First, it is important to acknowledge the diversity of Miamians of African descent. Unlike Atlanta, Miami has a robust community of professionals with direct lineage from the Caribbean. Atlanta, on the other hand, with the strength and prominence of Morehouse College, Spelman College and the other higher-education institutions, has successfully attracted some of our nation’s brightest black undergraduate students and created linkages with a strong corporate community. That’s why you see more black professionals occupying corporate and government leadership positions there. Miami must continue an upward trajectory to maximize the competitive advantage we gain through inclusion.
You co-founded the local chapter of 100 Black Men of America. What’s the organization’s purpose? How do you measure success?
I co-founded the South Florida Chapter in 1989. We started a program called Project Success, in which we took middle school students, mentored them and made a commitment to help them be successful throughout their educational journey. Over the years, we’ve had countless mentees come back to express their gratitude for the life lessons, academic training, and guidance that they are now proudly sharing as mentors. Later I became the national chairman and served in that role for eight years. As such, I witnessed and helped influence the growth of dedicated mentoring nationally and abroad. This has been the legacy of 100 Black Men of America. Expanding to 118 chapters with more than 10,000 members, we continue to strive to improve the quality of life in our communities and enhance the economic and educational opportunities for African Americans.
Tell us one thing about you that would surprise your colleagues.
When I was a teenager, I was a ball boy for the Atlanta Hawks—between 1973 and 1976. I was able to collect autographs from some of the greats of that time including: Lou Hudson, Pete Maravich, Walt Bellamy, and Kareem Abdul Jabbar. As a result, I am the proud owner of Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s cuffed, velour 1970’s era vintage pants, which he threw out after a game because they didn’t fit. I have those pants in a frame in my house today. Being around those athletes was an amazing experience because many of the players took the time to mentor me while I was playing high school basketball.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
There is a palpable level of excitement in the air as Miami enters its next real estate cycle, and as the City as a whole evolves into a global destination. Late last year, our firm conducted a "New Miami Investment Survey," which polled more than 200 of Miami’s leading business executives and found that roughly 60% believe that Miami’s economy is growing. About the same number believe that its financing environment is also improving. Much of this growth is coming from Latin America, as well as other parts of the globe that see Miami as an attractive place in which to invest. That’s something to build on.