Darnell Ferguson, 29, has had one heck of a journey to becoming the man he is today. He's gone from being homeless and incarcerated, to owning 3 restaurants. He knows exactly what his purpose is and has persevered through it all to make his dreams come true.
His journey started his junior year of high school when he transferred from his high school to a local vocational school in Columbus, Ohio that offered culinary arts courses: “I was failing out of high school, then I ended up switching high schools to a vocational school. So I went to vocational school for culinary arts and thought that if I don’t like it, at least I’ll be able to eat good… That was also at the time when Emeril [TV celebrity chef] was huge and I liked what he was doing, so that was one thing that really caught my eye… I liked the uniforms, the professionalism, I liked everything that wasn’t like what I was used to.”
Photo Source:Insider Louisville
After graduating, he studied at Sullivan University in Louisville, Kentucky. Ferguson arrived at school eager to start, but learned that he could only get partial aid. As a result, he was only able to enroll in a few evening courses and considered dropping out. However, he decided to push forward and excelled. He did so well that he was one of 22 chefs (only two of which were black) chosen out of thousands to be a part of the 2008 Olympic Team in Beijing, China.
Although things were going well for Ferguson, he still needed money to survive and turned to selling drugs to support himself. Upon graduation, he instead chose to continue selling drugs rather than pursue a career in culinary arts. He wound up being arrested eight times in three months. As a result, he lost all of his possessions and was evicted from his home.
“The last time getting locked up, I remembered being in class and them talking about being a statistic and how once you get in the system you can’t get out… I started thinking that now I’m the guy that I didn’t want to be… That’s when I told myself that I was going to get serious about something I know that I can do, which is cooking…”
Photo Source: Southeast Outlook
Darnell abandoned selling drugs and started taking jobs at local restaurants around Louisville. This experience led him to learn something new about himself – he had a bad temper. Things became so bad at his job that he and his boss had one argument that almost became physical. That's when he knew something had to give.
“I had anger issues… The big issue was that I was controlled by it… You could say one little thing to me and I would snap because I didn’t have control over myself… So therefore we would get into it all the time… I became so tired that I asked someone if there was a church around here that I could go to. I went to Southeast Christian and ever since then everything changed for me. I started going to church, starting reading about God because for me, I didn’t know God was real… So that for me was a shock… I wish I would have known this a long time ago but I wouldn’t have listened then, even if you told me… That’s just the truth about it.”
Darnell lost his job, but he found God. Unemployed for a year, he focused on church and opening his own restaurants. He eventually found two investors, but one canceled before he could secure his investment capital, causing him to lose hope. A few months later he ran into a friend who owned a restaurant that only served lunch and dinner. He offered Ferguson to lease the space for breakfast – a practice called “Pop-Up”. For his skill throughout his cooking career and during the Beijing Olympics, Ferguson was titled a “Super-Chef,” which became the inspiration for the name of the “Pop-Up” - SuperChefs.
He quickly became known for his work and within months, other restaurant owners were were reaching out to him about opening “Pop-Ups” in their restaurants – one being the same boss that fired him.
In 2015, Darnell decided to expand and open his own full-service restaurant. After partnering with a friend from college and securing an investor, his dream became a reality on July 9, 2015. Since then, Ferguson has added two more restaurants and four “Pop-Up” locations.
Image Credit: http://www.breakfastwithnick.c...
Ferguson prides himself in serving “high-end” food for an affordable price. The menu items are also centered around comic book themes to make things casual and fun.
Image Credit: http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos...
Image Credit: http://www.columbusunderground...
Darnell has been through a lot in his young life and is proud of the man he is, but he never forgets where he came from. He always gives honor to God and gives back to his community, giving motivational speeches in his spare time and bringing kids from the West End of Louisville to SuperChefs to tour the restaurant.
“The journey is the success. Most people think the destination is the success. Don’t let today be taken for granted… Enjoy the journey… Everyone is so focused on the destination… You have to enjoy what’s happening because the growth is the best part.”
Best Posts in Forum: Career, Work, Finances and Education
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100 Percent Of Seniors At Chicago School Admitted To College For 7th Year In A Row
These young men at Urban Prep Charter Academy are what black excellence looks like
Black Voices Associate Editor, The Huffington Post
For the seventh consecutive year, Urban Prep Charter Academy is keeping it one hundred.
Every senior at the predominantly black, all-boys charter school in Chicago
has committed to a four-year college or university.
At the school’s three campuses combined,
the class of 2016 has been admitted to more than 220 schools.
“It’s a great day,” Rudolph Long, who’s attending Hampton University,
told CBS Chicago on Urban Prep’s college signing day on Tuesday.
“I feel great. We all made it.
We all come from good environments so to see us all going to college is nice.”
Overall, the senior class has received more than 1,500 college admissions
and has been offered more than $15 million in scholarships and grants,
according to CBS Chicago. Founder and CEO of Urban Prep Tim King said
the students have been admitted to schools all over the country,
including Georgetown University, Yale University, Morehouse College,
among other schools. King tweeted a photo of some of the seniors at signing day.
Since 2010, every senior class has had 100 percent of their students admitted to college,
the school’s website says. The school’s motto is “We Believe,” which serves as a reminder
“that Urban Prep students will not fall into the trap of negative stereotypes and low expectations,”
the school’s website says.
“Every year, I’m just wowed by these young men, by what they are doing,” King told CBS Chicago.
“We started Urban Prep with the goal of moving the needle when it comes to black male achievement
and these guys proved to me, the city and the world every year,
that we did the right thing when we founded Urban Prep ten years ago.”
Bravo to these young men!
In Harlem, a Shelter That Gives Young Men the Tools to Succeed
Nestled on a residential block in Harlem, Create Young Adult Residenceslooks like any other apartment building. A fire escape snakes up its rust-colored facade.
Throughout the day, young men who live in the building, on West 128th Street, come and go, heading to and from school, jobs and neighborhood restaurants like Red Rooster Harlem and Sylvia’s.
Create, a 50-bed transitional housing program, serves men 18 to 25, many of whom have recently aged out of the foster care system. Its residents are encouraged to study or to work, and to find permanent housing within nine months. The support system has proved invaluable to many.
Residents playing video games at the shelter, which has 50 beds and is usually full.CreditEdu Bayer for The New York Times
After being in foster care and enduring a tumultuous life with his adoptive family, Rymale Benjamin, 21, came to Create after spending three weeks at the 30th Street Men’s Shelter in Manhattan.
“At first, I looked around and thought someone had invited me to their house,” he said. “I thought, This place is nice; it’s in a good area. I was shocked it was a shelter.”
Before it became Create, the building had been abandoned. Benedict Taylor, a Franciscan friar at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Midtown Manhattan, and Ralph Perez, a lay member, took over the building in 1984, making it one of three residential housing facilities in the city associated with Create Inc., a nonprofit organization that includes a drug-treatment center and a food pantry.
The men had been serving the neighborhood since the 1960s, when Mr. Perez was still in college. They began their first residential drug-addiction recovery program there in 1973, during the heroin epidemic that was ravaging New York City.
Ralph Perez, a lay member of St. Francis of Assisi Church in Manhattan, and Benedict Taylor, a Franciscan friar, took over the building that is now Create in 1984. CreditEdu Bayer for The New York Times
“There were a lot of people coming to our doors who didn’t necessarily have drug problems,” Mr. Perez said recently. “But they were still homeless and had nowhere to go.”
In 1983, Mr. Perez and Father Taylor expanded their operation, taking over a three-story tenement building across the street from the rehabilitation center. They converted it into a 19-bed shelter for homeless men, the city’s first such community-based and -operated shelter financed with city and state funds, according to a news release at the time.
Father Taylor holding a photo of himself and Mr. Perez from the 1970s, when they began their first residential drug-addiction recovery program in Harlem. CreditEdu Bayer for The New York Times
In 1984, Father Taylor and Mr. Perez took over another abandoned four-story building, this one on West 128th Street. Working with a group of architects, Mr. Perez helped design the dormitory space. He wanted the residents to feel at home in their rooms, he said, so each door got its own doorbell.
“It was about being more than ‘a hot and a cot,’” Mr. Perez said, referring to the standard warm meal and bed. “We wanted to help transition them into independent living. That’s what we thought was most important.”
Oumar Camara, 19, left, and Mr. Benjamin. Mr. Benjamin said that when he first came to Create, he found it so nice that he “looked around and thought someone had invited me to their house.” CreditEdu Bayer for The New York Times
Today, that shelter is usually at full capacity. Brian Bailey, the director, says he receives five to 10 requests for a bed each day.
Since 2009, Create, which is affiliated with Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New York, one of the eight organizations supported by The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund, has been home to nine recipients profiled over the years during the fund’s annual campaign. Combined, they have received almost $3,000.
Mr. Benjamin in his room. The uniform he wears for his job as a security guard is on the wall.CreditEdu Bayer for The New York Times.
One recipient this year, Moussa Konate, 21, a college student, shares a third-floor room that overlooks the back garden. Mr. Konate, who is Muslim, keeps an aqua-and-yellow prayer mat, a parting gift from his mother when he left Mali, at the head of his bed.
“This is the only shelter where I feel like I am home,” said Mr. Konate, who has stayed in two other city shelters. “I leave for work and come back to sleep. And when I’m back, I feel like I’m home.”
Moussa Konate, 21, in his room at Create. “This is the only shelter where I feel like I am home,” he said.CreditHarrison Hill for The New York Times
Create provides tenants with services like job-skills training, educational support and the opportunity to gain work experience. “Without that, it’s a revolving door,” Mr. Perez said, “winding right back to homelessness.”
Father Taylor added: “The program gives people the time and space to recover at their own pace. It’s not rushed.”
Idi Diallo in the back yard of Create last year. He is now studying business accounting in California.CreditEmon Hassan for The New York Times
Mayor Bill de Blasio has said that he was slow to recognize New York’s homelessness crisis and that a “blood-and-guts war strategy” is necessary to address it. The city provides shelter to about 60,000 people nightly, through 290 shelters and 185 so-called cluster sites, which are private buildings with apartments reserved for homeless families with children. Commercial hotels fill the gap.
After toddler sisters died last year from severe burns caused by radiator steam at a South Bronx cluster site, Mr. de Blasio announced in February a plan to close all cluster sites by 2021 and end all commercial hotel use two years after that, while allocating $300 million to open 90 new shelters.
Mr. Camara with his science books in his room. He plans to graduate high school in June.CreditEdu Bayer for The New York Times
Since the announcement, about 350 apartments have been closed, and four new shelters for families with children have opened with 291 total units, according to the Department of Social Services. Mr. de Blasio announced on Tuesday that the city would convert 800 apartments at cluster sites, mostly in the Bronx, into affordable housing. The change could place about 3,000 people into permanent housing.
The mayor’s plan from February also includes five additional “purpose-built shelter projects,” which, much like Create, would be tailored to residents’ needs. Today, Create is the only transitional housing program in the city designed specifically for young men.
G. Stephanie Ali, the vocation coordinator at Create, and Brian Bailey, its director. CreditEdu Bayer for The New York Times
G. Stephanie Ali, the vocation coordinator at Create, says the program provides a unique space to enable young men to gain their footing and transition into a permanent setting. Aspiring painters, novelists, basketball players, engineers, rap artists and producers have passed through the halls over the years, she said.
“Oftentimes at this age, young men feel they should be doing more,” Ms. Ali said, adding that overwhelming possibilities can hinder residents from focusing on goals. “So we’re there to help them see the broader scope of what’s out there and get them engaged in education and employment to meet that ultimate goal of housing.”
A line for a Create Inc. food pantry last month. CreditEdu Bayer for The New York Times
Soon after Idi Diallo, 21, a soccer player from Ivory Coast moved to New York, he found himself sleeping in the prayer hall of a mosque. After coming to Create, he later moved into his own apartment in the Bronx. He is now enrolled at Long Beach City College in California, studying business accounting.
“I can’t even describe how much Create and all the wonderful people there have helped me,” Mr. Diallo said recently. “Today, I look back on it as my new start. Moving there was the beginning of my success.”
Lunchtime at Create. The shelter is “about being more than ‘a hot and a cot,’” said Mr. Perez, one of the founders, referring to the standard warm meal and bed. CreditEdu Bayer for The New York Times
Oumar Camara, 19, seeks a similar happy ending. He came to the city from Mali’s capital, Bamako, four years ago. At the time, he had an hour between the end of high school and the start of his full-time cleaning and dishwashing job. Often, he did not return to the room he shared in Harlem until 4 a.m., just a few hours before school began.
He moved to Create in March. A burden was lifted when he no longer had to pay $500 a month in rent and utilities, which allowed him to quit his job and focus on school. He is now on track to graduate in June.
“Now I want to go to college, get a career and have a better life,” Mr. Camara said, adding that he plans to pursue a degree in structural engineering.
On Tuesday, Mr. Camara and Mr. Konate received keys to a two-bedroom apartment in Irvington, N.J. They will move into their new home as early as Friday.
- Thread: Confidence in Blackness
Obama Urges Howard Graduates To ‘Be Confident In Your Blackness’
“Passion is vital but you have to have a strategy. And your plan better include voting.”
I agree with 9/10 his message to the graduates.
President Barack Obama urged graduates to continue the work of improving the lives of African Americans during his commencement address at Howard University on Saturday.
President Barack Obama urged Howard University’s class of 2016 on Saturday to “be confident in [their] blackness” and continue past generations’ work to improve the lives of African Americans in the U.S.
After opening his address on the progress African Americans have made, Obama spent a good portion of his speech discussing the importance of being black and the challenges facing graduates of Howard, one the country’s historically black universities.
Obama, who wrote about being black while raised by a white mother and grandparents, told the graduates the notion of what it meant to be black in America had changed since he graduated college.
“Be confident in your heritage, be confident in your blackness,” the president said. “One of the great changes that’s occurred in the country since I was your age is the realization there’s no one way to be black, take it from someone who’s seen both sides of the debate about whether I’m black or not.”
“The past couple of months I’ve had lunch with the Queen of England and hosted Kendrick Lamar in the Oval Office,” he continued. “There’s no straightjacket, there’s no constraint, there’s no litmus test for authenticity.”
But being black also comes with a responsibility to address injustice in the world, Obama said.
Remember the tie that does bind us as African Americans and that is our particular awareness of injustice and unfairness and struggle.
“Even as we each embrace our own beautiful and unique and valid versions of our blackness, remember the tie that does bind us as African Americans and that is our particular awareness of injustice and unfairness and struggle,” Obama told the students. “That means we cannot sleepwalk through life. We cannot be ignorant of history. We can’t meet the world with a sense of entitlement.
“That’s a pet peeve of mine, people who’ve been successful and don’t realize they’ve been lucky, that God may have blessed them,” he added. “It wasn’t nothing you did, so don’t have an attitude.”
The president noted that the unemployment rate remains higher among African Americans than their white counterparts and there was still a racial achievement gap in schools. The Treasury Department has announced that Harriet Tubman would appear on the $20 bill, but Obama noted that black women continue to be paid significantly less than white men.
“Harriet Tubman may be going on the 20, but we’ve still got a gender gap when a black woman working full time still earns just 66 percent of what a white man gets paid,” he said.
Obama called on activists to vote in order to fix these problems. He noted there were still too many barriers to voting and said there was a “legacy” of blocking people from voting and a reason why some officials had an interest in blocking voters from the ballot box. But the president also expressed frustration that voter turnout in the 2014 midterm elections was so low.
“Passion is vital but you have to have a strategy,” he said. “And your plan better include voting. Not just some of the time, but all of the time.”
Obama implored graduates to vote not just for their president, but in their local elections as well. He framed the importance of voting through the legacy of previous generations of African Americans, who were subject to poll taxes and literacy tests in order to vote.
“You don’t have to risk your life to cast a ballot, other people already did that for you,” the president said.
Beyond voting, Obama said activists had to be willing to compromise if they wanted to achieve change, echoing comments he made last month while traveling in London.
“Change requires more than just speaking out, it requires listening as well. In particular it requires listening to those with whom you disagree and being prepared to compromise,” he said. “”Even when you are 100 percent right, this is hard to explain sometimes, you can be completely right and you are still going to engage folks who disagree with you.”
Obama, who often speaks about how change is slow and incremental, also said that refusing to compromise with those who disagree would lead activists to feel good about themselves, but not change.
The president told the students that listening also means that activists shouldn’t interrupt politicians’ rallies — a tactic the Black Lives Matter movement frequently uses — and that controversial speakers shouldn’t be disinvited from speaking on college campuses.
“As my grandmother used to tell me, every time a fool speaks, they are just advertising their own ignorance,” he said.
I just came out at work earlier this year. My plan from the beginning was to attain some level of success and job security before I outed myself. It took 10 years to do that. Appearantly being black in coorprate America and in the construction industry comes with its own challenges.
I'm not the type to lie, so I got really good at deflecting questions about my personal life and keeping everything professional. However, those more personal relationships are needed to move up corporate ladders. For example, if I never bring my mate to any office functions it looks like I don't like the job or Ive got something to hide. How can I be put in positions of confidentiality and trust if I appear shady with parts of my life? Plus after so long the only person I would be fooling is myself.
I came out in casual conversation to my boss and several coworkers I'm cool with. No big speech, no awkwardness, just a matter of fact. I've become so much closer and relaxed with everyone since. I even brought a date to a company dinner.
But then I think what about the ones who did not get out. Where did they go. If not Harvard did they get into Morehouse or Hampton? Or what about their own parents they also worked hard why were they not able to get out before they had kids? Then I think about our ancestors. What about them? I know damn well they work really hard. Why did they not get to see the fruit of their hard work--SLAVERY.
Theses stories sometime ignore the institutional hurdles we face trying to make it. I have a problem w/ this because this should be the norm not the exception. It also feeds into the mentality that poor people are poor because their lazy don't want to work. "If they only would work hard they could be rich". All the poor ppl I know have at least 2 jobs with a college degree.
And really any job is based on an employer's sense of you.They have the discretion to choose or pass over you with no explanation.Any success anyone has ever had is owed,on some level,to someone giving them a break.Hard Work will (hopefully) get you in the position to be noticed by anyone who can open doors for the next level.
To each his own...
I just don't think that it is necessary. For all jobs I've had, I keep it professional and then go home. I don't bring my outside life to work with me. One masculine Latino dude just casually let it roll off his tongue that he was gay and I was shocked. I didn't see that coming then one co-worker of ours started going around asking all us other guys if we were gay since she felt like these days you cannot tell who is and who is not anymore.
- Thread: Library Attendance
Library Attendance Is Declining. Here’s Why
Quick aside, Librarians and Veterinarians are just two careers in extremely high demand for people of color and if you're still undecided or know someone who is looking towards the future, these are are both rewarding and well paying options.
For centuries, libraries have simply been places that house books. This meaning of the word is embedded right within it; the Old French librairie, used in the 14th century, means “collection of books.” An image of dusty stacks comes to mind, but, of course, the form a book can take is changing, and the ways we learn are changing along with it.
A new Pew study highlighting who uses libraries, how frequently they use them, and what they use them for, reflects these developments.
The takeaway highlighted by Pew: People who go to libraries identify as “lifelong learners,” and people who identify as “lifelong learners” are more likely to visit a library than people who do not. A smattering of stats elucidate this point. Library users, for example, are “more likely to pursue personal learning activities,” and “more likely to cite positive impacts from personal learning.”
Learning doesn’t necessarily mean reading books anymore, however. Educational courses, talks and videos are all methods that appeal to a variety of learning types, and reading is only one way to to acquire new knowledge or a new skill. A kinesthetic learner may benefit from a performance, an auditory learner from a talk, a visual learner from a film or book.
To accommodate these different needs — as well as visitors’ range of income levels — libraries have expanded their purpose to include community events and free Internet use; however, according to the Pew study, many visitors aren’t aware that these services are available. The survey notes that while 62 percent of libraries offer online career and job-related resources, 38 percent of adults don’t know whether their library offers them. Likewise, 35 percent of libraries offer high school equivalency classes, and nearly half of adults don’t know whether their libraries offer them. The numbers are similar for programs on starting a new business, online programs that certify people who’ve mastered a new skill, and ebook borrowing.
The latter is an especially glaring example of the dissonance between services provided and knowledge of those services. While 90 percent of libraries offer ebook lending, 22 percent of adults say they don’t know whether their library offers ebooks, and 16 percent say their library does not offer ebooks.
This disparity could be due to the fact that ebook reading isn’t quite as popular as predicted; strain from reading on a screen is proven to hinder learning, and print books are actually preferred, even among digital natives.
Still, librarians who’ve poured resources — and scant funding — into new initiatives may wince at these numbers. As The Atlantic suggested in a response to the Pew study, it could be that more funding may help librarians attract more attendees, as attendance has declined by 9 percent since 2012. This figure is bolstered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, which reported an 8.2 percent decrease in in-person visits since a peak in 2009. But, the study notes, virtual visits aren’t logged as carefully, so it could be that library-goers — who statistically are a tech-savvy set — are more likely to conduct their visits online.
Still, many of the services provided by libraries are only available in-person, and advertising those services costs money. The Atlantic writer Robinson Meyer observed, “In other words, there’s empirical evidence that usage tracks investment. If libraries receive more public funds, more people use them.”
This makes sense. If libraries are providing the services that visitors want — learning resources that can be read, viewed, and experienced — then upping attendance is a matter of getting the word out about exactly what is available.
Libraries have evolved into much more than houses of books, but their original purpose remains intact, and sacred to attendees (in a 2014 study, 55 percent of respondents said losing a library would be a blow to their community). To preserve reading materials, and to promote new ways of learning, would-be visitors must first learn just what a library can be for.
- Thread: Just A Thought About Investing
If you look or know the history of Cypher Ave, you would know that I 've on occasion pushed investing vs. just having money sit in a savings account. I'm no expert but know the importance financial diversification. I know investing scares some people but the basics are not that complicated. Anywho I wanted to share a screen shot of my limited portfolio to show you don't have to be a baller (I'm far from it) to invest in something.
Qty is the number of shares I purchased way back when.
Avg Price is the cost per share.
Cost Basis is the total of my purchase of that stock at that time.
Total G/L is the amount of gain($) made.
Market Value is the current amount/value of the stock if I were to sell.
Notice how 'Total G/L' is green, that means I made money by doing nothing. Also notice how Jetblue was only $4.44 per share. Keep in mind these stocks were not purchased in one sitting but over months when I had funds available. The sooner you start the sooner you can grow your money.
- Thread: Faking It Until You Make It
As many of you know, I work in the International Relations / Foreign Policy field and have a few advanced credential to match but I have never actually worked in the field of my credentials because I have been recruiting people and convincing people that the Foreign Service might be the job for them. I have the title of diplomat but I have never actually worked in that capacity, I have mostly been a teacher and spokesman. Well that is all about to change, I received my first political officer orders. I am preparing to move me and my entire life to a foreign country for the next few years and have been receiving these professional development sessions where my "mentor" basically told me to FAKE IT UNTIL I MAKE IT. Is it me or is that some bullshit ass advice?
Have any of you faked it until you made it?
I have to agree with what others have said it depends on what carrier field you're in whether or not you have protections at work or even what state you live in. In many states it's still legal for a company to fire you if they dislike your sexual orientation. So it would be wise to check state and local laws as well as company policy. It also depends on if you're a public figure or not. If you're in politics, pro-sports, acting, or some other high profile field coming out is going to negatively impact your career no matter what stage you come out if you're black. If you're white you're whiteness will provide a degree of insulation from any blowback from homophobes. That said I think being successful in your career provide you with some protection because people may overlook the fact they find your sexuality objectionable because you're good at what you do. On the other hand it may not. You may actually have more too loose if you do become successful then come out. This is one of those things where you gotta go with your gut. There is no right or wrong answer.
My company is very gay friendly but I don't think my local branch actually is. There's videos talking about it and anti harassment policies and sign offs that are required across the board. However I'm not going to blab it out.
I don't see any point in me talking about it now. I hope to get married but even after that I probably won't talk about my husband and my vacations much at work.
It'll be something that casually rolls out of my mouth and I'll keep it moving. I'm not going to be hiding it forever but I don't see talking about it without context or relevance.
- Thread: Books for Black Boys
Black Boys’ Need for Black Male Mentorship
My Man Blue by Nikki Grimes is a compilation of poems that tell the story of Damon’s need for a positive Black male role model in his life. With Blue’s mentorship, Damon believes that he can accomplish almost anything.
Black Boys on the Move
The exciting book Brothers of the Knight written by Debbie Allen was adapted from the fairytale The Twelve Dancing Princesses. The Rev. Knight has 12 energetic sons who love to dance all night without him knowing. When he sees them in the mornings, he finds that their sneakers are torn, and it is a complete mystery to him what his sons are up to. Perhaps the nanny he hires will find out.
They went from serving time to serving customers in their own restaurant.
Wrongfully convicted New Yorkers Derrick Hamilton and Shabaka Shakur met in prison while serving time for murders they didn’t commit — now they’re dishing out tuna tartare, crab cake and sirloins at their new restaurant and bar, Brownstone, in Downtown Brooklyn.
“I had somebody tell me they thought I would be in the restaurant business and I told them they were crazy,” Hamilton, who like Shakur, is now exonerated, tells the Daily News.
He and Shakur became self-taught lawyers at Auburn Correctional Facility in Central New York where they worked tirelessly toward their release. Both were victims of disgraced former NYPD detective Louis Scarcella who allegedly coerced witnesses, fabricated evidence and concealed proof of defendants’ innocence.
Hamilton, now 51, was convicted for murder in 1992 after being charged with shooting a man named Nathaniel Cash in Bedford-Stuyvesant. He spent 20 years behind bars, and was released in 2011, before being exonerated last year.Shakur, now 52, spent 27 years in jail after a jury found him guilty in 1989 of a double homicide. He was also freed last year.
The men spent most of their lives fighting for survival in jail, relentlessly writing letters to lawyers and just about anyone who would read them. Despite the grave injustice they faced, the pair show no bitterness.
“I believe in people,” says Shakur. “I knew it was a matter of time before someone who really cared about the justice system would do something about it. It was a waiting game.”
Their restaurant is a nod to Brooklyn, the same borough they were falsely charged in. There’s a massive mural of the Brooklyn bridge leading into the dining room with the welcoming words: “Come in as a stranger, leave as a friend.”
They wanted the sprawling space to feel like the neighborhood bar from the sitcom “Cheers.”
“We never ran away from Brooklyn because of what happened,” says Hamilton. “You’re either part of the problem or part of the solution.”
That means a commitment to helping ex-cons get jobs. Three are currently employed at the eatery.
“We want to give these guys an opportunity. They’ve been our hardest workers,” says Hamilton.
Before jail, Hamilton worked as a mechanic’s assistant prior to opening a unisex hair salon in New Haven, Connecticut where he was arrested. Shakur worked registering deeds and mortgages.
The only experience they had in food service was working in a prison commissary.
“I never got past the serving line,” Hamilton, who says he spent most of his time in the library with legal books, admits.
Shakur started off scrubbing pots and pans and worked his way up to cooking quick meals like burgers and chili in the kitchen.
“You can imagine how many pots and pans I was scrubbing with burnt food,” Shakur says. “It’s the most messy and worst job in the mess hall, but they usually start you as that and then you move up until you get a better position.”
They both agree that freedom tastes delicious.
The first meal Hamilton ate as a free man was Red Lobster’s “Ultimate Feast” — a seafood medley of lobster, crab legs and shrimp scampi.
Shakur’s was a humble turkey sandwich from a deli near the jail.
“I didn’t get nothing fancy,” he says. “I still had prison clothes on. I went into a restaurant to change.”
Now they’re feasting on menu delights at Brownstone such as the teriyaki ginger chili chicken wings ($10), fried calamari ($12) and pan-seared salmon ($20).
“I feel like Jay Z when he brought Barclays to Brooklyn,” says Shakur.
While he may feel like a big shot, Shakur says he and Hamilton are getting their hands dirty too.
“Even as owners we have washed dishes, we carried plates out here, we swept and mopped. We’ve done everything,” he says.
Hamilton chimes in: “When the party is over, we’re the cleaning crew.”
There’s a DJ on weekends and a Happy Hour menu with drinks under $5. They hire security guards on weekends to ensure safety.
“It’s a work in progress,” says Hamilton. “You gotta work hard. Nobody’s given us anything. Every struggle you go through is a lesson learned.”
I don't think it needs to be known at all. At the same time, I don't think that you need to go above and beyond to hide it either. At my job people may have suspicions, but I never actually have that conversation with anyone because I don't work with anyone who I'm close with like that. I go to work, mind my business, and then go home. My work persona is pretty private and my interactions are very surfaced anyway.
- Thread: Just A Thought About Investing
The stock market has been doing unusually awesome in the past few years. if you dont know what to buy look up ETFs. also if you have more than $5,000 to "play" with look up trading on margin. Personally I like TD Ameritrade because their mobile software is better than anything else ive seen.
My dating life doesn't really come up at work so it's never been an issue. But when I've befriended coworkers I usually let them know at some point, so long as it comes organically in conversation. There've been a couple of awkward moments when I ran into one of my students (I was a registrar) at a local club or bar, but it was less about them knowing my sexuality and more about maintaining the proper boundaries for my job. They respected that and I took them on as mentees.
My first job out of college was the Military and I couldn't be known, it was during DADT. When I got out of the service I worked in the legal field and only a few people knew. My current job know as a diplomat, political officer, I am known because I have a husband and that is hard to hide in my kind of work. I came out by putting our picture on my desk and most people noticed it the first few days.
I honestly don't think its necessary and it only becomes necessary when it starts to interfere with your happiness and life. People don't realize that keeping secrets and holding in shame is harmful to ones health. If if safe for you to be open at work I say do it because then you don't have to walk around with baggage.
- Thread: The New Guy...
Concentrate on doing a good job and the decent people will judge you on that, not on your personal life. The rest, fuck them. Again, JMHO.
*also, if you know someone already has 'suspicions', then that one, and the ones who will judge you negatively are already gossiping and judging you now behind your back-you can almost be sure of that. That is how those kind are. You probably won't lose much. And the worry about what these people think, them 'distancing' themselves from you, is causing you to 'distance' yourself from other gay guys who are not your enemy. Is that what you really want? Just something to think about.
I went to a HBCU in Atlanta and being openly back then was unheard of...even at or near Morehouse. It was until around 10 years ago that it became more pronounced and even then it was controversial because the Out men were all flamboyant and wanted to dress like women, the schools even tried to impose dress codes.
Yes increasingly for any group(unless you are born with a silver spoon in your mouth) you have to word hard as well as have some lucky breaks, or even better, the ability to see and take advantage of opportunities when they arise. It is not just opportunity-it is the ability to see and realize an opportunity is there, and then to seize it and act upon it. It is easier for whites of course, but not as easy as it was and it is getting worse for everyone as society loses the middle class and increasingly becomes a bifurcated society with fewer 'haves', and many many more 'have nots'.
Also having a mentor to give you career advice goes a long way.
I had one student openly ask in a group of girls recently if I had a boyfriend. And I replied "no." Then if I had a girlfriend. And I replied "no." If I liked men. And I replied "no." Then she asked do you like girls. And I said "no." Then I asked "why is this information helpful for you in anyway shape or form?" Then she just left me alone afterwards. I'm actually glad that she was so straightforward though, because I hate when people are thinking things, will talk for days about you behind your back but never ask, or create their own stories.
That's actually a good idea. I feel like a lot of gay men do that. Part of the reason they're super successful is because they don't want anyone to give them shit for being gay. Plus, it really matters if you're in a setting where you don't have job protections.
I was apart of a community service program in college where we would go to local schools and education programs to tutor and mentor kids. I also briefly was an adviser at a high school. It really depends on you on how open you are to to share your personal life. Kids are very inquisitive especially if they see an highly educated young black male (its surprisingly rare for some of them to even see this) they feel they can relate to and want to know Everything about you lol. They will want to know if your dating or seeing anyone but I told my kids I was single and working on school and make money they understood. But they prob though I was just f*** randoms lol smh. I know when I was dealing with urban high school students one girl tried to openly flirt with me in Spanish (her teacher caught on right away and stepped in). One boy asked did I go to the strip club (I acted like I didnt hear the question). Only one HS boy asked if I was gay (I lied and said no) but I think he secretly had a crush on me cause he called me his baby once and thought I didn't hear it smh. So its just up to you on how much you choose to reveal.
Both have benefits and different levels of responsibility but... These folks out here talmbout "I'm renting because I may leave [Insert City X here]." but have been living in [City X] for 6 years and haven't even looked at employment at another city or saved enough to move away from where they are.... You may as well buy. Even if it's a one bedroom condo.
Now if you just don't want to have the overhead of a mortgage, I totally understand. There's insurance, plumbing, appliances, yard work... That's all on you but you have a consistent payment and unless you have a money pit house/condo most people won't be replacing an hvac or stove every year. And you can always get used appliances on the low low.
Also markets vary so buying in Atlanta may not be ideal but renting in Jackson, MS may not be ideal. There's a lot of variables to consider.
After winning a $52 million lottery jackpot in 2010, Miguel Pilgram used his winnings to launch his own real estate company, The Pilgram Group, and invest in properties across South Florida. Now, the successful businessman is committed to reviving Sistrunk Boulevard, a notorious corridor in downtown Fort Lauderdale once known as a thriving Main Street for African Americans.
Known as the “historical heartbeat of Fort Lauderdale’s oldest black community,” Sistrunk Boulevard runs through the city’s black business district. It was named after James Sistrunk, a black physician who helped establish the first African American hospital in Broward County in 1938. During this time, segregation laws banned African Americans who lived west of the tracks from crossing over to the east side after dark.
After desegregation, Sistrunk Boulevard gradually declined into an area plagued by gun violence and riddled with drugs and abandoned buildings. To restore the distressed community to its original days of glory, Pilgram has purchased three buildings and plans to build a jazz lounge, blues lounge, restaurants, and a center for performing arts.
“For me, it’s [about] preserving the community as a whole,” Pilgram told an NBC local affiliate station in South Florida, adding that Sistrunk was once a hub of “success for businessmen.”
According to community activist and legal specialist Edduard Prince, foreign developers are “drooling” to invest in Sistrunk. However, far too often, areas like Sistrunk are then stripped of their cultural identity while native residents are pushed out through gentrification.
“The black residents of the community know that they’re in [a] prime location, they know that they’ve been fighting for years, and developers are drooling over the property,” Prince told the station.
Pilgram’s plan for development, however, is to preserve the area for local residents. “I was raised in a similar environment,” he told The Sun-Sentinel. “There is a need, and in my mind, an obligation, to invest there.”
This is a long but very good read!
It was a dream job, the type of assignment that could make or break the career of an ambitious executive with an eye toward the top. “It was my first big promotion,” says Bernard J. Tyson, the 57-year-old CEO of Kaiser Permanente, a health care company with nearly $60 billion in annual revenue. The year was 1992, and Tyson, then in his early thirties, had been named administrator of one of Kaiser’s newest hospitals, in Santa Rosa, Calif. “Everyone knew this was the hospital to lead,” he says.
His physician partner, an elderly white gentleman named Dr. Richard Stein, was less excited by the news. “It was one of those Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner sort of welcomes,” Tyson recalls. And it went downhill from there. The two men were constantly at odds, unable to collaborate, with most conversations ending in angry standoffs. “He would say something, and I would react,” says Tyson. “It was the most difficult relationship I have ever had.” Failure seemed inevitable.
One day Stein invited Tyson for a walk. “He said, ‘I have to confess something to you, something that might end our relationship,’ ” Tyson recalls. “I have never worked with a black man like this.” He meant as a peer. Stein, it seems, didn’t know what to say, how to act, what to expect. Tyson saw it for the opening it was. “It was at that moment I realized that the majority of the population doesn’t have any sort of mental road map for how to relate to and work with someone different from themselves.”
Tyson credits Stein with the courage to open up about race. It changed the trajectory of their relationship and their work together, helping Tyson fine-tune a philosophy of inclusion that he believes can inspire empathy and courage within the organization he now runs—one that employs 180,000 people in eight states and the District of Columbia.
“I have the opportunity and the obligation to change the narrative around complex conversation like race that help us work together toward common objectives,” Tyson says. “but to do that, we have to tell the truth.”
Let us begin, then, with one cold, hard-numbered truth: For much of corporate America, racial diversity continues to be at best a challenge—and at worst a flat-out fiction—particularly in the executive ranks. There have been only 15 black CEOs in the history of the Fortune 500, of whom five are currently in the role. (Ursula Burns, CEO of Xerox XRX 1.57% , is the only woman; Kaiser Permanente, the organization that Tyson runs, is a nonprofit and therefore ineligible for the Fortune 500.) Nor is it much better outside the corner office. According to a corporate diversity survey released last June by the office of Sen. Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, black men and women account for a mere 4.7% of executive team members in the Fortune 100 (the top 100 U.S. companies by revenue), a share that hasn’t budged since the survey was first conducted in 2011. Even at smaller companies, African Americans hold an estimated 6.7% of the nation’s 16.2 million “management” jobs, according to the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, though they make up twice that share of the population at large.
Numbers, however, don’t capture the frustration that many black executives feel as they try to thrive and compete in a realm where race is often seen as an asterisk on their résumés and an unspoken subtext in conversations about career advancement. Black women, to be sure, face biases related to both gender and race—a double whammy of headwinds in the flight up the company ladder. For black men, though, the challenges of the corporate life are daunting at least in part because they are sometimes hard to pin down—influenced as much by age-old prejudice as by cultural preconceptions, the subtleties of psychology, and the weight of human history (more on that soon).
For this story Fortune focused on the particularity of being black and male in corporate America. We spoke with dozens of black men about their lives and careers, interviewing executives at major companies, as well as researchers, educators, and talent experts. Many were eager to discuss the subject of race and the pressure they sometimes feel from having two “jobs” at the office: an official one, managing a team or division, and the other, “representing” other African Americans who have yet to make it into the room. “If you’re being asked to show up at diversity fairs or be the ‘person of color’ at events unrelated to your job function, it costs you,” says David Thomas, 59, dean of the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University.
Some of the people we interviewed, such as Tyson, have made it. Some are just a few levels down from the top of the power pyramid. Others flamed out or opted out entirely. But most share some striking points of view. Many of these men, for example, spoke of having to constantly calibrate their public miens: striving to appear focused at the office but not too aggressive; hungry but not threatening; well dressed but not showy; talented but not too damn talented. Nearly all had experienced conversations shutting down (or being shut out) when matters of race were brought up; nearly all felt a profound sense of concern for the generation of black men to come, fearing that if they did nothing personally to develop the talent pipeline, the share of African Americans in business would only dwindle.
After more than half a century of corporate diversity efforts—the first of these programs evolving in the wake of the Civil Rights Act of 1964—this is where we stand. With the best of intentions, companies have spent untold billions of dollars on minority recruitment, bias training, mentoring, and support groups. One 2003 estimate put the value of the diversity-training business at $8 billion a year—a figure that may well seem conservative given recent initiatives. (Last year, for example, a single company, Intel, announced it was investing $300 million over three years to improve the gender and racial diversity of its workforce and the inclusiveness of its corporate culture.) Ninety percent of Fortune 100 companies now have a chief diversity officer. Nearly every major company has express policies and plans to broaden workplace diversity.
These “best practices,” however, simply aren’t as effective as many believe. To cite one analysis, researchers at the University of California at Berkeley, Harvard, and the University of Minnesota evaluated the diversity programs of 708 U.S. companies from 1971 to 2002 and could find very little evidence of long-term positive impact. Other academic studies have revealed a growing backlash by white employees to diversity programs that many had once supported. A team of psychologists from the University of California at Santa Barbara and the University of Washington, for instance, recently reported that the mere fact that a company has a diversity policy can lead some white employees (even those who had previously considered themselves allies of the diversity cause) to believe they are being treated unfairly.
For many black men in corporate America, this new antagonism over diversity programs has only added to the frustration and sensitivity. It is a strange catch-22: The more that issues of race in the workplace are brought to light, the more prone and isolated some black executives feel. And yet the less often issues of race in the workplace are brought to light, the easier it is for the unsaid to negatively influence careers—and the more prone and isolated some black executives feel.
After the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., Bernard Tyson wrote a candid essay on LinkedIn about being a black man in America. “It was the image of an African-American kid, shot down and left in the street,” he says. “Regardless of how it happened, you personalize that.” Then he pauses, leaving unsaid the sentiment that many black men feel: It could have been me. His post, titled “It’s Time to Revolutionize Race Relations,” laid bare his own experiences as a black man and touched a nerve. The essay generated nearly 450,000 views and close to 3,000 comments and more than a thousand Twitter TWTR 8.12% mentions.
While many black executives do their best to separate their professional skin from their human one, there are nearly constant reminders from the outside world that the two are the same. In his recent conversation with Fortune, Tyson ticks off a list of experiences he’d had in the previous few weeks: pulled out of the security line for a public pat-down as he attempted to enter his own luxury box at a football game; a crisp lecture on proper tipping that accompanied the check at an upscale restaurant; a woman clutching her purse tightly as he walked by.
The CEO talks openly about such interactions. When colleagues ask why he “exposes” himself that way, he answers with what has become a familiar refrain: “We have to be able to tell the truth about these things.”
Building a Black Engineer
In 2014 several firms, led by Google GOOG -0.07% , published diversity data that showed how underrepresented African Americans are in tech. Facebook FB 0.08% , Google, LinkedIn lnkd , Yahoo, YHOO -0.29% and Twitter TWTR 8.12% all reported that just 1% of their workers were black. Nobody was surprised.
Dr. Freada Kapor Klein, a diversity expert and partner at the Kapor Center for Social Impact, has a theory as to why the tech sector is so seemingly resistant to diversity in its ranks. “There is a deep and shared mythology that it is a perfect meritocracy,” she says—a self-reinforcing vortex of talent drawn from certain schools, with identical credentials, wearing, most likely, similar garb. “Unless that gets dismantled, there is no way to implement effective diversity programs,” says Kapor Klein.
Former Obama administration official, Jim Shelton.Photograph by Patrick James Miller for Fortune
Last year two black executives from Twitter abandoned their separate quests to dismantle the meritocracy trap. Leslie Miley, the highest-ranking black engineer (he won’t give his age), and Mark Luckie, 32, the second-highest-ranking black employee, both quit. Loudly. Then, in separate posts on Medium, they went public with personal treatises on their experiences inside a company that they claim failed to recruit, hire, and develop black talent in any meaningful way. Miley’s attempt to introduce more diverse engineering candidates into the hiring process who didn’t have typical Silicon Valley educations or résumés triggered a laundry list of objections from colleagues, he says. When he proposed a new job to focus on onboarding and welcoming minority tech talent into the firm, he got an earful. After a particularly tense conversation with his boss about recruitment tactics, Miley claims he was told, “Diversity is fine, but we don’t want to lower the bar.”
David Thomas, Georgetown’s McDonough School dean, says such arguments reveal a bias called attribution error. “People are more likely to trust performance data—that someone, for example, is an outstanding performer—if they’re white,” he says. If you’re not expecting positive performance from a particular group, such as black men, you may attribute their success to external factors, like affirmative action or luck. Translation: If you hired a black programmer, there’s a good chance you “lowered the bar” to do so.
Such ingrained attitudes make it harder, Thomas says, for black employees to find sponsors who believe in them—to create a market for them inside the company and out as they progress in their careers. His own research has found that it takes people of color longer than their white counterparts to transition into their first managerial job. Bias in the form of attribution error is probably a factor.
Back at Twitter, Luckie, who was the company’s manager of journalism and media, tackled the diversity issue from the New York office. Where were the black people? he wondered. And why weren’t they being promoted? “There was no buy-in from leadership,” Luckie says today. “It’s such a horizontal company, and there isn’t a lot of room to grow. People who were promoted looked just like their manager.” (A Twitter spokesperson says the company is committed to “making Twitter more diverse and inclusive” and is “making substantive progress.”)
Both Luckie and Miley were active participants in the BlackBirds, the black employee affinity group at Twitter. But the collective had very little impact as a development or advancement mechanism, they say. In an attempt to break down barriers, Luckie even launched an informal “Ask a black guy” initiative. “The sales teams asked … how to get Twitter involved in things like the Essence Festival or to get black influencers to support product launches—but there were some Beyoncé and twerking questions,” he says with a sigh.
The relative lack of minority employees at Twitter was particularly galling, say Luckie and Miley, because the platform had become such an important tool for the global black community, through a vibrant and dedicated subset of users known as Black Twitter—who speak to one another about the reality of blackness in America and who often contribute original reporting, spreading news through ad hoc hashtag communities like #BlackLivesMatter. “Black Twitter is one of the best-use cases for Twitter itself,” says Miley. “Yet instead of figuring out what we could learn from powerful groups like this, we were losing ground to Instagram.”
Miley and Luckie felt as if they were living a case study in corporate frustration—and when both men quit, they left without a job. Luckie wrote a novel called DO U, about men at a fictional black college, and now runs a site called Today in Black Twitter. Miley, who says he “became the angry black guy” before he left, had a bumpier exit. When he made his decision to leave the company, he waved off a severance package in order to be legally able to share his story. He is now the director of engineering at Entelo, a private company that builds—wait for it—recruiting software. But the job search was nerve-racking. “My Medium post has come up in every interview,” he says. “I make people nervous.”
The Power of Networks
David Sutphen’s black father and white mother fell in love at their jobs at the Social Security Administration, in Kansas City, Mo. They got hitched during their lunch hour, rushing across the state line to Kansas, where it was not prohibited for mixed-race couples to marry. Their lives were lives of ever-present risk, says Sutphen, managing partner at the Brunswick Group, an advisory and consulting firm based in Washington, D.C. The racism they faced was front and center.
Google Capital’s David Drummond both believe that early intervention is the key to filling the black talent pipeline.Courtesy of Google
Today Sutphen, 46, sees executive men of color managing a different kind of racial challenge—a balancing act. Black executives, he says, often have to play the role of “happy warrior,” mastering the art of being exceptional but not frightening. Groups of black men can be … intimidating, he says—then laughs: “There’s not going to be a Most Powerful Men of Color conference [at Fortune]. But we could use one.”
For many black men, that double standard starts very young. A striking 2014 study by UCLA professor Phillip Atiba Goff and colleagues and published by the American Psychological Association found that black boys as young as 10 years old were viewed as older than—and not as “innocent” as—white boys the same age. (Children 9 years and younger were seen as equally innocent, regardless of race.) Other studies show that black boys are more likely than white boys to be disciplined and sent to remedial programs for the same acting-out behaviors. And many people Fortune spoke with for this story say that many of the challenges that black men face in corporate hallways begin here—in childhood. In elementary school hallways.
Too many of them get lost there. “We know that if a boy can’t read by third grade, he’s four times less likely to graduate from high school,” says Jim Shelton, 48, a former deputy secretary of education who is now president for the online education company 2U. “And it gets worse from there.” A kid who has been suspended once by ninth grade is twice as likely to drop out, and black boys are four times as likely to be suspended. In 2014, Shelton was tasked with setting up My Brother’s Keeper, a corporate- and foundation-backed initiative launched by President Obama to address the “opportunity gaps” and “achievement gaps” faced in particular by boys and young men of color.
As high-profile and as high-minded as My Brother’s Keeper is, though, it is also sprawling in scope, from early-childhood health screenings to reading programs to efforts to reduce community violence. What matters most, though, is that MBK itself is a mechanism to connect boys with a network of successful adults. In the same vein, what often counts most for professional men is the intimacy of a social network. Relationships, in short, matter.
After Obama was elected, Sutphen reached out to his childhood pal Jon McBride, who had earned a post in the Obama White House in the Presidential Personnel Office. The two began to plan informal networking dinners in D.C. to get a handle on the new administration. But what started as a few dinners with friends and new acquaintances turned into a regular series of events that became increasingly more structured. Lots of industries were represented. “It became a convening platform, with special guests, to talk about issues that matter to us, like education,” Sutphen says. But it quickly turned into a place where people could get the kind of high-level coaching that should have been coming from sponsors inside their firms. “ ‘I’ve got a chance to head to Europe, should I take it?’ ‘Got any intel on this company?’—that type of stuff.”
Ed Welburn, GM’s vice president of global design, turned a childhood love of cars into a dream job. GM’s outreach helped get him there.Photograph by Marvin Shaouni for Fortune
Like Sutphen, Charles Phillips, the 56-year-old CEO of Infor, a $2.8 billion enterprise software firm, has an informal network of his own—a supper club of two dozen business leaders and professionals, most of whom prefer to remain anonymous, who have raised millions of dollars for causes they care about. But he also routinely meets with young black tech executives coming out of Facebook, Google, and other Valley companies, and offers counsel where he can. “I started at Wall Street and made my career at Oracle,” says Phillips, who was a former co-president at the software giant. “I didn’t work with any black people for most of my career.” Now he relishes the chance to provide feedback on matters of due diligence and arrange meetings with prospective partners for the young entrepreneurs, or even facilitate direct investment in their startup ideas if it makes sense.
From the high perch of CEO, Phillips has also been able to transform Infor—making the decision at the top of the company to change the way it recruits at the bottom. To find entry-level employees, he set up a central talent pool, filled with interns drawn from a diverse selection of colleges, designed to eliminate the cronyism that typically accompanies hiring. The company has started to collaborate with certain colleges with curriculum support and certification programs, specifically to create more work-ready candidates. “We recruit, train, and place interns in divisions. Managers don’t know who they’re going to get. And it comes out of my budget, not theirs.” He says leaders are happy because they get unique talent that they don’t have to pay for. Phillips also incentivizes company recruiters to focus on retention. “We want people to stay past a year, and that takes mentorship and coaching.”
Ed Welburn, 65, knows the power of that. As a kid he fell in love with a Cadillac concept car, he says. When he was 11, he wrote a letter to a GM GM 1.06% executive saying he hoped to work there one day. “I got an answer,” he said: Keep sketching, and get yourself to Howard University.
Welburn did just that, entering the fine-arts program at the venerable Washington, D.C., institution—one of the nation’s historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs. As it turned out, says Welburn, “the professors had such a deep relationship with GM, they were able to fine-tune my curriculum to help me prepare for a career there.” When he got his dream job in 1971, he was the company’s first black designer. Welburn, GM’s vice president of global design, now runs all 10 of GM’s design centers and sits on its executive-leadership team.
The symbiotic partnership between U.S. automakers and HBCUs, indeed, has helped prepare young black engineers for technical careers in auto manufacturing for at least two generations. By hiring at all levels, the automakers played a significant role in helping people transition from servant class to middle class.
The lesson isn’t lost on David Drummond. “The relationship between the HBCUs and the automakers is historically really important,” says Drummond, a senior vice president at Alphabet and chairman of Google Capital. “And we’re trying to do the same thing now.” In 2015, Google doubled the number of schools where it recruits and started embedding engineers at a handful of HBCUs, including Howard, to teach and demystify the process of applying for jobs in Silicon Valley. “It’s part of a broad plan the company has launched to change diversity numbers,” he says. “We’re taking a long look at who is getting promoted and why talent may not have been as recognized in the way that it should.”
The Lost Generation
For a generation of business-hungry black men in their twenties and thirties, there is another question to answer—and that’s whether it’s too late. The question, though, has a twist: Is it too late for corporate America?
Darian Wigfall, 34; Damon Davis, 30; William Porter, 35; and Ross Gibson, 29, are huddling in a corner bar called Whiskey Ring on Cherokee Street in St. Louis. It’s an artsy street: “Kind of like our Brooklyn,” offers Porter. They are all college educated—“Well, I only went to college for a hot minute,” says Porter, and Gibson had to postpone the last few credits on his master’s in behavioral neuroscience when a family member got sick. All four men are keen observers of the race dynamics around them. We are 11 miles from where Michael Brown died. “The movement took off here,” Wigfall says of #BlackLivesMatter, sounding determined. The troubles that all the men had witnessed growing up were blown up into a global debate in and about their own backyards.
Over craft beers and premium whisky, they explain why they are convinced that corporate life isn’t for them. “There’s just no way,” says Wigfall. Wigfall and Davis tick through an almost comical list of roles they play—artist, filmmaker, DJ, web designer, author, music industry mogul. They’ve co-owned a record label called FarFetched for five years. They all believe that they have access to the tools they need to succeed on their own terms and a network of friends and community that sees them. They see no need to invest in a corporate career that isn’t designed to invest in them.
“My grandmother had a barbershop for years, right over there,” says Porter, pointing to a shuttered storefront. “I can build a community business, be part of things.” He opened his own place up the block, MasterPieza, offering gourmet pizzas. How did he learn to make pizza? “YouTube,” he says with a laugh. “I learn everything there.” If his business ideas are workable, he can scale them on his own.
Corporate America, it seems, is missing out.
That said, Gibson is missing something too: He could use some cash. He has arrived at our meeting with a thick textbook on venture capital and is planning to raise a round of funding for his newest project, Ardefact, a luxury shopping site that has a crowdsourced procurement element baked into the mix. “I’m learning how to structure deals,” he says, patting the book. He is also a real estate scion of sorts. “My grandmother was big in rural Arkansas real estate,” he says with a laugh. He co-owns some property, including the building on Cherokee Street that houses the venue where FarFetched holds release parties. He waves off talk of Silicon Valley and says has never heard of Sand Hill Road or venture titans like Marc Andreessen. But his face lights up when I mention former Twitter engineer Leslie Miley. “That dude!” he says with admiration. “Do you think he’d take my call?”
An Inside Look at What’s Keeping Black Men out of the Executive Suite
A version of this article appears in the February 1, 2016 issue of Fortune.
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