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My Evolving Relationship With Black History Month

I haven’t always welcomed the arrival of Black History Month.

I grew up in Moore, Oklahoma a small city on the edge of Oklahoma City which has become known for its devastating tornadoes.

Oklahoma isn’t exactly an incubator for diversity and Moore wasn’t any different. Although student enrollment changed year to year due to our proximity to a military base I was often one of ten black children in the entire school and typically found myself to be the lone black child in my entire class.

I will never forget the day my fourth-grade teacher looked at me during the Black History Month lesson as she spoke about the slave trade. I can still hear her condescending voice as she described the inhumane conditions in which slaves were captured and forcibly brought to this country. It was as if she received pleasure watching me sit uncomfortably and fight back the tears as she recounted details from our textbook. I was the student she detested. I was smart, well loved, fully supported by my parents, and well adjusted. And I was black.

She sought to highlight my flaws every chance she got, and our black history month lessons were her ammunition.

In a class full of students I felt alone at my desk as my white and Hispanic classmates followed the teacher’s eye line and stared at me, a young representation of the resilience of the slaves who made it through the passage, the Jim Crow Era, Vietnam, and the Reagan years.

I should have been proud.

Now I know that my very existence is proof of my ancestors’ strength, but ten-year-old Tonya was just plain ol’ embarrassed. My teachers actions made me feel worthless and even more out of place in that Moore classroom.

My saving grace was the home that my parents created for me and my sister, where they constantly reminded us of our worth, our beauty, and our brilliance.

The Evolution Begins

We left Oklahoma after my first year of Junior High School and relocated to Charlotte, North Carolina. For the first time in my life I sat in a class that was racially mixed. A wide array of students of all ethnicities filled the seats in my classroom.

As Black History Month rolled around I didn’t know what to expect in my new school.

The first day of February I was greeted in the school lobby with bulletin boards and exhibits highlighting the accomplishments of Black Americans. It wasn’t our pain on display, but our accomplishments, our brilliance, our contributions to America and the world.

It was that day that Black History Month changed for me.

It became more than the Negro National Anthem and counting all of the ways that George Washington Carver utilized the peanuts. The lessons instilled by my parents began to take root as I buried myself in stories of black revolutionaries and inventors.

I became obsessed with learning about my history and the more I learned the more empowered I became.

As a woman of African descent who identifies as African American every single day of my life is Black Appreciation Day. But today, Black History Month is a month where we take center stage in classrooms, buildings, and programming throughout the country and are recognized for all that we as a people have contributed to this country despite the historical and ongoing atrocities committed against people of African descent.

To celebrate Black History Month this year at My Fab Finance we’re highlighting Black Wealth Creators who are creating noteworthy financial legacies and inspiring future generations to be financially successful and responsible.

Negative statistics and narratives are only a fraction of the story yet they often overshadow our experience and the work so many of us put in day in and day out to rewrite our stories and to break the chains of poverty and oppression.

This Black History Month may we remember that it is up to us to own our narrative and continue to chart our course toward financial freedom so that we can create lives that we are proud of and that we love.

This #BlackHistoryMonth may we remember to own our narrative and continue to pursue financial… Click To Tweet

Happy Black History Month.

This article was sponsored by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001. All opinions are those of the author.


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What Are Your Options If You Don’t Have Insurance

I don’t have health insurance, now what?

According to the Henry Kaiser Foundation, by the end of 2016 the number of uninsured nonelderly Americans was 28 million. Under the current administration the number of uninsured has risen to a three year high. While the Obama Administration made strides under ACA with a public health insurance plan, many of the uninsured population in the United States lacked health insurance due to the high cost of health coverage. Many Americans are lucky enough to have health coverage, but many Americans lack health insurance for a variety of reasons. Some people may not have health insurance due to a pre-existing condition, while others may be uninsured due to an accident or recent job loss. Luckily you do not have to sacrifice your health due to being uninsured. Here are ten options to consider if you don’t have insurance:

  1. Have an emergency fund with three to six months’ worth of living expenses The first source is always YOU. Having money saved will go a long way if you are uninsured. Depending on the services or products you need, sometimes you may be required to pay the costs in full or at least a percentage. You will have some peace of mind if you have your own money set aside.

  2. Ask for uninsured discounts When you are receiving medical services or products, most times they will give you a discount if you pay in cash or by check.

  3. Ask for a payment plan Some medical offices, especially if you are a regular customer, will allow you to start a payment plan. They will provide you with the services you need now and allow you to spread the cost over the next few weeks or months. You may be required to pay at least five to ten percent of the total balance when services are rendered.

  4. Use Groupon Most times you will find that a dental office, medical office, massage therapist, or chiropractor will offer affordable deals that you may not receive elsewhere.

  5. Ask for new customer prices Most times you can get services and products for free or receive a large discount as a new customer. Sometimes those deals may not be offered or advertised.

  6. Contact local Dental Schools If the work you need is not very serious or complicated, you will find that utilizing the services provided at dental schools are much cheaper. If they are unable to do the work you need, they may have a connection with a company who can provide you with the service at an affordable price.

  7. Ask friends and Family You would be surprised who the people in your life are connected to. Someone always knows someone, who knows someone else. Someone may know of a company who could provide services at a low cost. Everyone loves referrals.

  8. Contact local churches, community centers, and nonprofit organizations They may have connections with local companies or programs that can provide products and services for those who are uninsured and unable to cover the cost themselves.

  9. Try an Urgent Care before the Hospital Emergency Room Unless you have a serious life threatening issue, I would suggest getting services from a local Urgent Care. The emergency room can sometimes have longer wait times and are more expensive.

If you or someone you know is uninsured, these tips will provide a head start with navigating through the experience. Although the results may vary depending on your location and situation, I can guarantee that at least one if not all of these tips will be helpful for someone who is uninsured. The big take away is start with having money saved and be proactive with asking anyone and everyone questions about discounts and other affordable options in your area.

Created by nationally recognized millennial money expert Tonya Rapley, My Fab Finance is a leading financial education and lifestyle blog for millennials who want to become financially free and do more of what they love.

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