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January 17, 2024 30 mins

Ep. 148 In the season we celebrate and honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I wanted to introduce you to a lesser known character in his life that played a massive impact. The story of A.G. Gaston is one that, when you look closely, represents the power of Black wealth and entrepreneurship, allowing us to use our resources to make the changes we wish to see in the world.

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
We think about getting money, too many of us given
outsized weight to the selfish reasons for accumulation. I'll first
say there's no problem with driving something better, living in
a higher quality home, or eating better foods and affording
to do so. What I mean, more specifically, is the

(00:20):
question we've heard before of would you even know what
to do with a million dollars if you had it?
Will Lucas here Black Tech, Green Money, super excited to
be with you guys for the first new episode twenty
twenty four. This is gonna be fun because we are

(00:43):
in a season of celebrating the life and times doctor
Martin the King Junior. Before we get into today's conversation,
I'm gonna do a couple of things at afro Tech News,
but I'm recording this episode the day before MLK Day
twenty twenty four. You likely won't hear it till after,
but because it does a man I want to introduce
to you in order to douce the idea of wealth

(01:07):
generation and accumulation for purpose. Purpose touch that when you
have it purpose, the path to wealth generation becomes clearer,
not necessarily easier, but certainly clearer. So the story we'll
discuss is one that doesn't get enough attention in my view,
especially when we talk about the role of entrepreneurship and

(01:29):
civil rights and the power of black people having money.
So I'm excited to get into this conversation. But first, yeah,
Afro Tech News, that's to do that. Honey Pod Coal,
the Honey Pot Company reached a new milestone, a big
shot to Beatrice Fixing in their mission to provide quality
feminine and sexual wellness products to consumers. The brand founded

(01:52):
by Beatrice closed on a three hundred and eighty million
dollar partnership deal with Compass Diversified, on the nation's largest
investment firms to expand on the black woman owned company's
goal to communizing feminine care for women. Dixon she will
remain the CEO and Innovation Officer at honey Pot Co

(02:15):
and set in the statement, We're excited to embark on
this partnership with Cody, a firm that aligns seamlessly with
our values and is dedicated to championing our vision of
destigmatizing feminine care through accessible products and thirty three promoting
holistic wellness both inside and out. Honey Pot Co offers

(02:36):
a variety of plant based feminine products made with quality
care without harmful chemicals, and she launched the company in
twenty fourteen after suffering a medical condition for like eight
months and according to the company's website, an ancestor came
to her and her dreams, inspiring her to create products

(02:58):
that could heal herself realistically through RBS and since then,
the feminine Care line has been on shelves at major
retailers like Walmart, Target, Walgreens and more. They will still
keep their fifteen member leadership team and existing owners with
our minority state in the business and Dixon believes that
the partnership will help Honeypot coach more consumers soon. So

(03:20):
big shout out to Beatri's diction. This is what we're
talking about when we're talking about wealth, how you do it? Also,
next one is Global Infrastructure partners co founded by either
Buy You or gon Less. See a Nigerian founder is
going to be acquired by a black rock for twelve

(03:42):
point five billion dollars. They are doing it on the continent.
So shout out to all the listeners who are on
the continent and subscribers to this podcast. Y'all killing it,
appreciate and respect what y'all are doing keep doing that.
The announced acquisition of the one hundred bill billion dollar
asset firm or to Bayu found it despite his personal

(04:05):
network to an estimated two point three billion, according to Bloomberg.
Global Infrastructure Partners was founded back in six and raised
over five billion and was more. The Global Independent Infrastructure
Fund Manager's website says the company's in its equity portfolio
have a combined annual revenues accumulated over eighty billion dollars.

(04:28):
They focus on energy, transportation, digital, water, waste sectors and GIP.
Global Infrastructure Partners works to originate proprietary transactions, conduct deep
and extensive due diligence, structure and closing investments, employee best
practice operating management, effectively managed stakeholder relationships and identify exit opportunities.

(04:53):
Along the almost twenty year history of GIP, the firm
secured ownership of London, England's Gatwick and City airports, as
well as Edinburgh, Scotland's airport. In addition, it invested in
gas pipelines, power plants, offshore wind farms, port operators, and more.
Per reports, Ogan Lessie, Who's chief, He'll see e CEO

(05:16):
is calculated to have a seventeen point five percent stake,
which I guess is how to get to the two
point three billion Bloomberg Billionaires Index gives that and the
total fortune of about two point three billion, and equal
split of gip's twelve point five billion acquisition price would
give the firms twenty seven other partners stakes worth more
than three hundred and eighty million dollars each. A little

(05:39):
bit about him, how to buy You, Ogan Lessie. He
earned an undergrad degree from the University of Oxford in England,
NBA from Harvard. Then he pivoted to banking. He was
the head of Credit Swee's investment banking division, became the
lead independent director at Goldman Sachs Group in twenty fourteen,

(05:59):
but he said to resign from gold Miss Acts following
the close of this deal. So he's still working at
gold Missacks, which I love because we all feel like
we all got to quit our jobs to go do
something else, and this has proved that you do not
have to quit your job to go do something else.
He just sold a company for twelve point five billion
dollars and still has a job at gold Miss Acts.

(06:21):
I love this. As of this report, he is the
chair President I used to the chair of President Biden's
National Infrastructure Advisory Council and serves on the top golf
Calaway Brands corporate Board. So big shout out to you.
I to buy you and to all the entrepreneurs of
the diaspora. We are cheering for you. So if you

(06:44):
believe in investing, you appreciate this one because there's some
positive to this thing I'm about to read, and there's
some negatives to it also, But the first positive young
black investors are investing in the stock market. Young young
black people are investing at higher rates than we us to.
According to a study conducted in twenty two but just
released by Aerial Investments in Charles Swab, sixty eight percent

(07:07):
of black respondents under forty are now investing in stocks,
in comparison to fifty seven percent of younger white respondents.
And Ariel Patrick, chief communication officer at Aerial Investments, which
is a black owned firm by the way, told the
Wall Street Journal quote, You're seeing topics of money and
investing coming up at the dinner table slightly more among

(07:30):
black families than they had ever before, and this is
largely credited. Well, I should say unquote. This is largely
credited to the aftermath of the COVID nineteen pandemic, which
shifted different financial habits for Americans and led to the
first investment in the stock market for many people. But
here's the important thing. There is an alarming trend here

(07:52):
which was reported by the two firms, between black investors
and white investors. It does appear first that people are
en the giants and engage when it comes to investing.
But the alarming thing about this is the lack of
education about those investments. Forty seven percent of black investors

(08:12):
and forty five percent of white investors reported they had
invested their money in a sector where they lacked full understanding.
Rule number one, don't do that. Black investors also mentioned
they were more likely to inform their investment decisions based
on sources that are less credible. As a matter of fact,

(08:33):
thirty three percent of black investors linked their investment interest
to information found on TikTok Ig, Twitter, Facebook, a higher number,
much higher number than white investors, which was less than
twenty five percent. We gotta stop doing that. Melody Hobson,
who I Love co CEO and president of Aerial Investment

(08:55):
said about the study. The confluence of low stock market participates,
appetite for risky investment options, and alarming lack of knowledge
about fundamental investing principles is a red flag about the
critical need for greater investment education. Many new and younger
investors have never experienced market volatility like we've seen in

(09:16):
the past couple of years, and we have a responsibility
to educate these new investors about the value of long
term investing to build wealth and achieve financial security. That's
your Afro Tech News. By the time you hear this episode,

(09:45):
it will be at least the day after Martin Luther
King Junior Day twenty twenty four, but I'm recording it
on the day we set aside to honor the giant
of civil rights and social justice. Not only social justice,
because that would wildly undersell his priorities, but also educational justice,

(10:06):
economic justice, and more. Sitting inside at jail in nineteen
sixty three was doctor King and Reverend Ralph Abernathy who
were arrested in the streets of Birmingham, Alabama, for leading protests,
peaceful protests, i might add, against segregation. Doctor King would
spend eight days in jail before being bailed out, and

(10:29):
during that time of just over a week, he would
write Letter from Birmingham Jail, which is still famous today.
It includes lines like injustice anywhere is a threat to
justice everywhere. Justice too long delayed is justice denied. And
one has a more responsibility to disobey unjust laws things

(10:50):
that you and I hear often. These lines are lines
that many, when honoring doctor King, remind us of, and
they're often even quoted by those who do I don't
even know he's responsible for him. Now, this letter, the
letter from Birmingham Jail, wasn't addressed to the public he
was leading or calling the action, but to other men

(11:10):
of the clergy, men who were reverends and ministers of faith,
who you might think would be standing behind him or
beside him, even though they were white. But they were
instead critical of his methods, suggesting he should fight for
justice by using the law, not civil disobedience, which was
the method he took. Now, mind you, it was the laws,

(11:33):
ironically at the time that were the tools of those
who oppressed us. That's how they did it. Now, No,
it's important to say that many people who praised doctor
Martin Luther King Junior today and many of those who
sobbed when he died were the very ones who stood
staunchly against him and made it harder for him when
he was alive. But I digress. I digress. Now, having

(11:57):
started this episode this way, you might think I'm going
to spend the rest of our time together reminding us
of the virtues of the civil rights movement by way
of doctor King's activities. But I'm going to honor the
work another way. I'll do it by telling you the
story briefly of Arthur George Gaston, better known as AG Gaston,

(12:18):
and in parallel make a case for entrepreneurship and wealth
generation and accumulation. Some of you know, because you're an
avid listener here, that I was once a radio DJ,
and I spent about twelve years on the radio as
a top rated host in my hometown of Twedo, Ohio,
and in Detroit, also on several radio stations. Now, I

(12:41):
remember receiving a marketing lesson from one of my program
directors on how to engage an audience on the radio,
and I think the rules apply here because there are
key lessons in storytelling and in captivation. He said, these
simple lines that go tell them what you're going to do.

(13:02):
Tell them what you're doing, then tell them what you did.
Tell them what you're going to do, Tell them what
you're doing, then tell them what you did. These keys
allow you to prepare an audience for a good time,
which should build their excitement and allow them to get
in the right frame of mind to receive what you're
about to deliver. Then, while they're engaged in the experience,

(13:27):
when you tell them what you're doing, you bring awareness
to the quality being presented or guide them to clues
that they might be missing, which would enhance the experience
while it's happening. And then closing, tell them what you did.
This puts a seal on what they should have taken
away from the journey, helps them more appropriately appreciate what

(13:48):
they just received, and bakes into their medium to long
term memory the experience. So I'm gonna do that for
you today. First, I'm going to tell you what I'm
want to do. Then I'll do it and close this
episode out with key learnings and encouragement based on our discussion.
What I want to talk about today is the power

(14:09):
of riches. How you use finances to make an impact
on the things you care about. And briefly, how one
black entrepreneur achieved his financial success and then used it
to advance civil rights. We think about getting money, too
many of us given outsized weight to the selfish reasons

(14:31):
for accumulation. I'll first say there is no problem with
driving something better, living in a higher quality home, or
eating better foods and affording to do so. What I mean,
more specifically is the question we've heard before of would
you even know what to do with the million dollars
if you had it? Now, I know everyone listening raised

(14:52):
their hands like I definitely know what to do with
a million dollars, and You're right. I'm talking about the
other listeners who also raise their hands, but trust me,
they don't know what to do with it. And I'm
trying to help them because what they thought about at
that moment, of all the things they wanted to do,
were only about how they were going to upgrade their
own lives. But what too many of us don't understand

(15:16):
about wealth, true wealth, is that it doesn't flow towards
the selfish. No matter how many times you see someone
on ig with a money phone or how many product
bags you see that real housewife of wherever with wealth
flows towards places it can grow. So let's not ever

(15:36):
get confused about that. And that is again not to
say it. You can't have nice things. You can do
well while doing well, and that's the point. So for
two seconds, I'll I'll just go in and say this,
if you're if you will follow me for a second.
Cash dollars mulah or a proxy we use this paper

(15:58):
we hold so dear to say, simply make exchanges. Other
than that, the US dollar is merely twenty five percent
linen seventy five percent cotton mixed up in a special blend.
In Japanese, yen is oriental paper brush in the back
of pulp. Dollars are a proxy, a proxy for power,
which means they stand in allowing us to trade this

(16:21):
for that more easily than otherwise. And if dollars are
simply proxies for power, then what is power? What are
we trading this linen and paper blend in our wallets for.
We trade it to realize the impact we want to
make in the world or change that we want to see,
whether that change is the ownership of the title to

(16:44):
a car from billion the dealership's hands to mind, or
an impact on the quality of education our kids can
have access to. Now, whether or not you agree with
the specific impact a wealthy person is making is besides
the point. The point is that power needs to be
exercised in order for it to be maintained and grown.

(17:07):
Ag Gaston was a wealthy black man who was born
in eighteen ninety two and died in nineteen ninety six
at one hundred and three years old. Mister Gason understood
his riches had a responsibility and tried to balance his
commitment to business with his loyalty to the black community.
He wasn't like the biggest businessman that didn't care about
anything except business, and he wasn't the biggest civil rights

(17:30):
and social justice guy who didn't care about anything except
social justice and civil rights. He tried to balance between
both worlds. I said before, what's important about ag Gaston's
place in history is the impact he had on civil rights,
and we know very little about it. We don't talk
about him often, but he's intriguing to me. He did

(17:52):
things in business when many of us saw constraints, and
I love that just in and of itself. There are
times and sees in our lives where around us we
only see obstacles, whether that be the neighborhoods we live in,
the you know, the law, the legal system around us,
the financial situation. We may have been born into, the

(18:14):
educational things that we've attained or lack or didn't attain.
But some people decided to look past those obstacles and
find their way. A. G. Gaston looked at the obstacles
squarely in the eye and made a way leveraging those obstacles.
I'm getting ahead of myself. He was born in a

(18:35):
log cabin in Demopolis, Alabama, nineteen eighteen ninety two, and
like many of us entrepreneurs, there were science early in
life that he had the bug. His first business reportedly
was a business selling rides on a tree swing in
his grandparents' backyard. He'd get paid in buttons. He was

(18:58):
a minor at the Tennessee Coal and Iron Company when
he got the idea for his first company, which was
a burial society. This is back when black people didn't
really have dignified funerals, and this was what he built
was effectively an insurance organization to ensure that when we died,
we could have some dignity at our funeral. The story

(19:20):
goes that he charged twenty five sins each week to
all the members of the society, an effort to raise
enough and put enough in the kitty so that when
somebody dies, that money would be able to support that funeral.
But before he actually banked enough to cover anybody's expenses,
having just ten dollars set aside, a member died and

(19:42):
this resulted in a one hundred dollars bill that he
couldn't meet, But he was undeterred and made payment arrangements
with the funeral home. The person got their respectful service.
Gaston got a nod of confidence from the minister who officiated,
who said, from now on, everyone in this town is
going to pay for this society because Gaston's got a vision.

(20:05):
And that's how his fortune started. He went on to
own several funeral homes, an insurance company, a savings and
loan bank, a business college, and even a motel, the
Gaston Motel. Understanding the power of his dollars, he went
to the bank where he held his money and told
him that if they didn't remove segregated water fountains in

(20:27):
the lobby, he'd moved his millions elsewhere. That's power. Arthur
George Gaston would be the man who'd bail out Doctor
King when he was arrested in that jail in Birmingham,
allowing him the opportunity to get back to the work
of the people. Doctor King might have remained in jail

(20:48):
for however long further, had this black entrepreneur, this black millionaire,
not intervened with his checkbook. This was a man who
understood that while he could drive a Cadillac El Dorado,
which he did back then, he could also provide dignified
accommodations for traveling civil rights leaders in his hotel and

(21:10):
other black people who would otherwise be turned away from
other hotel providers. He had the power to donate money
to the legal team of Authorine Lacey, an African American
woman who filed a lawsuit to integrate the graduate school
at the University of Alabama. He had the power to
provide financial assistance tu SKI activists who were forced out

(21:33):
of their homes because they challenged voting discrimination. Justice with
no economics is not justice at all, and having means
but no aim to build your community serves nobody. But
I don't want you to get this twisted. It wasn't
that he had to agree with everything doctor King or

(21:54):
other civil rights activists believed in or their methods, because
he didn't. In fact, he was quite conservative. Yes, he
provided a lot of financial backing for the civil rights movement,
but he realized he didn't have to have the only
valid opinion on tactics. He didn't agree necessarily with protests,

(22:18):
especially in Birmingham. He was a man of stature in
that community and the business community specifically. They respected him
at least to the point of what he had and
he tried to get white businessmen in Birmingham to meet
with those civil rights leaders to get them to help
resolve the issues that inspire the protests or the would

(22:40):
be protests in the first place, which was about segregation.
Doctor King said, look, if you want to keep us segregated,
we'll hold our our money and we won't shop in
your stores during the Easter holiday season, which was the
second biggest shopping season of the year. Doctor King was
in the whole community, the whole black community, be like,

(23:02):
now we're gonna hold that money, We're not gonna spend it.
Ag Gason didn't want that, as he knew it would
turn out bad. Protesting would turn out bad for Doctor King,
so he thought there might be other ways to achieve
the same goals. Now, who's right who's wrong. That's up
for history to decide what I'm making the case for us. Yes,

(23:23):
there may have been of the ways, and the way
you choose is the way you choose, and just because
the other person does it differently doesn't mean they're right
or wrong. The point here is that what he had
achieved allowed him to seat at the table, to have
a voice, a very powerful voice, one people would listen to.
While Doctor King march. Anyway, the effort ag Gaston put

(23:44):
into getting the science to sit and talk actually did
have an impact. Not before the march, obviously, but after
the march. There was just a few weeks after he
was arrested, the negotiations worked out, They resolve those terms.
Ag Gason spent one hundred and sixty thousand dollars bailing
Doctor King out, which allowed him to get back to work.

(24:07):
Now they were more radical civil rights folks who didn't
like that ag Gason had these alternative ways, these more
sit down and talk methods of working out these issues.
So they call them an Uncle Tom. And it's reported
that he said if wanting to spare children and save lives,
bring peace. If that's Uncle Thomas, then I want to

(24:29):
be a super Uncle Tom. Now, whatever you feel about that,
you can feel about that. But here's what I gleaned
from that sort of position is there is a conversation
to be had of your way of doing things may
not be my way of doing things, and the ways
that work for me to get things accomplished may not
be the way that works for you. And we've got
to be okay with the methods people choose to take.

(24:53):
At the end of the day, what we are trying
to do is move the ball forward for our communities,
for our families, generate well, generate freedom, have better health,
better access to better education, etc. Live in better communities,
and all these things. The way you go about doing
it may not be the way that I do it.
And so what I got from what he was saying

(25:14):
it kind of speaks to and I've said it before
on this podcast, is there are folks who rightly, you know,
wave the flag of like, look tech, big tech companies
of the world, you should hire more black people, and
they should. It's the right thing to do. That effort
is just not my effort. My effort is to get

(25:36):
more of us building big tech companies. That does not
make you wrong in me right. That doesn't make me
wrong and you right. It's just we have different missions.
My mission is to get us to build our own tables.
Then we can put whoever we want at the tables.
I want to build our own black tech companies, our
own Googles that may be founded by black people, our

(26:00):
own Facebook that's metas and you know that may be found.
I want to get more of us building humongous companies
and businesses. And there is something to be said for
the efforts of people who hold these other companies to
the fire. That is worthy work, and neither one of

(26:21):
us is wrong in that. But there are methods that
you choose to take that other people believe you should
be doing the way that they do it. What A. G.
Gaston was passionate about was getting us to have power
inside the structure so that we could change the structure.
And first we would have to empower ourselves economically, and

(26:44):
there were ways that we could do that in our
own communities. That's what his particular passion was. That's what
his mission was. So even though he didn't agree with
all the ways what he had built in his own business,
in his own enterprises allowed him to assist the movement,
and that's important. It's important for us to know it. Also,

(27:06):
this was not a man who was very outspoken about
his work. And he did a lot for the civil
rights movement, particularly even with the power of his wallet.
But he was not outspoken't You weren't going to see
him on a bullhorn. As early as the nineteen twenties
they talk about, you know, he was encouraging his customers

(27:26):
to save money. He understood money was power, Having capital
was power, and he was working to get black people
registered to vote so that we could exercise our power
in numerous ways with our capital and at the ballot box.
So what I'm hoping you take from the story of
Arthur George Gaston, and he wasn't loud about his moves

(27:49):
and he didn't need to be. His superpower was that
he knew his power, and he knew how to grow it,
and he knew how to use it to make the
changes he wanted to see in the world. His Rules
for Success were printed by the Birmingham News in nineteen
ninety six, and my favorite line was this when he said,
find a need and fill it. Successful businesses are founded

(28:12):
on the needs of people. What need can you feel
in your community or in the world. We need you
to be successful, yes you, We need to have you
feel avoid in the marketplace or to serve up better
options than those that are currently available today. People like myself.

(28:33):
You ag gas and as an inspiration an entrepreneur who
built companies not just for personal reward, but because he
knew that finding success allows him to create opportunities. He
also said, don't get too big headed with little fellows.
That's where the money is. And I love that quote

(28:54):
because I translated to mean building for the overlooked subgroups.
Riches are in the niches. Consider those groups of people
that are considered minorities today, whether you're building for the
black community today or other groups of people like people
who were into anime ten years ago. Those groups have

(29:15):
either or are projected to grow over time. So when
you serve them well while they're small and easier to
gain traction in, you set up yourself for success long term.
In honor of doctor King, when you build your wealth.
As you build your wealth, you become not only a
person who makes a difference for black issues, amplifying change.

(29:37):
With your capital, you also become a representation of all
the great things that become possible when black people have money.
If you got something oudel this episode, let me know.

(30:00):
I at will Lucas. I'd love to hear about your thoughts, comments,
you have other perspectives, I would love that too. Share
this episode with somebody
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