Friday evening I was on my way to speak before the U.S. State Department sponsored Young African Leadership Initiative program at the entrepreneurship development compound of my dear friend, entrepeneur Bill Allen here in Atlanta. The program featured some of the most amazing and accomplished young entrepreneurs on the African continent, and I was honored to speak before them — sharing whatever it is I have to offer their continued success. After all, the world needs the continent of Africa to succeed. But something special, also, happened on the way there.
I like driving myself whenever I can. Given the amount of travel I do, and my demanding schedule, this is often not possible. So Friday I drove myself, and pulled off of the freeway for gas at a gas station in what most would call an ‘urban, low wealth neighborhood.’ For me, it was simply just another part of Greater Atlanta.
As I was filling my car up with gas, several young Black men approached me, interested mostly in my car. I answered their questions, as they circled both me and the car. Of course, I could have seen all of this as a threat. Did they have something else in mind? Something, ‘not good.’ But that was not what I assumed. I assumed they were genuinely interested, and I enthusiastically answered their many questions. And then one of them said this, “what do you do for a living?”
I told them that I was an entrepreneur. There eyes got as big as grapefruit. It was obvious, none of them had genuinely explored this as a legitimate option for their own lives — but now they were interested. And then another young man, then stepped forward. This one, wearing a white t shirt and sagging jeans. It was important here, that I did not assume any stereotype. I was going to take the brother based on what he said to me, not based on how he looked to me. And what he said, stunned me.
The young man — dressed down and ‘of the community,’ so to speak — asked me “are you John Hope Bryant? I watch you all the time on Facebook TV.” He continued, “I watched your last video, breaking down the whole Ambassador Andrew Young situation, and Black Lives Matter. I agree with you brother. I like Silver Rights. Please keep it up. I watch all of your videos.” Stunned and pleasantly surprised, I got back in my car, and headed on my way to my speaking engagement. But THIS brief experience — stayed with me. That young Black man, stayed with me.
You see, these young men (and women) are very smart.
They are paying attention.
They do want success.
They do want to work hard.
They do value education.
They do want to be EDUCATED.
What they lack, are proper role models — and genuine opportunities to ‘operationalize their dreams.’ The only thing I regret from that evening, is that I did not take another moment to give them all my business card, and to encourage to becom clients of Operation HOPE, new members in the Silver Rights Movement.
We can all make a difference. Sometimes, all it takes is a moment of your time, at a gas station. Join the growing Silver Rights Movement. Support Operation HOPE. View the ongoing John Hope Bryant ‘Straight Talk’ Live Video Series on Facebook nation.
John Hope Bryant