No. 262 – Building the Future

Kunle Olukotun

Over the past several weeks, Robert Smith, the founder and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, has been making the media rounds. He’s been talking about his work ensuring that black small business owners get the funding they need in the next round of stimulus Congress passes. 

In the first wave of PPP loan funding that the SBA distributed, a black-owned banks were not integrated with the SBA’s systems, and weren’t able to make sure their customers were able to secure PPP funding. One of Robert’s portfolio companies, Finastra, has been working with black-owned banks to make sure they’re plugged in this time around. 

Also, in his media rounds, he’s been calling out the disparity in access black-owned banks and businesses have to the resources they need to survive. Making sure this reality doesn’t slip to the background in policymakers’ thinking. 

It’s been encouraging to see him work on this and I’m hopeful more black-owned small businesses benefit as a result. I actually was wondering the other day how he would look in that Treasury Secretary role. Perhaps, something to keep an eye on.

Robert Smith is an example of a black person making big moves that can benefit black folks at scale. Out in Silicon Valley, Kunle Olukotun is doing work that maybe doesn’t directly benefit black folks. Though, it is incredibly inspiring to watch someone push technology into the next generation. 

Kunle cofounded SambaNova Systems a few years ago. I’ve written about him before. They’ve raised $450M to develop an entirely new computing system designed for an artificial intelligence world. It’s not entirely clear what this computer system is going to look like, but a chip will be part of the system. 

This is important to know because there Is an arms race going on right now between the incumbent chip makers like Nvidia, AMD, Intel, and this new generation of startups that are building new chip technology including SambaNova. They are all pushing towards the new world of artificial intelligence we’re entering. 

Last week, Nvidia announced their new graphics processing unit (GPU) architecture called Ampere. I won’t go into details on the technology behind this technology because I’m still trying to make sure that I understand it well. Essentially, a GPU processes tons of calculations and data to power massive computing systems. What is important to know is that this GPU is extremely powerful and the chip it goes on, A100, is massive. This is one of the most powerful chips that has been created to date. 

The chip will be used in data centers and for artificial intelligence applications. The U.S. government has already installed some of these chips to use in conducting research on this COVID-10 pandemic to speed up the process of figuring out what’s happening and identifying potential solutions.

This is what Kunle’s SambaNova is up against. I love a good David and Goliath story and this is one. In its fiscal year 2020, Nvidia spent $2.8 billion dollars on research and development. That’s an enormous amount of money. I mentioned earlier that Samba Nova has raised $450M in total. SambaNova has an uphill battle in getting its technology out into the world. If they’re successful, the future looks slightly different for all of us – hopefully, for the better. 

So, while I root for Robert Smith as he advocates for black small businesses to get the resources they need to survive through this pandemic, I’m also going to be doing some cheering for Kunle as he shows the world an incredible example of black folks building the future. 

No. 259 – On Grief and Connection

Malcolm X and Kwame Nkrumah

My Grandmama passed on Saturday. I thought I got all my tears out Saturday, but I’ll be grieving and celebrating her until my spirit feels it’s enough. While showering last night, I saw her smiling face and heard her say, “I’m proud of you, son. It’s going to be alright.” There were some extra water droplets in that shower. The weekend felt strange. Grandmama was on my mind and I was sad. Ahmaud Arbery was on my mind and I was numb. I still tried to make progress on my projects. Outside of cleaning and cooking some acceptable jollof rice, I felt like I was on a treadmill the rest of the weekend. So, I went to bed early last night.

This morning, I woke up thinking about black folks, how we’ve been in a low-grade state of mourning for hundreds of years, and the impact that has had on our productivity. Hundreds of thousands endured nearly 250 years of slavery. Folks lived through the failure of Reconstruction. Massacres in cities across the country. Jim Crow. Redlining. Prison industrial complex. Impunity for the killing of our people. It’s remarkable that black folks have created so much magic in the midst of this mourning.

What’s the salve?

During Jill Scott and Erykah Badu’s session Saturday, Ms. Scott described her mom as a healer. We’ve been applying salves to our wounds for a long time – healing ourselves. That session between Ms. Scott and Ms. Badu was a prime example.

I don’t think there’s a salve that we haven’t already been applying to ourselves. I do though believe there is more healing waiting for us in black folks in the Diaspora connecting with our cousins in Africa. We’re not alone in our grief. Black folks across Africa have been in a state of low-grade grief as well. Folks are navigating the vestiges of colonialism, including inconsistent leadership, resource extraction, muted voices on the global stage, and more.

It’s exhausting, yet folks across Africa have been applying their own salves for centuries as well. I’m pretty sure they’re similar to the ones we’ve been applying here in the US. We’ve been apart for so long, and have made attempts to connect over the centuries, though they’ve never quite stuck. It’s essential that we figure out how to make the connection stick.

So we saw that the first thing to do was to unite our people, not only unite us internally, but we have to be united with our brothers and sisters abroad. It was for that purpose that I spent five months in the Middle East and Africa during the summer. The trip was very enlightening, inspiring, and fruitful. I didn’t go into any African country, or any country in the Middle East for that matter, and run into any closed door, closed mind, or closed heart. I found a warm reception and an amazingly deep interest and sympathy for the Black man in this country in regards to our struggle for human rights.

Malcolm X

Hopefully, this resonates with some and eventually with a lot. If we can connect with our folks in Africa, I believe we’ll find the healing we need to no longer push for the structural changes needed in the US, Latin America, Europe, and wherever else black people are. We’ll restructure them.

No. 251 – On Legacy

Uncle John, Grandmama, Uncle Arlen

Protect them from all hurt, harm, and danger.

Gertrude Liverman

Coming up as a young boy, my Grandmama would end her prayers over me and my younger brother with that line. Gertrude Liverman, my Grandmama is an amazing woman. She came up on the coast of North Carolina, worked picking crops before getting jobs cleaning people’s homes. She was in her early 40s before she was able to legally vote.

I think about my Grandmama a lot. As I learn more about what has happened in this country over the time she’s been alive, I wonder what her life was like at the time. She didn’t get past middle school with her education. How did she process the changes in the 50s as her kids went through their elementary and middle school educations after the passage of Brown v. Board of Education? A single mother of eight children, what was going through her head when social workers came threatening to put her children into different homes? What was going through her mind once news got around that Lyndon Johnson had signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965?

Unfortunately, I won’t get those answers. She’s been living with Alzheimer’s for several decades. Listening to the stories my mom and her siblings share about Grandmama, I get a clear picture that her faith gave her the ability to navigate everything she encountered making her way through this country. What’s amazing is that in all the time I spent with her as a kid, I never sensed bitterness or anger about what she went through. I never heard her talk about what-ifs.

What I saw Grandmama do was visit neighbors to make sure they were alright. I heard her call folks and pray with them. I laughed with her as she flicked me on my head, joking at how hardheaded I was. It would be cool for her to see I’m just as stubborn and persistent as the kid who wouldn’t stop shooting the basketball against the imaginary hoop on the side of her apartment, until it felt like I was making shots.

I love my Grandmama very much. I’m grateful for the 95 years she’s spent on earth and for every bit of additional time she gets with us. She’s got a big legacy of faith, hard work, love, and endurance. Hopefully, I do it justice as I continue on.

No. 245 – Africa Can Build Too

Source: Marvel Studios

I was so excited to see the announcement last week that 54gene had raised $15M in additional funding for their work sequencing the genome of African folks. That type of work – building technology, research, and infrastructure is what Africa’s going to need as soon as possible. The wave of nationalism that has continued to rise in the US and Europe will only increase on the backs of anger at China and Dr. Adhanom, an African man running the World Health Organization as we emerge from this Covid-19 situation. African countries investing in building for themselves will prove key to building the resilience the continent will need moving forward.

For several years there has been this hope that African countries would build their manufacturing capacity to the point where they could compete with Asia for manufacturing contracts because the labor costs were rising in Asian markets, and the labor costs in African markets like Ethiopia would remain relatively lower. Well, that hope is probably not something African leaders should bank on coming out of this Covid-19 situation. The COVID-19 situation has exposed global supply chain issues that clearly have left the U.S. in poor shape trying to fight the virus. 

More voices in the U.S. are calling for manufacturing and technology development to be reshored to the U.S. I worry the nationalist wave that has been growing in the West over the past several years will hit fever pitch as we continue through this COVID-19 situation and even further when we come out of it. I worry that this wave could leave African leaders with fewer friendly voices as they try to move African nations forward in their economic development. I think the best way forward is for African countries to really think and identify where and what they can build for themselves. We could see a world where countries don’t want to buy from Africa wherever possible and may not want to sell to them on favorable terms. I’m not here for that kind of world.

Marc Andreessen’s post “It’s Time to Build” struck a nerve for a good bit of Silicon Valley and I imagine will be the rallying cry for the U.S. supply chain to be less globally-connected. I think it’s a signal for African countries to push extra hard to figure out what they can build and do that as soon as possible. 

I firmly believe that African countries have all they need to thrive even in a more balkanized global economy. I already mentioned 54gene. Cellulant is doing big things in powering payments. MainOne is providing the connectivity Nigeria needs and I’m sure there are others out there building in incognito. Let’s get behind them to help build the world Africa needs for its future.

No. 238 – A New Poor People’s Campaign

Source: YouTube and CNBC

In typical fashion, Chamath Palihapitiya went on CNBC last week and shook things up by saying that corporations and hedge funds should be allowed to lose their shirts as this recession continues to set in:

This is a lie that has been purported by Wall Street. When a company fails, it does not fire their employees. It goes through a package bankruptcy. Right? If anything, what happens is, the people who have the pensions within those companies, the employees of these companies, end up owning more of the company. The people that get wiped out are the speculators who own the unsecured tranches of debt, the folks that own the equity, and by the way, those are the rules of the game because these are the people who purport to be the most sophisticated investors in the world. They deserve to get wiped out. But the employees don’t get wiped out. The pensions don’t typically get wiped out.

He keeps going. 

Just to be clear on who we are talking about. We’re talking about a hedge fund that serves a bunch of billionaire family offices. Who cares? Let them get wiped out. They don’t get to summer in the Hamptons? Who cares?

Chamath did a nice job here calling out the double standard we’ve kept alive in this country. Over 16 million people have filed unemployment claims in less than a month. These folks have to figure out their next move. Yet, a number of corporations don’t want to have to go through the same struggle.  To their advantage, these corporations have the tools to finesse the situation and get the capital they need to get those resources.

Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s Campaign was an effort to ensure poor folks had a job, unemployment insurance, healthcare, and more. He sought to address an economic system in which poor folks are dispensable. Now, Dr. King was not a capitalist. Chamath is a thorough one. I think there is an overlap though. Capitalists need to lose the double standard for how they’re treated when hard times come, so that when folks follow the formula for advancing in society according to capitalist standards, they don’t wind up grasping at a mirage. Corporations can’t tell folks to follow a capitalist path while they operate with selective socialism.

Dr. King saw that there needed to be a mass movement to shift the needle on this issue—put pressure on the powerful to see the importance of being straight with how the economy is structured. The people have to be paying attention and applying pressure to ensure our system operates well for us. This passage from a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to British minister Richard Price comes to mind:

“I did not at first believe that 11. states out of 13. would have consented to a plan consolidating them so much into one. A change in their dispositions, which had taken place since I left them, had rendered this consolidation necessary, that is to say, had called for a federal government which could walk upon it’s own legs, without leaning for support on the state legislatures. A sense of this necessity, and a submission to it, is to me a new and consolatory proof that wherever the people are well informed they can be trusted with their own government; that whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights.”

In order to set things right, regular people need political machines working on their behalf to ensure the Business Roundtable members stick to their promise to stakeholders and go toe-to-toe with entities like the Managed Funds Association. I’m not sure that we have machines like that right now. What organizations come to mind for you that could get the job done?

No. 231 – On Resilience

It’s not fear that grips him. Only a heightened sense of things.

Narrator from 300

In the scene embedded above, a young Leonidas is out surviving in the wilderness as part of his training to be a Spartan soldier. The scene above tells the story of him crossing paths with a wolf looking for a meal. In the scene, we see the boy turn away from the wolf and walk towards a small crevice in a mountain. The wolf gives chase and gets stuck as the boy dives backwards. Then the narrator says the above quote.

That scene has come to mind a good bit as I’ve considered how I try to continue making progress towards my goals in a world upended by this virus. Early in the days of social distancing in the US, I was really energized about locking in and getting a ton done with the extra hours of not having a commute to deal with. Then, I wondered why my brain felt like it was on a treadmill, reminding me that I had slipped a bit in using my tools to maintain my mental health. Today, I’m doing my best to take steady steps towards my goals and exercising the resilience I’ve built over the years going through tough times.

Hard times never last, tough people they do.

Ace Hood

Parallel Experience

While I love this quote, it’s been challenging to watch is the parallel experience black folks are going through in the U.S. On one hand, the creativity we’re seeing from the musicians among us has been magical. DJ DNice kicked the energy off with his Homeschool sessions, and Timbaland and Swizz Beatz have carried the energy forward with the battles they’re organizing. I already love dancing by myself, and they’ve taken my solo dancing to another level.

At the same time, black folks are most likely getting hit harder by COVID-19 than other ethnic groups. New York, New Orleans, Detroit and more hot spots for the virus in the US have large black populations. It’s hard to see 40% of the deaths in Michigan coming from the black community when we only make up 14% of that state’s population.

Heightened Awareness

My ears perked up last week when I heard Chamath Palihapitiya tell Kara Swisher that he sees something similar to the Patriot Act happening as we emerge from this pandemic. People will most likely want to know that the people around them are healthy and may be willing to give up more of their information in order to know who around them is healthy.

Telecom operators in South Africa are already working with the government to help track the movements of people who have tested positive for coronavirus and identifying the people with whom they come into contact with. Here in the US, there are calls for immunity certifications to identify people who could go back to work, provide healthcare, and more.

Should Chamath prove to be right and immunity certifications become a thing, my mind goes back to black folks disproportionally dying from coronavirus in Michigan. We’ve already seen the impact of label “Chinese virus.” How do we ensure black folks aren’t labeled as somehow deficient as opposed to existing in a system that has made it quite difficult to remain healthy? A lot of black folks made it through tough times over the more than 400 years we’ve been in the U.S. Yet, a lot of black folks didn’t.

Where Do We Go From Here?

I don’t know right now, but I’ve been encouraged by the many virtual gatherings of black folks to put our heads together in efforts to figure out how we support each other, exercising resilience. I’m grateful to get to support friends’ and acquaintances’ businesses, particularly the ones who are setting aside some of the revenue to support efforts to keep folks fed and healthy, investing in resilience. As I get a sense of the next right thing to do, I will do that.

No. 224 – On Confidence

In the West and East, when you talk about how things got the way they are, you’re able to go back pretty far to start to weave that story. When it comes to Africa, those stories tend to be shorter, starting around the time Europeans got to the shores of Southern and West Africa. We got other peaks into Africa through historical figures like Hannibal, but for the most part Africa is dark.

“At this point, we leave Africa, not to mention it again. For it is no historical part of the world; it has no movement or development to exhibit” – Georg Hegel, The Philosophy of History

So, what does that leave us with? Our reference points for our history often start with times of trauma – the slave trade and colonialism. Over the course of five centuries, beginning in the 15th century, Black folks went through this experience of having our culture altered, names changed, being shipped off to foreign lands as slaves, and being divided into artificial countries. That trauma has evolved over centuries into differing forms – Jim Crow, assassinations of leaders who emerge among us, prison industrial complex, and more. Over this period of time is where we tend to start our stories.

In college, there was a professor who every time I saw him would say Sankofa or “go back and get it.” The word represents that concept of reaching back in history to learn in order to continue forward progress.

Over the several centuries since the beginning of the slave trade, black folks have exhibited incredible determination and ingenuity to make something out of nothing in Africa, the Americas, Europe, and wherever else you find us in the world. 
You see all this confidence in the way we dress, our music, and our language, and it’s beautiful. Yet, I worry that we still have so much trauma that hasn’t been dealt with, that even with all this confidence you see there’s so much that has yet to be tapped into because we’re not able to reach far back enough to see the totality of who we are. 

I’m not saying we all were kings and queens. No. There were complex political economies across Africa each with their own value systems, ways of organizing people into groups and more. There were wars. There were winners and losers. There was the development of technology. There was innovation. There was wealth. There was poverty. The point is that we’ve been here before.

So, while an African American person in the US can make the choice to say that what I know is my experience and that of my ancestors in the US, or an African person can keep starting the story with her country’s independence, there is more. If our DNA is drawing on memories that goes back generations, why can’t we do the same to find our stories and see how far we can go back to draw from? We need to get our full confidence if we’re going to move in this world socially politically and economically in the way that we’re capable of.

With our trauma healed, and confidence on full go, I’d love to see the kind of imagination we could bring to ensuring that black folks in this world are doing well. Not only that, we could play an even greater role in shaping the human experience on the whole. Look at the extent to which we’ve contributed to the human experience through our food through, our music, our dress. Imagine what we can do when we’re not trying to work through trauma and partial confidence to get to our creativity.

“We are the culture. Nothing moves without us.” – Jay-Z

Over the course of modern history, mankind has done some incredible things. The next time you drive past the Pentagon, just think about how quickly they were moving to construct that building in just over a year. In fact, Patrick Collison has this fantastic list of things that have been done fast. Just go take a look at that. 

My bet is that black folks who are connected to the complexity of our history prior to the slave trade and colonialism can bring an elevated level of innovation and creativity to not only build an incredible future for the time that we have on this Earth, but to also reap the benefits economically and exercise the power to shape a how these things affect our lives.

We can figure out creative ways of dealing with Earth’s changing climate from a vantage point that folks haven’t even considered. We can figure out innovative ways of developing oil pipeline technology while we’re still using the resource. We can build new industries that create jobs for the hundreds of millions of young black people across the Africa and the Diaspora in a fashion that enables them to build a good life where they are. We can figure out how to help the neighbors in the Middle East get along. We can do all this while being at the main table on the global stage and ensuring that the innovations that we bring to the table also reap benefits for our people. It starts with us tapping far back into our history.

“The farther back you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.” – Winston Churchill

No. 213: Is That the Whole Story?

I’m working through The Quest for Artificial Intelligence by the late Nils Nilsson, a pioneer in the development of the field. He charts out the foundation for artificial intelligence beginning with Aristotle’s syllogisms and makes his way through various European mathematicians who made various contributions to mechanizing logic.

A couple of years ago, Chris Dixon, a venture capitalist at Andreessen Horowitz, wrote a piece on how Aristotle laid the foundation for the creation of the computer. Is that the whole story? I think there’s more to it than that. I tweeted about this early last year.

It’s critical that black folks and other groups currently underrepresented in the development of artificial intelligence carve out a space for ourselves. I wrote a bit about why here.

Perhaps a good example of the impact carving out a space can have is in the news that Robert Smith committed to pay off the loans for the entire 2019 class of Morehouse graduates.

Smith has built Vista Equity Partners into a machine of a private equity firm that has outpaced its competitors investing in enterprise software businesses by executing a precise operations playbook in each of its portfolio companies before flipping them for real nice returns. Pitchbook estimates that as of 2017, Vista’s internal rate of return has averaged 22%. Compare that an industry average of nearly 10%, according to AQR Capital Management research. Smith has done quite nicely for himself as a result, generating the resources to be able to clean up $40 million in debt.

A key engine behind the playbook Vista Equity Partners deploys across its portfolio companies is Vista Intelligence Group. The group uses artificial intelligence to scan data across Vista’s portfolio companies to surface opportunities and stand up new businesses around them. In a fireside chat at Goldman Sachs, Smith talked about how Vista is navigating the fourth industrial revolution by trying to get the firm to a leadership position in the various ecosystems it invests in rather than just placing capital in particular narrow verticals. I venture that Vista Intelligence Group is the lever they’re turning to make that happen. Artificial intelligence is the magic sauce. Here’s that fireside chat.

Imagine it’s true that artificial intelligence is the new electricity as Andrew Ng claims. Now consider that Robert Smith has leveraged AI to generate $4.47B worth of resources personally while managing $46B. Imagine the possibilities of some of the 2019 Morehouse graduates going on to tap into their genius and reimagine AI and how it will shape the global economy.

What do these graduates need to tap into their genius? The lightened financial burden courtesy of Mr. Smith definitely helps. Another component is these graduates seeing beyond the narrative that the arc of technological development cuts through Europe. I’ve written about this narrative issue here. While Aristotle was developing syllogisms, equally brilliant philosophers and mathematicians were working on their own ideas across Africa. Drawing confidence and inspiration from that kind of foundation makes these graduates unstoppable in my mind and positioned to reshape the trajectory of this world.

No. 138: How Does Africa’s Innovation Economy Tap Into Africa’s Wealth?

Yesterday, I had lunch with a friend who is raising a fund for her Lagos-based startup. At one point in our conversation, she shared the effort she has had to go through to get people she has met with in Silicon Valley up to speed on what is happening in Nigeria’s tech space.

This has been a refrain from a number of entrepreneurs and investors who are already tuned in on what is happening in Africa’s innovation economy. Fortunately, the tide seems to be trending towards Silicon Valley getting more hip to what is happening in Nigeria, Kenya, and to a lesser extent South Africa (Cape Town-based Naspers has led some massive investments that I am sure Silicon Valley investors have noticed.)

While we chatted, my mind went to some research I saw this weekend on Africa’s high net worth individuals. Capgemini’s annual World Wealth Report pegs the wealth of the 150,000 high net worth individuals across Africa at $1.4 trillion for 2016. These are people who have at least $1 million in investable assets, excluding primary residence, collectibles, non-durable goods like sweet potato pie, and durable goods like automobiles.

This is serious capital. I wonder what percentage of this wealth has gone into Africa’s innovation economy since 2009. The Capgemini report highlights three industries that are going to drive wealth accumulation globally through 2025 – financial services, technology, and healthcare. There are startups across Africa doing interesting things in all three of these areas, yet the challenges of getting Africa’s wealthy to invest in the continent’s startups has been a conversation for several years now. I think we’re trending to those conversations being fewer and fewer.

There are several people working to build a critical mass of wealthy investors across Africa committed to investing in Africa’s innovation economy, and these initiatives are gaining real traction. Further, some African governments have developed initiatives to support innovation economies within their borders. Two years ago, I watched Something Ventured, and it really got me thinking about how African governments could level up their involvement in Africa’s innovation economy. I’ll share where I’m at on that at some point.

In the meantime, what is your assessment of Africa’s wealthy investing in Africa’s innovation economy?

No. 134: Soul City: A City for Black Folk

My head is still shaking after learning that a prison sits on the land where Floyd McKissick was trying to build a city for black people.

White Flight, Urban Crisis, New Cities

Soul City was a project McKissick began working on in the late 1960s as part of an initiative at the Department of Housing and Urban Development to deal with the urban crisis in America. White Flight was taking place and the health of urban cities was not good – crime, bad housing, few job opportunities.

The initiative was to fund the development of 13 new cities to test whether the creation of new places to live was a viable option for dealing with the urban crisis. McKissick applied for the initiative to develop his idea for Soul City.

Floyd McKissick

Floyd McKissick was a leader in the Civil Rights Movement. His contemporaries included Stokely Carmichael, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Whitney Young. As the Civil Rights Movement gained steam McKissick and Carmichael pushed forward the Black Power Movement saying that the Civil Rights Movement wasn’t going far enough and things weren’t moving quickly enough for black people in the country.

The whole time I’m listening to the introduction of this podcast, I’m wondering why I don’t recall ever hearing about McKissick and well I know that there’s so much that I don’t know about the movement someone at his level I think I should have run across his name and not exactly sure why that is. The podcast puts forward a theory I’m not sure I agree with, but I hadn’t heard of Bayard Rustin for a long time either and he had kind of been written out of history for a while too.

Soul City, Silicon Valley, and Wealth

I was shocked to learn that Soul City had an incubator called Soul Tech One, which was focused on nurturing new companies. I couldn’t help but think about the early days of Silicon Valley, which had begun its evolution just 20 years prior. In the 75 years of so since the beginning of Silicon Valley, the billions of dollars of individual wealth that has been created is mind boggling.

Today, the conversation around the lack of presence of black people in the technology sector is at its peak. To think that someone was trying to set up the infrastructure that could have taken a shot at being significant in generating wealth through technology in the black community is inspiring. We can finish this. We have the creativity. We shape culture. We have the stamina to make it happen.

For some time now I’ve been having conversations with friends about getting black people in this country to a place where we’re operating from a position of power economically. My talking about this isn’t really what will get it done at this point. Someone I care about a lot really impacted how I look at wealth and positioning myself to build it for myself while working on seeing a bunch of rich black people in the US and Africa who can and do write checks for nascent businesses and who shape policy.

This shift in my thinking is a large reason why I haven’t been writing for the past few months. I’ve really been working hard and have made good progress, and have a couple more years to go. The past week though has been difficult and I have felt concerned about my ability to continue executing the plan. This podcast pissed me off and inspired me. Good oxygen for my fire to keep me going.

Soul City and a Prison

We eventually learn that the Soul City project failed after it lost oxygen due in part to an audit that Senator Jesse Helms ordered for the project. To this day I still feel bad for confusing Jesse Helms and Howard Coble as a kid. The two couldn’t have been more different legislators.

All these years later a prison sits on the land that was Soul City. There are countless studies on the all too familiar relationship the black community has with prisons in this country. The irony was overwhelming to hear that one of those structures sits on land that could have been home to a thriving black community – a project that could have potentially seeded more like it.

Let’s Go on a Road Trip

I’m curious to see what remains of Soul City plan to drive down there in the next couple months. Feel free to email me if you’d like to come along –