The Importance of African American Wealth Management Advisers

Manhattan West Asset Management is an extremely diverse firm in the wealth management sector, existing in a world that is overwhelmingly white and male-dominated. The firm is made up of high character, highly-educated financial advisers with incredible backgrounds that previously reflect leadership roles at Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan among others. It currently has a mix of African American employees that hold executive roles, Latino American partners, and a list of high ranking women.

Although extremely impressive, this is not the norm. Stats that include this type of makeup are extremely low. According to the Center for Financial Planning Board  (CFP), less than 3.5% of all the 80,000 certified financial planners in the United States are black or Latino. So what is going on?

BLACK ENTERPRISE caught up with executive Justin McCurdy to find out what got him involved in wealth management and the importance of African American wealth management advisers as a career option for people of color.

Black Enterprise: How did you break into Wealth Management?

Justin McCurdy: I do not have the typical background of most wealth management professionals, but I believe that is why I am able to serve such a diverse client group. I came to the United States as an immigrant from Canada. My family moved from Jamaica to Canada before I was born in search of more opportunity. I won’t go too far into my personal life, but my background contributes to how unusual it is for me to be in my current role. My mother had me at a young age and we moved from apartment to apartment, city to city, before finally settling in Los Angeles when I was 11 years old.

I worked hard and was accepted at the University of Southern California. I financed my education through financial aid and the revenue earned from the youth sports organization I founded at the age of 18, which I still operate today. After about a dozen internships, I graduated and took a position as an advisor at Morgan Stanley. With no family connections, financing or an existing Rolodex, it was an uphill battle to build a client base. Fast forward 5 years and I am now at Manhattan West Asset Management holding a leadership role and realizing the abundant opportunities available when you’re willing to go after what you want in life.

What attracted you to wealth management?

My passion in educating those who did not come from backgrounds that gave them the skillset to properly manage wealth is what initially attracted me to the industry. I came from a traditional working-class family and although supportive, I was not exposed to wealth accumulation or preservation concepts. I worked extremely hard to educate myself and with the help of mentors I met through sports was able to develop a strong understanding of finance.  Ultimately, I want to use my knowledge to educate and empower those around me, with a special focus on those that might have encountered the same roadblocks as me along the way.

What types of clients do you advise?

My clients stem from all walks of life but I have a special emphasis on professional athletes and entertainers.

African American wealth management advisers

Justin McCurdy and client, retired NBA veteran, Ryan Gomes (Image: Instagram)

Why do you think there is such a drastic shortage of African-American Advisors?

It’s simply a matter of exposure. African American kids do not often see Financial Advisors of color, making it hard for them to envision themselves taking that career path.

Why is it beneficial for African-Americans to be involved in a career like this?

It’s my belief that the more African-American advisors there are, the more educated the black community will be about finance. This will only lead to more wealth accumulation and preservation within the community.  Living in such a unique time where people from all demographics/walks of life are acquiring wealth at sometimes rapid paces leads me to believe that professionals servicing them need to evolve and represent this newfound diversity as well.

Many African-American children have not had the opportunity to see successful Financial Advisors of color and that needs to change.  I want the upcoming generation to see wealth management as a viable career opportunity that embraces those willing to work hard for their clients. Class, background or socio-economic status should not be a factor.


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Nurse Alice: New Research Suggests Alzheimer’s Presents Differently in African Americans

Nearly 5.7 million people live with Alzheimer’s disease in the United States. The disease, however, seemingly presents more problematic for African Americans. Studies show African Americans are twice as likely of developing Alzheimer’s disease compared to whites. And while health, lifestyle, and socioeconomic factors contribute to our susceptibility for this disease (as well as others), more and more research is suggesting genetic differences could explain some of the disparity between African Americans and whites.

Research from the Department of Neurology, Washington University School of Medicine suggests Alzheimer’s disease may develop differently in blacks. That could possibly mean the way we diagnose and treat African Americans for Alzheimer’s may need to change as well and become race specific.

Much of what we know about Alzheimer’s disease is from research based on white people. Yet numerous studies have shown racial differences exist in African American genetics which influence how we respond to different diagnostic tests, medications, and treatments. And this isn’t new information. Differences in cardiovascular treatment and diabetes diagnosis for African Americans are well documented.

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disorder that causes brain cells to degenerate and die. It’s the most common cause of dementia, causing changes in memory, speech, judgment, personality, and overall cognitive functioning. This steady decline in thinking, behaviorally and socially, disrupt a person’s ability to function independently.

While there is no definitive diagnostic test for Alzheimer’s, some of the biological hallmarks of the disease are abnormal amounts of protein plaques – amyloid Aβ42 and protein tau tangles that present throughout the brain. Its been thought that the higher your levels are, the higher risk you were for the disease. And because we know that to be true, companies have spent millions of dollars creating anti-tau medications and therapy to counter the disease.

In people with Alzheimer’s disease, tau proteins for unknown reasons collapse into twisted strands called tangles. These twisted strands keep the brain cells from getting nutrients and other essential supplies, and the cells eventually die.

 What Does This Mean for You?

In a research plot twist, researchers at Washington School of Medicine discovered that when they scanned the brains of participants for plaques – there wasn’t any significant differences between whites and blacks. However, when they performed lumbar punctures testing cerebral spinal fluid levels of tau proteins, the levels were much lower in African Americans. This debunks the theory that lower levels of tau proteins mean lower risk for Alzheimer’s disease. African Americans having lower levels of tau protein did not seem to have the same decreased risk as it did in their white counterparts. What this means is there is the potential for African Americans to still have the disease, but present with lower levels of tau proteins which may lead to delayed diagnosis and treatment for Alzheimer’s.

What’s Next?

So how do we properly and efficiently identify and treat Alzheimer’s disease in African Americans? Do we start with race specific thresholds for tau protein levels?…. maybe we need to.

While this question remains unanswered, it needs to be addressed sooner than later. But the only way to garner enough scientific information to do so is to gather more evidence. So while these findings are from a relatively small sample size (173 black participants) it is still worthy of a serious look because it comes from research done with African Americans. And last I checked – I was African American. So while some medical research can be generalized to different groups– it’s still not a one size fits all. If we have reason to believe race plays a role in how someone is diagnosed, and what medications and treatments work best for them – then we need to apply that information. This is one step closer to the goal of precision medicine, an emerging approach for disease treatment and prevention that takes into account individual variability in genes, environment, and lifestyle for each person. Ask your provider today whether they practice precision medicine. If not, you may want to consider changing to one that does.





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South African Fashion on Show at Zeitz MOCAA

South Africa’s fashion and art crowd descended upon Cape Town this week for the pre-opening party of contemporary art museum Zeitz MOCAA’s first fashion exhibition, “21 Years: Making Histories With South African Fashion Week.”
SA Fashion Week, founded by former model Lucilla Booyzen in 1997, marked the anniversary last October with a small exhibition shown during the presentation of the SAFW 2019 fall collections in the Johannesburg suburb of Sandton City. Booyzen chose 21 designers as a historical recap of the past 21 years of SA fashion, and planned a book to accompany the exhibit.
“When Erica de Greef, the senior fashion curator of Zeitz MOCAA, heard that I was going to do a book and an exhibition, she was incredibly excited, and she then planned to do an edited version of what I did in Johannesburg at Zeitz,” Booyzen recounted.
Curated by de Greef, the exhibition occupies two gallery spaces on the museum’s fourth level and features 21 ensembles from 21 designers, spanning different styles, multiple collections and various seasons, showcasing, in effect, a micro-history of South African fashion since 1997. On show are designers such as Clive Rundle, Amanda Laird Cherry and Loxion Kulca, alongside younger names such as Sindiso Khumalo, Thebe

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African American Art Galleries and Museums to Support for Black Solidarity Day

As the anticipated International African American Museum gears up for a grand opening in 2020, we couldn’t help but find out what other black-centric museums and exhibits around the country are worth checking out right now.

We’ve compiled a list of some of the most intriguing and thought-provoking exhibits, some by African American artists, but all of them about African American life for African American viewers, whether they’re art enthusiasts, art geeks, or just simply looking to learn something new.

Soul of A Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, Brooklyn Museum

This exhibit takes viewers through the most political and revolutionary period of American history. The more than 150 artworks displayed throughout the exhibition aim to address the unjust conditions that African American artists faced from 1963 to 1983, a time of political and social revolution.

Find out more information, here.

Sept. 14, 2018-Feb. 3, 2019

Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow, New York Historical Society Museum & Library

Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow explores the struggles African Americans faced for full citizenship and racial equality. It is organized chronologically from the end of the Civil War to the end of World War I and highlights how African Americans advocated for their rights during that time. The exhibit opened in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Find out more information, here.

Sept. 7, 2018-Mar. 3, 2019

Cotton: The Soft, Dangerous Beauty of the Past, African American Museum in Philadelphia

The exhibition features 35 large-scale photographs, as well as an installation and altarpiece by artist John E. Dowell, all aiming to “explore the dichotomy between the beauty of the plant and its inexorable link to the horrors of chattel slavery in the U.S.”

It also looks at the often overlooked history of slavery in the north.

Find out more information, here.

Sept. 15, 2018-Jan. 21, 2019

Watching Oprah: The Oprah Winfrey Show and American Culture, National Museum of African American History & Culture at the Smithsonian

This special exhibition features the life of the media mogul, philanthropist, and actress and will also showcase her roles as a film producer; TV host, with her successful daytime talk show; and educator. Visitors will be able to explore Winfrey’s influence and the impact that she has on the world. The museum will feature artifacts from the very first Harpo Studios in Chicago and much more.

Find out more information, here.

June 2018-June 2019

AFreauX, Zucot Gallery

The exhibit features a group of African American artists who express their artwork through the gritty, colorful, and dynamic trends of the street art movements. In a press release on the exhibit, their collective artwork is described as, “a rebellious response” and a “departure from current trends,” speaking to the African American narrative and experience.

Find out more information, here.

Sept. 22, 2018-Nov. 16, 2018

Think: A Tribute to the Queen of Soul, The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

With this exhibit, the Detroit museum plans to honor Aretha Franklin’s life and legacy. The exhibit will feature photographs— loaned by photographers to help honor the late Queen of Soul—showcasing her work and life.

Find out more information, here.

Sept. 25, 2018-Jan. 21, 2019

Facing the Rising Sun Freedman’s Cemetery and The Souls of Black Folk, African American Museum, Dallas

The two exhibitions, “Facing the Rising Sun Freedman’s Cemetery” and “The Souls of Black Folk,” present two views of African American art in life and art in Dallas, Texas.

Visitors will get the chance to see and hear from people who knew about Freedman’s town, later known as North Dallas, through interactive video, historical documents, objects, and photographs.

Over 500 objects are on display in “The Souls of Black Folk” courtesy of the Billy R. Allen Folk Art Collection.

Visitors can also check out a few other exhibits housed in the museum, including, “Genesis: African American Artists,” which shows the work of 36 local Dallas artists.

Find out more information, here.


International African American Museum, South Carolina

The highly anticipated museum is set to open in 2020. The IAAM will explore the deep-rooted history of African Americans, presenting untold and under-told experiences and contributions of African Americans. The museum has so far received a variety of donations from companies such as BMW, Viacom, and BB&T and a $ 10 million donation from the Lilly Endowment. This museum is definitely one to keep on your radar.

Find out more information, here.

Opening in 2020

The North Carolina Roots of Artist Ernie Barnes, North Carolina Museum of History

The exhibition will showcase many original paintings and artifacts of artist and Durham native, Ernie Barnes. Barnes was known for his exquisite and unique style. His iconic “Sugar Shack” painting was featured on the hit show, Good Times. The painting also appeared on the Marvin Gaye I Want You album cover. According to the museum, he is the first professional American athlete to become a noted painter.

Find out more information, here.

June 2018- March 2019

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Award-Winning Film ‘Charcoal’ Heads to National Museum of African Art Smithsonian Institution

Francesca Andre combined her experiences with colorism and passion for storytelling into Charcoal, an award-winning film which puts the spotlight on healing from prejudice, discrimination, and preferential treatment based on the skin tone, facial features, and hair textures among people of the same race. Now, her short film is making its way to the National Museum of African Art Smithsonian Institution as part of Skin Deep exhibit: Colorism across the African diaspora.

Black Enterprise caught up with Andre to learn more about her inspiration behind the film and hopes for changing the conversation about beauty in the black community.

BE: What inspired you to produce a film about internal colorism? Can you describe your personal experiences with this topic?

I wanted to tell a story about healing, about women redefining their own beauty and taking back their power despite the pervasive effects of colorism. I wrote Charcoal as I recalled these painful experiences and events with colorism growing up in Haiti. I was made aware of my skin tone and hair texture at a very young age. I noticed that people with lighter skin were praised and considered beautiful compared to others with darker skin. My grandmother joked that I got my “bad hair” from my father’s side of the family because her side of the family had very long and curly hair. While these conversations were common and seemed normal at the time, they slowly begin to erode one’s self-esteem and self-worth. I realized that I had internalized these toxic beliefs in my teenage years throughout my adulthood, so I had to unlearn all these toxic misconceptions about beauty, hair, and its relation to one’s worth. I am happy to say that I now have a very healthy relationship with my skin and hair.

Francesca Andre

Francesca Andre

BE: In your experiences, what are the impacts of internalized colorism, particularly when it comes to getting ahead in your career or managing healthy relationships?

As a woman photographer working to become a cinematographer, racism and sexism are more of a detriment to my career than colorism. I also think my experiences with internal colorism provide an opportunity for me as a storyteller to reverse the effects by changing the light skin vs. dark skin narrative. Representation in film is important and is a powerful tool to bring attention to these issues.

BE: Charcoal spotlights the fact that beliefs about skin color are passed down in families. In prior interviews, you’ve said “Despite the #melaninpoppin and #blackgirlmagic hashtag movements meant to uplift all shades of blackness, there’s still work to be done. When it comes to colorism, what do you think we as a community need more of or less of?

We need to talk more about it. It’s dirty, it’s taboo and it’s destructive. Just because it’s not always right in your face doesn’t mean it’s not happening. These movements are great at bringing issues to light, but there are also many communities that are not aware of these conversations. Today there are very popular Internet figures in my community who are selling bleaching creams. As long as “light skin” continues to be the standard of beauty, women will continue to bleach their skin as a way to adapt and survive. However, if we celebrate every hue and hair texture, not just the 3C curly hair, we might be able to change minds and change the way that people perceive themselves and their beauty. America can take the lead in this plight.

BE: What are the top two messages you want people to take away from the film?

Healing takes time. These beliefs didn’t happen overnight and it will take time for you to unlearn the lies that you were taught and have internalized about the color of your skin, your hair texture, your voice, your existence as a woman of color. Self-love is a hell of a weapon! Use it, practice it, apply it, and pass it on to your friends, colleagues, and children. Break the cycle!

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