Bryant Rule for Living #1, …GET A JOB!

Black folks with two jobs have no problem with thoughtful welfare reform (yes, all that are able bodied and capable should go get a job!).

The Problem

I know, I know, I know — this is so simple as to border on being ridiculous, and maybe insulting. But we are so way beyond "sensitivity" issues here friends. This is a genuine problem.

A substantial portion of black America, as I write this sentence, are unemployed, and I am not talking about the handicapped or the infirmed. I am talking about able bodied, young black men and women in America today. And so, those who qualify here need to simply go and get (a) a job, (b) an occupation, (c) a career choice, (d) a skill that pays money, (e) gainful employment, (f) a self-employment project, or (g) something that starts in the morning and ends at dusk, and allows you to pay your bills — whatever you want to call it, black America let’s go and get one! Two if need be. Or as my friend Bernard Kinsey, one of the first black vice presidents at Xerox Corporation once observed, "even during the slave era we were fully employed!" Okay, a bad joke, but as a race of people we really need to master this one.

And no, the problem in 2005 has little to nothing to do with racism or its twin cousin, discrimination. But even if it did (have something to do with racism and discrimination), the reality is that this is no good excuse either.

A member of the KKK of the 1950’s and 1960’s got up in the morning, went to his job, came home around 5 or 6pm, kicked the dog, beat the wife, had a bear for dinner, and then went out hunting for black folks "with friends similarly dressed." Hello! What were we doing with the time they were not chasing after us – Waiting for them?

A wise man once told me, "a man cannot keep you down, unless they stay down themselves…" YES!

A year or so ago I went on a tour of the local community in our nation’s capitol, Washington, D.C., with a respected black former councilman named Kevin Chavous, because Operation HOPE, the organization which I founded, was looking to build a new HOPE Center in partnership with E Trade Financial to serve the residents of Washington, D.C. and Anacostia. Anyway, during the tour I asked the councilman what was the number in his district. Did he say racism, or the Bush Administration, or the white man..? Nope. The answer — was apathy. APATHY. Effectively, our people – My people – black people’s "get up and go, had got up and went."

And this is just an Anacostia problem, this problem of lost hope I am sad to report has and continues to play itself out in countless urban, inner-city communities across America.

Fact: One out of every four adults in the District of Columbia, mostly black I might add, do not have a high school equivalent.

Yes, it is true that the legacy of lost hope and as a direct result, a sort of a lackadaisical work ethic amongst some of my brothers and sisters is something born outside of us (a product of the Jim Crow and sharecropper era), and made a part of our lives during our formative years in early America, the reality is that in 2004 we have no time – or as some of my younger friends would say, "no volume" for any of this anymore.

Whether it was visited us by others or not, we MUST get on with it.

We have to find the hope, the life purpose, and the reason to LIVE.

If we can’t do it for ourselves, then just look down and you will one or see several reasons to get motivated and your life in gear – and they are called our children. "Watch how you live your life. It may be the only Bible that anyone else reads.."

Yes, we all need to go and get a job, and quick, because soon enough the issue will not be your will, it will be your ability.

America was born of an agricultural age, which then gave birth to the industrial age, and then the technology age, and most recently, the information age. In the information age, education is king, and we are not getting enough of that either (see the D.C. statistic cited above).

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, a friend to our work at Operation HOPE, and a fellow HOPE Corps volunteer teacher of financial literacy education with me in 2003, in a Sousa Middle School inner city classroom (the first D.C. school to be integrated during the Civil Rights movement), in Washington, D.C. I might add, said this about education at a 21st century economic conference hosted by the White House that I attended; "there are two irreversible assets in 21st century America. They are education and access. Education and (access to) information. Once you have those things, no one can take them away from you."

Chairman Greenspan sounded like an authentic 20th century civil rights leader in that statement of empowerment in America, but in reality, he was talking 21st century "silver rights."

In the 21st century education will be the ultimate poverty eradication tool. The ultimate leveler, on an otherwise unlevel and uneven playing field called life.

The Solution

You know, its funny. If being cool was an occupation, almost every young black child in the inner city would be fully employed! Everyone.

Almost everywhere I go around this country, in almost every urban, inner city community I encounter, everyone seems cooled out, chill’in, .dumb, and, oh yea, broke too. Or drug dealing, which is worse than being broke actually, because soon you will be dead! More on this later in the book. Young men, and now even young black girls to my stunned amazement, wearing the same tired crisp white t-shirts (hey, now there’s a business for someone!), sagging black jeans. and that walk. That stand. I mean, where did they ALL learn to do this, and all at the same time?

You can go clear from one side of the country to the other, close your eyes, and open them again, in an inner city, and see what appears to be the same group of guys standing on the corner, "chill’in." It’s amazing. But they still don’t have a job, nor a future I might add.

And then there are other problems with that white shirt and those drooping pants. They form a uniform, which tends to somehow ultimately dictate a behavior, and (low) expectations. Or as Chris Rock has said on his hilarious comedy special "Bring Home the Pain," the kids will tell you they’re just "keep’in it real…" Real dumb.

I had another uniform growing up. It was a suit, an ugly one. My mother made it, and made me where it for what appears to be days on end. I remember it, it was purple, crush velvet, three piece, with a ruffle shirt, and a big, big, big-big bow tie. Kids would jump me because they thought I had money. Why else would someone dress like this? Sorry mom, but those suits were a bit whack. Anyway, as a result of wearing those suits, that uniform, I began to walk differently, and talk differently, and act differently. I even started carrying a briefcase, even though there was nothing in it. It formed a behavior, and (high) expectations.

I started my first business a year later, at the ripe old age of 10. Today I run a national non-profit organization with almost 100 employees and an $8 million annual operating budget, and I have a million dollar plus personal net worth. Not a bad uniform after all mom.

Once you get your mind right, you want to do right.

Once you do right, you begin to feel alright.

Once you begin to feel alright, every other problem diminishes in size in direct proportion to your growing self-esteem.

A job can do more than pay the bills, a job, a legitimate job, is a ticket to self-respect for yourself, and personal respect from others.

It says boldly to the world, I am a man. A real man, and I don’t need handouts from anyone. A hand up,
maybe. A hand out, never.

A job says that you are making your own way in this world, charting your own course, taking care of your responsibilities.

A job is what your children see you doing, and then miraculously, then want to do one too.

Good habits are just as catchy as bad ones.

Onward, with HOPE

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