MADISON, Wis. — In an endeavor to uplift underserved communities, Afra Smith, a leading financial literacy expert based in Madison, has embarked on a mission to educate and empower Black women and other minorities through her mission, The Melanin Project

What You Need To Know

  • Afra Smith, a prominent financial literacy expert in Madison, is spearheading The Melanin Project to empower underserved minorities through education and mentorship
  • Sharing her own journey of overcoming financial hardships, Smith emphasized the importance of addressing economic challenges to achieve mental and emotional well-being
  • Through tailored approaches and supportive environments, Smith guides individuals such as Dai Mixson towards financial empowerment, fostering a sense of confidence and capability
  • Smith's initiatives extend beyond individual coaching sessions, with events like the Wealth Literacy Conference offering opportunities for education and networking within the community, aiming to make a meaningful impact on thousands of lives

Smith’s initiative aims to inspire others to learn from her mistakes. Her onset of financial hardship began in college when she innocently signed up for a credit card on campus.

“That’s when pain started for me... you take that spiral,” she said, highlighting the challenges she faced like payday loans, low credit scores and high-interest car payments that kept her struggling for more than a decade.

“What I know to be true today is economics can certainly impact your mental and emotional health and your ability to really be in a position to thrive,” Smith said.

Despite her past struggles, Smith earned a master’s in business administration (MBA) and now works in finance. She volunteers her time to teach other women financial literacy.

Smith has guided Dai Mixson, a young mom, towards financial empowerment. 

“She (Smith) makes you feel very comfortable and safe in the environment and that… whatever situation you’re in, you’re able to get out of it if you are willing to put in the work,” Mixson, a former client turned financial coach, said.

Smith emphasized the importance of making financial education appropriate for her audience.

“If we’re going to bring cultural relevance to it, we do have to do it our way,” she said, stressing the need for her tailored approach to address the unique issues of diverse communities.

As the founder and CEO of The Melanin Project, Smith goes beyond traditional budget planning. She also focuses on mental wealth and holistic financial empowerment.

“I’m offering a path to people, so I hope people will jump on board,” she said. 

Smith’s efforts will soon extend beyond individual coaching sessions, with events like the Wealth Literacy Conference on April 13 at Monona Terrace.  

It will provide opportunities for education and networking within the community.

“I would like to think that I’m helping thousands of people with the impact of the work,” she said.

Correction: A previous version of this story listed the incorrect date for the Wealth Literacy Conference. This error has been corrected. (Feb. 21, 2024)