Hart (left) talked to the students about how fiscally unprepared he was early in his career. Photo by Ashli J. Washington/Spelman College.

The line outside of Sisters Chapel on the campus of Spelman College kept getting longer and longer the closer it got to the time a certain popular actor and comedian was to arrive. The students were there to see Kevin Hart, one of the world’s premier funnymen, but Hart wasn’t there to make them laugh, even though he did manage to accomplish that multiple times during his visit. 

Hart dropped by Spelman College Thursday morning as part of his Hart Of It All tour and JP Morgan Chase’s ‘Advancing Black Pathways’ initiative. As a member of the Advancing Black Pathways advisory council, Hart is using his immense platform to reach and teach students about financial fitness. 

The same conversations many of the hundreds of students that packed the chapel have no doubt had with their parents and professors at Spelman came across differently when Hart explained in his own unique way how he missed opportunities to be fiscally responsible early in life.  Even before becoming one of the top grossing comedians in the world, Hart explained that he was a “check-to-check guy” and spent his earnings as fast as he could get his hands on them. There were times, he said, that he would buy expensive clothes and sneakers just to put forth the image  and perception of having money even though he did not. “When I was young I was messing up,” he said. “That’s why I am here. I’m telling you my lack of knowledge set me up for nothing but failure.” 

Ground Zero

To be fair, Spelman is one of the country’s most prestigious halls of academia and a large majority of its students come from families of some semblance of means. 

That said, Hart lived an entirely different life as a young person. He did manage to attend community college for a while, but never finished and acknowledged that there wasn’t anyone around to educate him on financial literacy or just  how to go about banking. “At 28 I went back to ground zero,” Hart said about the moment he decided he didn’t want to be living from payday to payday. “You’re already formulating your plan, don’t wait till school is over to be ambitious.”

Hart (third from left) with the Welcher family following his visit. Photo by Donnell Suggs/The Atlanta Voice.

Hart recalled the story of earning. His first big payday as a comedian, $250,000, and blowing the money in a matter of weeks. He blames financial ignorance for that mishap. “I had throwback jerseys and [Nike] Air Force Ones,” he joked. “I can’t tell you where that money is.”

Some students got the opportunity to ask Hart a few questions about how to prepare for inflation, working with others, banking responsibly and the importance of HBCU’s. 

Hart, who turned 43 in July, was frank and up front with the students, sometimes joking and other times talking to them like a big brother or father. With his daughter 17 years old, Hart has had these talks before and it showed. “I made my kids (his son is 14 years old) understand the importance, not just about money, but about banking,” he said. “I’m rich, they’re not.” 

Asked what he hopes the students took away from his time at Spelman, Hart said, “I want them to understand that they are part of tomorrow’s change. These women that I talked to today are going to be future business owners, senior vice presidents, vice presidents, managers, doctors, lawyers, and dentists; you’re talking about the next wave. I want them to understand that they have a job to do, to take the world of education and information that they are being provided with and go out and utilize it.”

Talking about financial literacy isn’t boring 

Spelman sophomore mathematics major Naya Welcher was the student moderator for the event and afterwards, surrounded by her parents, reflected on Hart taking time to come speak to her and her Spelman sisters. “Having someone so culturally important talk to us about financial literacy proves it isn’t boring,” she said.

Hart called his visit a “cheat sheet moment, “ and that he hopes that it only helps prepare them for their futures which he knows will be bright. “Hopefully they are walking away with something that they think they need,” he said. 

The Hart Of It All tour will make a stop at an elementary school in Hart’s hometown of Philadelphia next. Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Alicia Keys is scheduled to visit the Spelman campus Friday. 

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Donnell began his career covering sports and news in Atlanta nearly two decades ago. Since then he has written for Atlanta Business Chronicle, The Southern Cross...