ATLANTA — An illustrious body of business connoisseurs conveyed the paramount importance of financial self-sufficiency, inter-generational wealth creation and legacy building to urban sophisticates during Real Times Media’s celebrated “Titans of Industry” six-city tour that stopped in the Capital of the New South. But the raison d’etre for the tour may have been most succinctly crystallized by the powerful and poignant personal testimony of Dorinda Walker that startled the crowd at the W Midtown Hotel. Walker, the current director of consumer strategy and key initiatives, multicultural marketing, for Prudential U.S Businesses, gave this emotionally-penetrating description of her once-precarious living conditions:
Walker’s great-grandfather was the quintessential embodiment of the American Dream, an immigrant from St. Kitt (a Caribbean nation) and business savant who owned businesses, a mansion and acquired properties in The Hamptons in the early 20th Century – at a time when such things seemed almost nearly unfathomable and unattainable for most blacks. However, after his death in the 1940’s the family experienced a precipitous fall from financial grace.
“By the time my mother was born in 1953, there was no evidence of my great-grandfather’s legacy,” she said as the stunned audience let out a collective groan. “And his great-granddaughter – me – ended up living in the projects as a teenager.
“So it’s really important to me that we have these discussions because we know how to generate wealth” Walker continued. “We know that we should be saving more, spending less, investing and giving back to others. But for some reason, when it comes to inter-generational wealth, we fall short.”
This is the reason for the Titans of Industry colloquium – orchestrated by Real Times Media CEO Hiram Jackson and hosted by esteemed journalist and TV personality Ed Gordon – which is a national tour that seeks to inculcate invaluable financial tools to African American businessmen and women so that we can begin to leverage the trillion-dollar-plus gross national income into viable and sustainable wealth.
Gordon, most famous for his tenure as host of news and political shows at BET, asked the following questions during the seminar: How does a family like Walkers descend from near aristocracy to abject impoverishment? Why is it that most blacks never develop inter-generational wealth at all? And how do blacks close the financial chasm existing between their white counterparts?
Gordon broached the topic of the average gross wealth of blacks vs. their white counterparts, sharing the grotesque statistic from the 2015 African American Financial Experience Prudential that says the average income for the white family is $74,000. “The highest earning black family (on average) is worth only $18,000,” Gordon shared.
“Education is probably one of the great equalizers of our day,” said Dr. William Pickard, the Chairman and CEO of Global Automotive Alliance, LLC. “If we can just get that degree, we have a reasonable chance of getting on that train. We must – we must – have more discipline in our community about ‘fake it until you make it.’ We cannot have all of our assets on our a**.
Prickard ended his thought with a profound pontification, which most people never give thought to: “The rich teach their children to acquire. Middle class people teach their kids to sell. Poor people teach their kids to consume. And that is the endless spiral that you see generation after generation. So I say education and then being reasonable and then practical about our wants and our needs.”
Rodney Branch, senior vice president of product and marketing for Prudential Annuities, shared Prickard’s sentiments when he pontificated that “if your income is less than your outcome, then your upkeep will be your downfall every time,” he said, speaking of the backward mentality of many low income and disenfranchised individuals. “If you make a million dollars a year but spend two million, then you have a problem. The reality is that you are not going to close that gap as fast individually as you can collectively.”
Precious Anderson, founder of the Anderson Firm, LLC, says while she agrees with Pickard that traditional education is important — she graduated from Harvard — she believes that blacks need to take education to another level.
“While I respect education, the landscape has changed dramatically. It is not just about traditional education anymore,” she says. “It’s not about how a professor goes on and on and on. It’s about how do you do it? How do you start a business? Here’s the script. Here’s how you go to the Secretary of State and file your documents. Here’s how you identify what your real claim is. Here’s how you create strategic relationships. Here’s how you work and groove. These are the things that are going to help us. These are the things that helped me, a country girl from a town of mostly dirt roads get to the top echelon in education and business.
Mary Parker, the president and CEO of All (n) 1 Security Services, Inc., concurred with Anderson, but added the importance of “transferring the knowledge.” She conveyed that it is vitally important that successful entrepreneurs share the “pitfalls” that they have been through and “give them the lesson that we’ve been through, so that they can pick up the lessons and move forward.”
It is monumentally important that you have a plan to execute your financial vision, so says Steven A. Davis, former Chairman and CEO of Bob Evans Farms, Inc. “Everything starts with a plan,” he said. “What do they say, ‘if you have a plan but you don’t have an execution behind it, it’s a hope and a wish. You have to get beyond that. Just like when you have mentors in business and your profession; you need to have mentors in financial planning.
“Don’t be afraid to have conversations with people about money,” he added.
Which is, by the way, how Real Times Media CEO Hiram Jackson opened the symposium. Having substantive and concrete conversations about money, being proud of making money, and then developing strategies into growing wealth and transferring it to the next generation.
For more information about the “Titans of Industry,” please log onto http://www.realtimesmedia.com/index.php/contact-us/item/19-legacy-in-motion.
Photos: by Terry Shropshire for Real Times Media and Atlanta Daily World