Hip-hop great, Rah Digga will share her life lessons in the second installment of the New York Public Library’s free financial literacy series, Fame and Fortune on June 4 at the Mott Haven Library. The former First Lady of Busta Rhymes’ Flipmode Squad has successfully avoided some of the major financial pitfalls of her peers. Still she faced a few challenges including losing her home and belongings in a devastating 2009 fire. 

“One of my biggest tragedies was my house burning down to the ground,” she recalls. “The blessing in that was I’ve always reported my home upgrades to the insurance company. The insurance payout was more than what I paid for the home. So I was able to pay for reconstruction and everything.”

During the intimate Q&A, Digga will also discuss how she has attained financial security by running her family business of restoring antique vehicles and will touch on her plans to run for political office. The series runs June 4-July 19 at various NYPL branches with additional guest speakers including R&B superstar, Freddie Jackson, pioneering hip-hop harmonizers The Force MD’s, actor/artist, Federico Castelluccio and dance-pop powerhouse, Martha Wash. [Editorial Disclosure: The series is co-produced and moderated by writer).

When it comes to balancing budgets few have done it as successfully as media mogul, Leonard E. Burnett Jr. With his new book Black is the New Green, co-authored by Andrea Hoffman, he explores the $87.3 billion buying power of the affluent African American community. For Burnett this market has been overlooked by many luxury brands due to a lack of diversity in boardrooms. “Race is a big factor not in the sense of racism but that the majority controlling those budgets don’t look like us,” he says. “It is easy to overlook if no one in the room is having that conversation. So we want to educate brands on the power of that audience and ways of approaching them that makes sense.”

In addition to greater diversity in positions of power, Burnett notes that one of the most powerful tools to getting luxury brands to pay attention to the African-American market is hip-hop. “In the mid-‘90s hip-hop played an important part as a coming of age where advertisers embraced hip-hop and realized it was a generational music and not a fad. The people buying most of it were white young men and it opened the eyes of adversities that this was the type of music their consumer group enjoyed.”

Robert Morales recognizes the power of the hip-hop consumer. The 19-year-old CEO of Trap Life Apparel and owner of the R Morales Flagship Boutique in East Harlem, has established a business that’s also serious about giving back to the community. Morales does giveaways to disadvantaged youth and conducts motivational speaking at local schools and community centers. “I try to do things for the community and for youth. Many businesses aren’t from my neighborhood and really don't care. I want to let youth know that the streets are not it and there are other ways to get around that,” he says.

Singer-songwriter, Shaliek’s positive outlet has always been music. After winning multiple times at “Showtime at the Apollo,” he was signed to Universal Records and collaborated with the likes of Alicia Keys, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. The album was eventually shelved due to his strained relationship with close team members. Shaliek recalls that time as a dark period where he almost gave up on his dreams. For a minute it was really difficult. I didn’t know if I wanted to be an artist, songwriter or in the game at all. People around me in my circle said I am an artist and the stage is where I light up and I will regret it if I don’t try. That stuck in my mind and I decided to give it another shot. I feel like now is the time.” Shaliek has gone on to write for DAY26 and Jordan Knight and has released his first single, “The Past” here.

She may not have competed in “Showtime at the Apollo” but Chaka Khan is still a legend, which is why she will be honored at the 8th Annual Spring Gala Concert. The announcement arrives as Khan celebrates 40 years in the business. The evening’s host, Wayne Brady shared his enthusiasm for the diva. “The word legend is used too much nowadays, but not when applied to Chaka Khan. She has a career that triumphs over four decades and she’s as beautiful today as she was the day she started,” he says.

From the great Digga to the legendary Kahn; the women are on top of their game.

The Harlem Arts Alliance is a not for profit arts service organization celebrating 10 years of service to a prestigious list of members such as the Apollo Theater, the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, Columbia University, Harlem Stage (Aaron Davis Hall) and over 850 more cultural/arts institutions and individuals. The weekly column, Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the “A” w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture and entertainment scene in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company, Souleo Enterprises, LLC.