- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 7, 2005

Rappers and hip-hop moguls from across the country came to the D.C. Convention Center yesterday to tell young adults one thing: It’s not all about the Benjamins, baby.

The Hip-Hop Summit on Financial Empowerment, a national campaign to raise awareness among teenagers and young adults about the importance of managing their finances, partnered with Chrysler Financial to tell 2,000 people how to “get your money right”.

“This is edutainment, it’s education plus entertainment. We’re giving out information that will help young people understand what it means to have a solid financial foundation,” said Benjamin Chavis, president and chief executive of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, a nonprofit organization that uses the hip-hop theme to stress important issues and education advocacy.

Teens and young adults earned $211 billion in 2003 and saved only 22 percent of their total income, according to the Mintel International Group, a Chicago supplier of product and consumer intelligence.

“This is an important opportunity to transform the lives and conditions of those who yearn for a better way of life,” Mr. Chavis said.

Stallone Young, a 26-year-old from Prince George’s County, came to the three-hour seminar “to get rich” and to learn tips from the artists he admires on how to make it in the music business.

“I wanted to talk to some people who have been a part of the industry — you know, been there, done that — and to get some helpful tools and tips on money and how to better manage it,” he said.

Giving out tips on money is just the thing that Russell Simmons, chairman of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, wants to do. Mr. Simmons, one of the most successful businessmen in the hip-hop industry, started the organization in 2001 as a way to reach out to urban youth.

“The artists are the best teachers to take to the young people. If they hear Eminem say something on TV, they believe him. We wanted to take that influence and use it to build financial knowledge and inspire young people,” he said.

Mr. Simmons, the owner of the Phat Farm clothing line and founder of Def Jam Recordings, said one of the biggest financial challenges facing young people is that no one is teaching them how to plan for the future.

“I want to inspire people to work hard. Financial security is not something you are going to walk into; you have to work hard to get ahead. A lot of this generation is living outside of their means,” he said.

Lil’ Mo, one of the hip-hop artists at the event, said she sees many young people buying merchandise/products that they can’t afford but they see on TV and in magazines.

“These young people have to understand that just because I am able to afford it doesn’t mean that they can. All the artists here work hard for our money and we manage it and save it. People need to save their money so they won’t be broke and try to rob me,” she said.

How to save her money is something that drew Janelle Thomas, a 20-year-old college student from Northwest, to the event.

“I’m in college so I really need to learn how to budget … I came to hear whatever financial knowledge I could,” she said.

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