In part three of this series, Black Enterprise speaks with John Hope Bryant to learn more about his efforts to eradicate poverty and increase financial literacy through a partnership with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and by sharing pearls of wisdom in his new book, How the Poor Can Save Capitalism.
BE: What fuels your passion for poverty eradication?
BRYANT: Guilt, responsibility, and frustration. The guilt comes from the fact that I grew up in Compton California in South Central Los Angeles, but because of the unique gifts of my mom and my dad, I got chances that other people didn’t get. We didn’t have a lot of money but my mom told me she loved me every day of my life. So I never really had a self-esteem problem. And my dad owned his own business for 54 years. My mother gave me a sense of “Yes I am,” and my father gave me as sense of “Yes I can.”
I grew up with my best friend George, who had better grades than me. He didn’t know who he was because he didn’t have supportive parents. I had a C+, but George had an A+. I wanted to be like George. But George wanted to be like Tweet, my next door neighbor. Tweet was the community gangster by 18 years old. However, I decided to model the banker who came to my class to teach financial literacy when I was nine. I asked him how to get rich legally. He said that he financed entrepreneurs. I said I don’t know what an entrepreneur was, but I wanted to be one. That dream kept me out of trouble. I started my first business the next year when I was 10. I sold candy. And for the next 10 years, I was going from one business idea to the next. Most of them didn’t work out, but it didn’t matter. I was growing more resilient, and my parents kept me focused.
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