Rapper and entrepreneur Shawn Carter, better known as Jay-Z, is bringing Bitcoin to the place where he grew up. On Thursday, Jay-Z and former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced the launch of Bitcoin Academy, which will offer free classes on cryptocurrency for residents of the Marcy Houses in Brooklyn, New York.
“Bitcoin Academy, starting in Marcy, a place that taught me so much, is hopefully the first of many,” Jay-Z wrote on Twitter. “The simple goal is to provide people tools to build independence for themselves and then the community around them.”
The academy aims to educate the residents of the Brooklyn-based public housing complex, where Jay-Z was born and raised, on Bitcoin specifically, and to help them become more financially aware in general. The classes will be taught by Lamar Wilson, founder of Black Bitcoin Billionaire, and Najah J. Roberts, founder of Crypto Blockchain Plug in Inglewood, California. Residents can sign up through the Bitcoin Academy’s website simply by giving their basic information, and apartment number. Afterwards, they will have access to the in-person and virtual classes held from June 22-September 7. There’s also a Crypto Kids Camp program that will take place on two Saturdays for kids and teens aged 5-17.
The cryptocurrency is available through online exchanges, which is why the Bitcoin Academy will provide a MiFi connection, plus a one-year limited data plan, and a smartphone if needed to those participating in the classes. The initiative is funded by Jay-Z, Dorsey, as well as the Shawn Carter Foundation, and Block (Dorsey’s crypto services company formerly known as Square).
Bitcoin may not be at its best right now, but some believe in the value that the cryptocurrency could have for disenfranchised communities, or those with a lack of access to other forms of financial investing. A study by NORC at the University of Chicago found that the majority of crypto investors are under 40, and do not have a college degree, in addition to 44% of cryptocurrency traders being investors of colour.
But while an open-for-all network for digital currency may be the ideal vision for Bitcoin, the reality is a little different. A group of researchers recently analysed data on cryptocurrency, and found that while it is supposed to be decentralized, cryptocurrency is actually a system propped up by a small minority.
It’s still not clear what the future of Bitcoin will hold as the digital currency is still taking shape, and whether getting more members of lower-income neighbourhoods involved could potentially unlock the cryptocurrency’s true potential, or if it could pose a financial risk for them.
Jay-Z is well-known for trying to promote generational wealth among members of the Black community, encouraging people to own real estate as a means of achieving financial freedom. “Fuck living rich and dying broke,” Jay-Z raps in one of his tracks. Earlier in May, Jay-Z invested in Altro, a Black-owned free app that helps its users build credit through existing spending habits. The Bitcoin Academy also hopes to expand beyond the Marcy Houses in the near future.