Saweetie And Her Grandma Are Teaching Financial Literacy To Black And Brown Youth
By MeiMei Fox
Diamonté Harper, better known to the world as Saweetie, is more than a Grammy-nominated musical artist, actor and viral sensation. The 29-year-old, who graduated from the University of Southern California with a degree in communications, is also the CEO of her own business and a dedicated philanthropist committed to empowering Black and Brown youth.
Along with her grandmother, Roxane Harper, Saweetie has created The Icy Baby Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to educating kids from underserved communities about financial literacy, entrepreneurship, and making better life decisions. Their purpose is to close the racial wealth gap in America.
“Many of us were raised to work for the money, but not to have the money work for us,” Saweetie told me in an exclusive interview. “It’s imperative that we teach the children how to build financial wealth for the long term.”
According to the 2022 TIAA Institute-GFLEC Personal Finance Index, an ongoing six-year project to assess financial literacy among American adults, African and Hispanic Americans answered an average of just 37% of questions about money correctly. White and Asian Americans answered closer to 55% of questions about financial literacy correctly. The good news is, studies show that taking a financial literacy course can pay off for kids, decreasing the likelihood of carrying credit card debt and increasing applications for college loans as an adult.
The Icy Baby Foundation kicked off in December 2022 with programs for students from middle school through high school in Las Vegas, Oakland, and Sacramento. Students who attend the six-week programs receive a funded $25 debit card per session (up to $175 total) once they have completed the required educational training. The course teaches them about the importance of saving, budgeting and financial planning, and provides free access to a money management app for an entire year.
Initial research conducted by the Icy Baby Foundation revealed that only one-third of students could pass a financial literacy test prior to the course. After completing the six-week program, 90% of participants passed. The foundation also has a mission to cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset among youth who come from disadvantaged backgrounds.
“Financial illiteracy is a systemic problem impacting the Black and Brown communities, especially in the lower economic demographics. We are trying to break that cycle through our Icy Baby Foundation,” says Harper, who, in addition to being Saweetie’s grandmother and non-profit cofounder, also teaches the financial literacy programs and works as a real estate mogul and author.
Harper emphasizes that the Icy Baby Foundation has opportunities for youth advocates and donors to participate as partners through funding programs to expand reach to other young people. “We had over 1,400 youth register immediately, and have since set up our website for waitlist only. The second program began in Las Vegas with 250 students on March 18, 2023.”
Being an entertainer “is a fraction of who I am,” says Saweetie. “My life purpose extends beyond music. I love music and utilizing my artistry as a form of self-expression, but I have so much more to offer the world. I’ve always enjoyed helping others. Now that my platform has grown, I believe it is my responsibility to educate and inspire. That’s where my foundation comes into play.”
Saweetie first became an entrepreneur while studying at USC. She started a line of hats and t-shirts called the Money Makin’ Mamis. She created the designs, sourced the manufacturer, did the shipping and handling, operated customer service through emails, modeled the products, and ran her own social media marketing campaigns. “Maintaining and managing a thriving business while attending college was definitely a challenge, but it taught me how to balance and prioritize my schedule,” she says.
In a short time, Money Makin’ Mamis became an online sensation. Saweetie says, “Women around the world bought and supported my ideology: Thou Shalt Get Her Own Money. From there, I furthered my thoughts into my raps. The song ICY GRL garnered a lot of attention, and I knew from that moment on that my purpose would be to inspire through art and giving back.”
In particular, Saweetie has teamed up with Harper to empower Black and Brown youth through financial literacy because she wants kids to know that “there are levels to being financially successful. It’s not only about putting money into your savings. I want to help them achieve.” Her two greatest pieces of financial advice are: 1) You need both an accountant and a financial advisor. They are not the same. 2) Learn the difference between financial liabilities and assets.
In terms of career advice, the best Saweetie ever has received is, “Create, don’t compete.” To those looking to achieve their life purpose, she says, “Learn how to say no and protect your peace by consciously setting boundaries in your businesses and personal life.”