KW Mocha Momma Babble Voices Writing Well About Contact
Kelly WickhamSpeakingWritingTravelingCreating Kelly Wickham: Teacher, Speaker, Storyteller
about Kelly

twitter babble pinterest subscribe

Subscribe to the
Mocha Momma blog by email:

Babble Voices: Mocha Momma Has Something to Say


KSID Interiors

Personal Finance for Teens: The H&R Block Teacher Challenge

Personal finance was never an option for courses for me to take when I was in school. I did, however, learn how to write a check (this was in the 80s, mind you) and create a budget for my non-existent future at the time. I was to pretend that I had a swinging loft and took city transportation to my fabulous job as a Rockette dancer. Truth was, I ended up buying a car that I made payments on, purchased a house in a rural setting, and worked as woefully underpaid classroom teacher for the first half of my education career. Still, no one really taught me how to do personal finance. It came with the rest of my life lessons: the hard knock way. 

Luckily, I learned how to save money, pay off a credit card, and not buy things when they were at 19% interest rate. 


In Illinois, we're required to give students a course in high school that lasts for 9 weeks called Consumer Education. While much of it involves purchasing and budgeting and comparing prices, it's surely not enough time to teach students important budgeting for their future. I've often wished we could do more as a school system.


The H&R Block Budget Challenge

It's like my wish is granted. Right now, H&R Block is offering to teach these basics to students using the Budget Challenge which is a simulation and an interactive competition for high school students.

Teens act as recent college graduates who've started their first job. They receive regular paychecks and have to make decisions about cell phone plans, where to live, credit card offers, etc. They must pay their bills on time and earn points for making smart financial decisions.


It's free to play the H&R Block Budget Challenge and they're offering both classroom grants and student scholarships to winning students for up to 200,00 students. Starting today, over $3 million will be awarded in total prizes for both teachers and students. 

When teachers sign up they have a chance to win $2,500 or $5,000 grants for their classrooms. For signing up, teacher receive a free print kit to get them started, including a classroom poster and lesson plans. 

$3 million is up for grabs right now. 


If you know a teacher, send this to them right away. If you know a teen, send this to them right away.



When it comes to personal finance I have some pretty strong opinions about educating the masses. Now, I'm no whiz when it comes to this, but there are a few things that I try to live by:

1. Never patronize places that are rent-to-own.

These places seem to prey on those in poverty and keep them paying for things 2 or 3 times over. As a person who came from a place of poverty while a teen mom I look back and am thankful that I did without a couch for a few months instead of paying $5,000 once the interest was all added up on the total bill. Even when I bought my home 4 years ago I had a living room that would accommodate a large flat screen tv. Instead of going into debt over it I waited until about 6 months ago to make this purchase. If I can live without it, I really try to do that.

2. Keep 10% of every paycheck for savings.

This isn't always possible, but with a reasonable budget, once monthly bills are taken care of, it's doable. Now, I simply have it taken out of my paychecks and put directly into savings that I can't touch except for a few times a year (I belong to a credit union and that helps). This creates a nice little nest egg for those unexpected expenses like large appliances that fail or home repair.

3. Use only 1 credit card.

In fact, it gets paid off with a zero balance and when I've used it in emergency situations I still try to keep the balance paid off within 6 months. I know this isn't always possible, but when I had multiple cards I paid one off at a time and then applied that payment to the next card and the next until I only had one. (For me, this was post-divorce when things got very expensive for a phase in my life.)

Teens can benefit from this and they are principles that were hard won for me. I'm even grateful that credit card companies can no longer prey on young adults in college. As I watch my own teen son balance his paychecks for his job I've been impressed that he can save money and not eat out at restaurants or spend frivolously. He's the youngest of my children but he benefitted from all that wisdom I've collected over the years. 

In any case, I really hope teens take the challenge offered by H&R Block because the lessons are free. Without them, teens are likely to turn into adults who struggle to manage money. My advice? Sign up for this today.


*This is a sponsored post for H&R Block. As always, opinions are my own.


The BlogHer '14 Keynote Closing Panel: Intersectionality on Race, Gender, Feminism, & The Internet

Our American Christians are too busy saving the souls of white Christians from burning in hell-fire to save the lives of black ones from present burning in fires kindled by white Christians.  - Ida B. Wells, 1894

Last month I was honored to participate in the closing keynote panel at BlogHer 2014's 10th anniversary conference. This was my 9th attendance of BlogHer and my writing has changed in the nearly 10 years of having a blog. 

My fellow panelists were Feminista Jones, Kristen Howerton, Grace Hwang-Lynch, Patrice Lee and Natalia Oberti Noguera and Cheryl Contee acted as our moderator. In my introduction I mention having learned the power of my voice and how I come at it from an educational perspective. (And I mention having a Big Mouth. This surprises no one.)

I must admit, however, that I get asked to speak on this issue everywhere but home. Many people in my town are not aware of what it is that I do on the Internet and there is, ironically, some intersection involved there. In October I will be speaking again on the issue of feminism and girls for the ONE Foundation and that's so important to the work I've been doing at home and abroad. 

I keep learning that our voices need to be amplified and that speaking up is something I consider my duty.

This is important now, more than ever, with all the things our nation can talk about with regards to race with what is happening awfully close to where I live and that's in Ferguson, Missouri. I'm not going to stop talking about that anytime soon.

There are a few links I'd like to leave you with, though, and I hope that you watch the video above.

Let's Get Resources for the Ferguson Public Library

This is what libraries do. They provide a safe place where people can find out more about who they are, what they love, and who they want to become.

The Ferguson Library has been there for the people of Ferguson. I'd like to see what we can do to ensure that the Ferguson library has the resources they need to support their patrons in the weeks, months, and years to come.

We Need To Talk About Silicon Valley's Racism

These wealthy Silicon Valley tech investors gain access to a level of influence that far outstrips their public visibility. Like celebrities, they have the ability to broadcast their opinions to millions of people because of their position in the tech industry but, unlike celebrities, they can remain out of the public eye, speaking loudly from hidden podiums. And given the rising financial and political power of the tech industry, the racial homogeneity of this elite group of investors is troubling, especially in light of their occasional public comments.

Sacca, for example, recently used his own podium to publish a blog post entitled“A few thoughts on race, America, and our President” on the official Lowercase Capital website. In reaction to President Obama’s perceived discomfort with his role as president in the Ferguson situation, Sacca speaks out against racism, chides Obama for his lack of energy, and urges him to “be brave” in his public comments on the Ferguson shooting. This blog post is marked by an overwhelming paternalism as Sacca, a wealthy white man, advises Obama on how best to navigate his precarious position as a black president. Even though Obama supposedly told Sacca last year in a private conversation that he needs to avoid the label of “angry black man,” Sacca nevertheless claims that “what we need now is for our President to be angry,” adding that “the fact that he is black is even better.” Sacca puts himself in position to judge the political value of Obama’s blackness with no acknowledgment of his own social position as a wealthy white man.

#31 The Problem We All Live With by Normal Rockwell

This is a fascinating, visually pleasing look at Rockwell's painting of Ruby Bridges. Art teachers will love this and all educators can use it in their classrooms.

Driving up I could see the crowd, but living in New Orleans, I actually thought it was Mardi Gras. There was a large crowd of people outside of the school. They were throwing things and shouting, and that sort of goes on in New Orleans at Mardi Gras. I really didn’t realize until I got into the school that something else was going on. – Ruby Bridges Hall



Teachers should also be following the #FergusonSyllabus on Twitter for resources. Click here.

New York TV Stations Disproportionately Cover Crimes Committed By Black People.

Cartoonists Who Paint a New Picture of Racial Injustice.

This one mentions a great graphic novel titled The Silence of Our Friends, a semi-autobiographical novel set in 1967 against the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. 


By Pete Souza [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


The Narrative: Fannie Lou Hamer and Ferguson, Missouri

Last night I told myself to stay away from the news and yet my father picked up the remote control and changed it from the Little League World Series to MSNBC. There's something about talking to our parents, especially if they're Black and lived through the Civil Rights Movement in this nation, about seeing patterns repeated. While it was more of the same I went to bed consciously thinking of other things.

Yet, I woke up with a name in my brain as if I dreamt about her. I cannot remember all my dreams so if she was there I don't know. But Fannie Lou Hamer repeated over and over until I said her name aloud.

"Fannie Lou Hamer. That's what this is." 


In the last couple of years I have paid attention to manifestos and storytelling and the narrative. What is most powerful to me, then, is that whoever controls the narrative controls the story and in the case of Michael Brown and the disastrous reaction of the Ferguson police and the Missouri governor sending in the National Guard to protect the police and not the people, their narrative is full of character assassination, non-transparent information, and straight up bullying.

Which is probably how Fannie Lou Hamer's name came into my head. Her famous words rang all throughout my brain: I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired.

Not long ago, PBS showed this on American Experience. This is just a clip of it.

Fannie Lou Hamer was an evicted sharecopper removed from her plantation when she was a part of a group of people who tried to register at her county courthouse. Fannie was to be taped on live television to give her testimony about those events and President Johnson, that weasely terrorist betrayer of his own country, did the unthinkable: he came up with a bogus excuse to have a press conference to make sure the cameras weren't on Mrs. Hamer and her testimony. 

Last Friday's press conference in which police chief Thomas Jackson began with him detailing a robbery. Think about how that narrative has altered for just a moment. First, the story began with Michael Brown fighting with an attacking an officer, then it was that he reached for the gun (from 35 feet away?) and then it was that he was blocking traffic. IT TOOK POLICE SIX DAYS FOR THEM TO COME UP WITH A STORY. 

Listening to that police chief felt like watching President Lyndon Johnson work up his own narrative about what was important. 

No wonder people are confused. But, let's not sugar coat the fact that race and racism are factors here, too. (If you don't think this has to do with race I'd like to ask how you feel about a Black actor playing Johnny Storm in the Fantastic Four because IT SEEMED TO MATTER AN AWFUL LOT THEN.)

As an activist, Mrs. Hamer was arrested on false charges. She was beaten, threatened, and those in power and office worked to cover it up and silence her.

The owner of the plantation where she worked got angry at her for trying to register to vote. He threatened her to withdraw her registration. To vote. In America. As a citizen.

In 2007, Naomi Wolf wrote Ten Steps to Close Down an Open Society and it is eerily coming to fruition right now. I urge you to read it and align it with the events of the last 11 days. Wolf writes:

Because Americans like me were born in freedom, we have a hard time even considering that it is possible for us to become as unfree - domestically - as many other nations. Because we no longer learn much about our rights or our system of government - the task of being aware of the constitution has been outsourced from citizens' ownership to being the domain of professionals such as lawyers and professors - we scarcely recognise the checks and balances that the founders put in place, even as they are being systematically dismantled. Because we don't learn much about European history, the setting up of a department of "homeland" security - remember who else was keen on the word "homeland" - didn't raise the alarm bells it might have.

It is my argument that, beneath our very noses, George Bush and his administration are using time-tested tactics to close down an open society. It is time for us to be willing to think the unthinkable - as the author and political journalist Joe Conason, has put it, that it can happen here. And that we are further along than we realise.

Conason eloquently warned of the danger of American authoritarianism. I am arguing that we need also to look at the lessons of European and other kinds of fascism to understand the potential seriousness of the events we see unfolding in the US.

There are a lot of things happening in Ferguson, Missouri right now that are too close to our Civil Rights history in America and many words are rolling over and over in my head.

Sick and tired. False narratives. Police brutality. 

Of course, I also hear this, loudly: 

Stay woke.

Fannie Lou Hamer's words ring too true in 2014.

I question America. Is this America? The land of the free and the home of the brave? Where we have to sleep with our telephones off the hook because our lives be threatened daily because we want to live as decent human beings in America. 

via Wikimedia Commons

BlogHerNPRMedia BistroHuffington Post