Attention: A Letter to Black America  

Dear friends in the African-American community:

“…Calling all cars, calling all cars.”

This was a popular phrase in television shows I watched as a kid, used in a particular scene when things were getting pretty bad and help was needed. Well, I am using the phrase respectfully here, but this time it is not a scene in a movie or television show — it is a reality for the African-American community.

While there is obviously clear reason for targeted pride and select good feelings, as a race we are hurting. Let me just focus on a couple interesting (and troubling statistics):

Approximately 70% of Black households are led by Black women.

Approximately 60-70% of Black young men in America are dropping out of high-school.

Approximately 70% of those in prison do not have a high-school diploma. Some incredibly high number of kids whose parents are in prison, end up going to prison.

Finally, we seem to have made “dumb sexy.” We have dumbed down, and celebrated it, and we need to make smart sexy again. When I was growing up there were about 35 young people in a classroom. 5 kids were acting like knuckleheads, and 30 kids wanted to learn. Today, in urban school classrooms I visit across the nation tied to our work at Operation HOPE, it increasingly feels like 30 kids acting like knuckleheads, and 5 kids afraid to admit they want to learn. In short, our communities have been hijacked by what I call “thug culture.”

Growing up in Compton, California and South Central Los Angeles, and homeless for 6 months of my life at age 18, I thought I actually knew something about poverty. I have learned that I do not. I use to believe that a kid who aspires to be a drug dealer, an athlete or let’s say a rap star (not disparaging rap here), was dumb or stupid, but now I understand that they are really brilliant. Brilliant, because they are “modeling what they see.” We need to give them something different to see.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book “The Tipping Point,” he notes that at 5% role models a community stabilizes. 5% we can achieve. We don’t need the federal government, or the state or even local government, though it would be nice to have their help, resources and support. You can, I can, Johnie and Janet-Q-Public can- “do this.”

Why are you who you are today? Why are you providing for your family and building assets? Why is an entrepreneur, an entrepreneur, or a doctor a doctor, or a lawyer a lawyer? Because you saw someone doing that. Let’s replay this record, and take our communities back. Let’s “make smart sexy again.”

Operation HOPE will be launching a 5MK (5 MILLION KIDS) “Make Smart Sexy Tour” for 2011, in our schools, and organizations such as Susan Taylor’s Mentoring Network and 100 Black Men of America are recruiting volunteer mentors in a community near you. You can log onto www.5MK.org for more information.

Please read the linked Huffington Post article entitled "What Black Folks Need Now," and let’s start a national dialogue around “what comes next” for Black America, and let me say this first; it is not important that you think like me. I may be dead wrong. What’s important, is that we “think for ourselves,” and then we take actions to improve the lives of African Americans.

Thank you for all you do. Happy holidays, and let saving our communities become a part of our New Year’s Resolution.

With HOPE,

John Hope Bryant


John Hope Bryant a Young Global Leader for the World Economic Forum, an Oprah's Angel Network award recipient, a TIME Magazine 50 (Leaders) for the Future (94'), John Hope Bryant is an entrepreneur, the founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Operation HOPE, the Inc. Magazine/CEO READ bestselling author of LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass), advisor to the last three sitting U.S. presidents, a thought leader, public speaker, and an innovator in the business of empowerment.

Mr. Bryant serves U.S. President Barack Obama on the President's Advisory Council on Financial Capability, and prior to that Mr. Bryant served U.S. President George W. Bush as vice chairman of the U.S. President's Advisory Council on Financial Council, and chairman of the council Committee on the Under-Served.

 With the publishing of Love Leadership, Mr. Bryant became one of the few African-American business bestselling author published in mainstream business leadership in the country.  Love Leadership: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass), has made the Inc. MagazIne-CEO Read Business Best Seller List a total of 11 months since being published.

Full link to original Huffington Post article here.


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