This article originally appeared on NJBiz.com.
“What does legacy mean to you?” opens a new film produced through a partnership with media conglomerate Urban One, and underwritten by Newark-based Prudential Financial Inc., which seeks to expose black millennials, particularly women, with a starting point to gaining financial wellness, and freedom.
Legacy Lives On was presented during a special hometown screening at NJPAC on Tuesday with opening remarks from Prudential President of Individual Life Insurance Salene Hitchcock-Gear; Urban One Chief Executive Officer Alfred Liggins III; and actor, producer and Image Award winner Laz Alonso, who is also featured in the film.
“No one told me how not to be poor anymore,” Alonso said introducing the film, or what to do with money once you got it, he added.
For Prudential, legacy starts by recognizing the past, even the parts of it that can’t be glamourized.
Being involved with a film like Legacy Lives On is an important step for the company in confronting its own history on the wrong side of progress, Shané Harris, vice president, Corporate Social Responsibility for Prudential, said during a panel discussion exploring the film and access to capital following the screening.
Hitchcock-Gear also touched on the role that being involved with a project like Legacy Lives On played for Prudential, allowing the company to listen to voices in the film, and community, to help shape its approach for assisting this specific demographic on the path to financial wellness.
Legacy Lives On centers on three women in three cities on three separate financial paths. “The women in this film are amazing,” the panel recognized, “but they are not unique.”
The film is a way to introduce financial wellness to the community, panel member The Budgetnista Tiffany Aliche said, if you show proof of achievement that means you can do it as well.
The unconventional approach, using a film to engage its audience, provides its message with a springboard for generational wealth in the community, Liggins said.
No longer taboo
Coupled with that community conversation is an effort toward expelling the taboo around discussing money, a topic also broached in the film.
Speaking after the screening, as part of the panel discussion moderated by Prudential Vice President of Corporate Finance Maurice Kuykendoll, DeForest “Buster” Soaries, founder of the dfree movement and also a featured speaker in the film, said that if we can break the silence around the conversation of money, we can motivate people to celebrate each other’s success.
At the close of the discussion Newark-resident Aliche, who is also featured in the film, presented the Prudential 2019 Legacy Builder Award to her parents for laying the groundwork for her own financial understanding by normalizing the conversation around money as she grew up.
“Money wasn’t scary to me,” Aliche said, crediting her parents with investing the knowledge in her so that she could be successful and help so many others—including 800,000 women through her Live Richer Challenge, sponsored by Prudential, and with her efforts to pass state-wide legislation signed into law earlier this year which guarantees financial education for New Jersey middle schoolers. “Education is the key,” Aliche said, pointing to her blueprint for success grounded in knowledge, access and community.
The next step, Soaries said, is connecting what is being said with action.
Legacy Lives On bridges that gap between education and action through its medium, targeting a visually-engaged demographic, and through the way it conveys its message, including personal stories and even dance interludes, for viewers to connect with as individuals and as a community.
“Once you have access to information race doesn’t matter anymore,” said Ma’at Zachary, a television, film and creative producer who worked on the film, and participated in the panel discussion.
On the idea of “we’re all in this together,” the panel also highlighted the importance of fostering economic empowerment, self-determination and finding the right tools, sentiments echoed in each city featured in the film: in a reception welcoming a new small business owner to the community in Tulsa; in the dfree program which is fostering financial freedom in Detroit; and at The Gathering Spot in Atlanta, a private, members-only innovative network space.
Throughout the evening several speakers highlighted the importance of having a trusted partner on the path to financial wellness, and the part Prudential plays in that effort.
Soaries pointed to the company’s sponsorship of “outside-the-box” messaging with this project, and another he said the company was involved with him on for a five-part series on the late entrepreneurial rapper Nipsey Hussle.
“Legacy is also about the present,” Prudential Chief Brand Officer Niharika Shah said during the program’s closing remarks.
In the present, along with its part with Legacy Lives On, Prudential is working to increase outreach to, and products and financial solutions for, the black consumer market, Harris told NJBIZ, and having different conversations about how the company can be a partner to support those efforts and businesses.
Legacy Lives On will screen at the Black American Film Festival in Miami Beach on June 15. It will premiere on CLEO TV and Urban One on June 19.