and Black Bitcoin Billionaire.

Jay-Z and Dorsey said their mission includes providing education and empowering the community with knowledge. Program participants would receive MiFi devices, a one-year limited data plan, and smartphones if needed. Residents may keep the devices. 

However, with the volatility of bitcoin and similar currencies making headlines, some have pushed back against the new academy.

“It’s kind of late to be doing that when people are trying to hold onto their dollars and everything is so expensive,” Myra Raspberry, a 54-year-old Marcy Projects resident, told the Associated Press.

“People don’t want to be investing money knowing they might have a chance of losing it,” Raspberry said. 

Another resident, 24-year-old Nyashia Figueroa, hoped Jay-Z would focus on other needs at Marcy.

“We have a basketball court with no hoops. Our park is broken up in here,” Figueroa said. “He should be doing more for his community, not no Bitcoin Academy.”

Still, Guy Gotslak, the founder of the Los Angeles-based CryptoIRA platform, My Digital Money, said one should never view any investment into education as wasted.

“It does help the call for attention when it’s prominent personalities like Jay-Z and Jack Dorsey,” Gotslak said. “They are both established as groundbreakers in different industries. However, what and how they will educate is different.” 

“We want young people to understand technology, potential and dangers. We want the information presented for what it is – information. It shouldn’t support an agenda for or against crypto. We want young people to think and make their own conclusions, not be brainwashed into something even if they are being ‘brainwashed’ into something good,” he said. 

Alex Chambers, community manager for Geode Finance, added that a thesis surrounding Bitcoin remains that it helps combat poverty.

“For example,” Chambers stated, “Bitcoin provides a more efficient way to deliver aid.”

He said when someone donates to charity using Bitcoin, it allows the donation to go directly to the recipient without using a financial institution.

“Now prominent figures are putting real time and money into the idea that underserved communities would benefit from Bitcoin adoption,” Chambers said. “Even though the project is focused only on Bitcoin, the oldest and to some, the safest cryptocurrency, any crypto involves wild degrees of volatility and a somewhat steep learning curve.” 

“However, I still believe that Jack Dorsey and Jay-Z’s Bitcoin Academy project is a prudent use of resources and a worthwhile program for the portion of society they’re focused on educating,” he added. “Since its construction in the 1940s, the Marcy Houses have always been a site for social and economic programs, and in my opinion, the Bitcoin Academy is a smart addition.”

 Modulus CEO Richard Gardner called financial technologies the last true frontier. He insisted that if individuals could identify or add value to blockchain projects, they would have value in the marketplace. 

Further, Gardner added that teaching youth in underserved communities how to invest in digital assets will serve them well regardless of the future of Bitcoin.

“Traditional investors are now fully immersed in the digital assets space, which means that they are not simply a fad. They are not going away,” he said. “The current downturn has been caused by external factors, not the least of which being massive pandemic-related spending which, combined with ongoing supply chain issues, has triggered extreme inflation.”

“Add an unpredictable war in Eastern Europe, and investor fear is rampant. The S&P 500 has officially entered a bear market. The current downturn has hit traditional and digital investments alike. So, understanding how digital assets work will be essential for proper investing in the 21st century when we emerge from the current economic downturn.” 

“The only thing that may help underserved communities more than education about investing in Bitcoin may be education on how to develop blockchain technologies,” Gardner said.

Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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