Meet Mr. Tony Ressler. Those who know him, probably would acknowledge him as the principal owner of the Atlanta Hawks. Or maybe they know him as the 400th wealthiest man in the world, and the husband of Hollywood star and powerhouse Ms. Jami Gertz.

Tony Ressler, Principal Owner, Steve Koonin, president of the Atlanta Hawks backstage at State Farm Arena.

As one who gives back, I have seen him write a check to Operation HOPE, and to the Russell Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, and to educational institutions focused on the black community in particular, and underserved communities in general. He and others inspired me to found Financial Literacy 4 All (FL4A), our movement to embed financial literacy into the heart of business in this country, and to make financial literacy the civil rights issue of this generation, in addition of course to the re-affirmation of the right to vote.

I have seen Tony’s heart, time and time again. But I am equally as impressed with his head. How he thinks. And what he does, when he thinks. How he moves through the world.

I know Tony Ressler to be what I would call, ‘a fair minded capitalist.’ Fair, balanced, equatable and open. And leaned into social justice, as is possible, in and through the lens of business. Just the kind of leader the world needs in the era of Silver Rights.

Now, as compassionate and reasoned as all of this sounds, this description is not to be confused with someone using sympathy in the place of a rational business plan. Tony Ressler needs you to make sense when you talk to him. He needs to be assured that he’s not throwing good money after bad, or simply just flushing capital down the toilet. Or worse, waisting his time. There is a place for charity, he would say, but in the middle of a serious business deal, is not that place. With these ground rules in place, Tony is all in.

Do what you will with ‘your profits,’ he would say, but let’s make sure we ‘make some (profits) first.’ But the point here is this ~ you can at least reach Tony. He is accessible, and he is interested. And when it comes to advancing the prospects of and for the nation’s underserved, he is all about that. Passionate about it, even.

Tony Ressler, presenting his vision on Centinenial Yards at the Gathering Spot in Atlanta, Ga., for Black entrepreneurs and Black community leaders.

Tony and I have spoken of an additional, new type of social justice in the 21st century. He would describe it as ‘massive education, access to low cost good credit, access to real investment capital, and access to opportunities — at scale.’ I would describe it as ‘social justice through an economic lens,’ but we are both saying the exact same thing. The new color is green.

And Tony Ressler does much more than talk and listen. When he thinks something makes sense, he acts. And I have seen him write the business check, too.

I don’t have the liberty to share what he has done with and for other Black entrepreneurs and Black business people, but I can briefly share what he has done for me. He saw something and someone he believed in, and he backed that person’s idea with capital, and his own credibility. That for me, was the beginning of a dream called The Promise Homes Company.

It began as a simple idea, in June, 2017, and with a lot of hustle and hard work, four years later it emerged as the largest minority controlled owner of single family rental homes in America. And it’s still growing. In December, 2021, The Promise Homes Company was responsible for the largest capital access raise for a Black business in a decade, according to Black Enterprise. And yes, we secured the second substantial 200M capital raise on our own energy, but I was only able to secure that first founding capital raise – the one that founded the company – because Tony Ressler and Michael Arougheti decided to believe in me. And back it with their own check.

This is Black History Month, and rightfully so, we have been shining a light on the many accomplishments of noted and noteworthy African-American leaders, all month long in February, 2022. This should continue unabated.

But there are also leaders, who helped to make it possible, for leaders in development to show, shine, perform and grow. These ‘other leaders,’ have been been around us, since the beginning of time really. They often are not household names, and more often than not do not require attention or public acclaim; but this should not be confused with the substance of the leader themselves, nor their contribution.

As relates to the Black American experience, some of these same leaders were yes, white, and they were right there in the trenches of that day, with the founders of the NAACP, and the National Urban League, as but two examples, more than 100 years ago.

There were also white and Jewish leaders, supporting the righteous cause fo the American Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Supporting my personal hero, civil rights icon Ambassador Andrew J. Young, and his friend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

And there is a new bread fo these leaders, here with us today, in this era of what I call the 3rd Reconstruction (circa 2020-2030), and they are providing resources, thought leadership, and taking on propositional risk, as part of a new movement to advance what I refer to as ‘social justice through an economic lens.’

One such leader, is a dear friend of mine, who goes by the name of Tony Ressler.

Sometimes your Black History Month heroes – aren’t Black. Mr. Tony Ressler is just one of those kind of people.

John Hope Bryant. Entrepreneur.

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