To commemorate Juneteenth, CNN Business facilitated a panel of prominent Black business leaders entitled “A Juneteenth Conversation: Advancing Black Leadership.”
During the event, Walgreens Boots Alliance’s CEO, Rosalind Brewer, shared her story as a Black woman operating in an abundantly white business world. Operation HOPE’s CEO John Hope Bryant and Collab Captial’s co-founder Barry Givens also served as panelists. The panel began the event by discussing their journeys to their current positions, and then transitioned into a discussion about how Black people can build generational wealth.
When CNN correspondent Stephanie Elam asked Brewer about the origins of her career, Brewer said that she didn’t begin her career with a specific vision. In fact, none of the panelists did. Brewer acknowledged that she was quite insecure during the beginning of her career, but she knew she had a talent for business. She was confident that she could successfully navigate a white-dominated corporate America.
“I knew I could run circles around the conversations that were happening,” said Brewer.
Bryant and Givens also shared similar stories of their beginnings. While Bryant chose to make his mark in the business world initially by trying to impress others, Givens was “running the race” his parents told him to.
On the topic of financial literacy and empowering Black people, each entrepreneur discussed different ways the Black community could benefit.
Brewer saw an opportunity to help with administration of the COVID-19 vaccine, and took it. Brewer, along with the help of faith communities, fraternities and sororities, was able to communicate important information about the vaccine to the Black community. This effort led to the administering of over 70 million vaccination doses across the country, with 50% of those being administered to people of color.
Brewer has also partnered with CEOs from Dow 30 companies to expand representation by people of color into more board and leadership positions. She often facilitates these conversations herself, to ensure that people of color have better odds of obtaining employment in some of the world’s more lucrative businesses.
Givens emphasized that he is all about investing in Black business owners. He also elaborated on how employment rates declined for Black people in the diversity push during the mid-2010s, and as a result, he wants to “plant seeds” and make it possible for more Black people to become wealthy.
Bryant expounded on financial literacy and Black entrepreneurship a bit differently. To him, financial literacy for Black people isn’t just a financial topic, it’s a social one.
“Financial literacy is a new civil rights issue,” said Bryant.
Bryant has been successful in getting many Black people to commit earlier to the idea of building wealth. Bryant, former Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Mayor Andre Dickens and Atlanta Public Schools recently facilitated a $2 million program that created a bank account for every kindergartner in the school district.
The panelists advised that acquiring money by any means is not the end goal for Black people. It is about acquiring money without sacrificing one’s morals.
Multiple studies have shown that Black people are at an economic disadvantage because of many underlying factors, including lower funding for programs in Black communities, and the documented salary gap between Black workers and their white counterparts.
Givens closed the Juneteenth panel by not only emphasizing the importance of financial freedom and generational wealth, but acquiring them the right way.
“I’m here to get money, but to get money with a conscience,” Givens said. “To get money for a reason, so that I can uplift the community that has been ignored.”