Lead Story West Edition

New form of money set to take hold in Inglewood

INGLEWOOD – A new form of money is preparing to take Inglewood by storm – that is, if the owners of a new local business have anything to say about it.

Local residents Najah Roberts and Jaci Marie Williams have set up shop on East Manchester Blvd. to broker an alterative form of cash called “cryptocurrency” – essentially online dollars that can be traded, invested or spent like traditional currency.

They say this relatively new form of currency has attracted billions of dollars in investments throughout the world and promises to revolutionize spending and investing, making digital millionaires out of capitalists around the globe.

And they want Inglewood residents – in fact, and all black, brown and disenfranchised people – to get a piece of the pie.

“This is our opportunity to close the wealth gap,” Roberts said during a grand opening event March 9. “It’s for us. It’s for our children. It’s for us to educate this community…”

Roberts and Williams started “Crypto Blockchain Plug,” an investor lounge at 614 East Manchester, with just that purpose in mind – educating residents about the potential profits in cryptocurrencies. Such education, they say, could lead to mass adoption of cryptocurrencies in Inglewood – and beyond.

At Crypto Blockchain Plug, investors can buy, sell and trade more than 2,100 different digital currencies like Bitcoin, Litecoin or Ethereum. These “virtual coins,” securely protected online, are considered by many as solid long-term investments that could increase in value due to the finite number of coins mined and circulated.

That could make cryptocurrency a profitable complement to traditional investments like stocks and bonds, some experts believe.

Roberts said, however, that millionaires are not made overnight.

“It’s not about ‘get rich quick’, this is about a process,” she said. “It is incredible when you really know what the coins do or the tokens do or what the companies do behind (the cryptocurrencies).”

Experts say one of the main uses of cryptocurrencies is to transfer “money” instantly, specifically international transfers. They also are accepted for payment by thousands of online retailers like Microsoft, Cheapair.com, a travel booking website, and Etsy, a popular e-commerce marketplace for handmade and vintage items.

In fact, some experts believe that cryptocurrencies and the programming technology behind them are the future of all digital payments. These currencies also can be transferred around the world independent of the central banking system, which backs traditional currencies like the U.S. dollar.

This relatively new form of investment has grown popular worldwide because of the secure peer-to-peer technology – called a “blockchain” – and because of the opportunity for investors to become cryptocurrency millionaires.

The cryptocurrency scene is not without its skeptics, however, many of whom say that it’s largely a place for criminals to launder money. But Roberts said a division of the U.S. Treasury Department is set up to root out the “bad actors.”

As such complexities abound, community workshops will be key to orienting Inglewood residents about crypto in the short run, Williams said.

“Just educating, because this community doesn’t know about crypto. If they do, it’s about Bitcoin and it’s very fear-based,” she said. “People think it’s very funny money or that’s a scam or I missed the boat… It’s about so much more. It’s about the technology that the crypto runs on. It’s about understanding the deeper level of it…”

Both Roberts and Williams are cryptocurrency investors who say they’re in it for the long term, even as cryptocurrencies have dropped significantly from their all-time highs in 2017 and entered what they call “bear market.”

“Inglewood is up-and-coming. There are so many things that are happening in Inglewood,” Roberts said. “The new stadium is coming. The Clippers are (hopefully) coming with the arena. There’s lots of changes and Inglewood is a prime place.”

Roberts said Crypto Blockchain Plug also offers a crypto ATM, community lounge, retail store, co-working space, art exhibit and kids coding and gaming room.

Williams and Roberts also are working with local businesses like barbershops and coffee shops to help them accept Bitcoin as an alternative form of in-person payment.

“To the community, this is our space, for us to be able to collaborate, get together with linked-minded people,” Roberts said. “What I realize is that [crypto] gets a bad rap… But what I want to begin to make public is that we are real people, with real causes.”