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Al Sharpton Talks Misconceptions About His Place at the Center of Civil Rights

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Al Sharpton1 author photo color credit Michael Frost (002)
Al Sharpton author photo color credit Michael Frost (002)

Al Sharpton (Photo: Michael Frost )

*For many Black Americans, he is next to a Messiah. For many non-Black Americans, he is thought to be an agitator, riling up already uncomfortable societal quagmires that are better left swept under the rug. Media image aside, Reverend Al Sharpton is neither of these things.

The boy raised by a single mother in working class Queens, New York, developed a passion for civil rights activism as a pre-teen. He began marching alongside Reverend Jesse Jackson and other prominent civil rights activists at the tender age of thirteen, seeking to progress the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s message of civil disobedience and taking the high road to equal rights under the law for Black Americans.

As the years progressed, though the American civil rights movement has remained something of a moving target, much of the fight has landed at Reverend Al Sharpton’s doorstep. Families of victims of police brutality, fatal racial discrimination and other hate crimes come to him in their quest to gain the media attention they need to enact criminal justice and legislative reform on behalf of their loved ones. The powerless and voiceless look to Reverend Sharpton to get their voices heard. As Sharpton, himself, put it to me during our conversation, “People have called me an ambulance chaser, but we are the ambulance.” He is referring to victims’ families who have been helped by Sharpton’s National Action Network (NAN), providing everything from the media attention these families need to pressure prosecutors to take action towards justice, to gaining the attention of congress for policy reform, as well as emotional and financial support in some instances.

Now, with his new book, Rise Up: Confronting A Country At The Crossroads, Reverend Al Sharpton outlines his unrelenting position on the weightiest political and societal issues of our time, recounts some hard lessons learned, and offers an inside glimpse into the mentors who shaped the man we see today. Most importantly, Reverend Sharpton outlines his plan for an America at the crossroads.

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Al Sharpton - Cover art courtesy of Hanover Square Press

Allison Kugel: In light of recent news in the Breonna Taylor case (no criminal charges were filed in her death), what was your first reaction when you heard that decision?

Reverend Al Sharpton: It was alarming, but not surprising. I didn’t have confidence in this investigation, because of the obvious policies of the prosecutor. The prosecutor guides the grand jury and there is nobody in there besides the prosecutor. This prosecutor is a protege of Mitch McConnell. I did not think that he was going to do anything. I did feel that the indictment of the other officer, [Brett] Hankison, for the endangerment of everybody but Breonna was just as offensive. What they are saying is that he was reckless in who he was shooting at and putting others at risk. What about who they shot, and her being at risk? It is one of the reasons why we do what we do, in saying there needs to be new laws. We just had a big march with tens of thousands of us, three weeks ago. Among two of the things we wanted are The George Floyd Policing and Justice Act that sat in the House, but the Senate hasn’t taken it up. It would strengthen the laws that would have eliminated the no knock laws and put this whole thing in a different perspective. That’s one of the things I talk about that in this new book (Rise Up, Hanover Square Press).

Allison Kugel: Many people believe that you just show up wherever the action and media attention is.  It’s important for people to know that you and your National Action Network (NAN) are the ones who work to bring national attention to these cases in the first place. For example, it was your organization, NAN, that brought national attention to Trayvon Martin’s murder and to George Floyd’s murder. Without your hard work, the world wouldn’t know the names Trayvon Martin or George Floyd. Why isn’t this common knowledge? 

Reverend Al Sharpton: A lot of the media just doesn’t say it. Ben Crump (Attorney for the Floyd family) and the families have said it. In fact, Breonna Taylor’s mother’s first interview was on my show (MSNBC’s “PoliticsNation”). They couldn’t get a national show before my show. Sybrina Fulton (Trayvon Martin’s mother) wrote about it her book on Trayvon. Ben Crump brought them to New York to ask me to blow up Trayvon [in the media]. Trayvon had been buried for 2 weeks. I didn’t even know about Trayvon until they came and met with me in my office. We made it an issue and called the first rally and had about 10,000 people out there. It ended up being the day my mother died, and I went ahead with the rally anyway. I said in the eulogy to George Floyd that people call me to blow things up, and I have an infrastructure with NAN where we support the family, we help them get legal advice and media advice, and we stay with them. Sometimes people can’t cover their expenses if they need to do a rally. Some of them need to pay their rent, and NAN helps with that. They call us because they know we’ll come.

Allison Kugel: Who is your heir apparent once you reach a certain age and you are no longer able to do this work? 

Reverend Al Sharpton: That would come up through the ranks of NAN (Sharpton’s National Action Network). We have a lot of young people in our youth and college division, and some of them have a lot of potential. It is not up to me to choose who it will be, but I think it will come up from the ranks of the movement. That is why I built an organization. I could have just resigned from NAN several years ago, not worried about raising five to ten million dollars a year, and just done radio and TV and been a personality. I built a structure because I wanted to go way beyond my viability. I came out of that kind of structure, but nobody anointed me. The point person before me was Reverend Jesse Jackson who was one of my mentors, but he didn’t choose me.  Cream rises to the top. You’re going to take a lot of scrutiny. You’re going to take a lot of attacks. I’ve been stabbed and done time in jail for marching. There is a downside to this, and not everybody is built for that.

Allison Kugel: What you are saying is actually a great life lesson. Nobody anoints you. Nobody taps you on the head and says, “You are the chosen one.” It has to come from within, and a person takes it upon themselves to take the ball and run with it. That applies to anything in life.

Reverend Al Sharpton: Absolutely, and you will only do it if it comes from inside. If I sat down and asked somebody if they would go through what I went through… I’ve done 90 days in jail at one time. Who would apply for that?  But if it is in you, you take it as it comes because your commitment and your beliefs are bigger than whatever it is you are going to face. But this is not a career move. I started to write when I was 12, I started preaching before that, and I became youth director under Jesse and Reverend William Jones when I was 13. When I was 13 years old, I didn’t sit down and say, “If I do this, one day I’ll have a show on MSNBC.” When I started, there was no MSNBC. There was no radio show syndication owned by blacks. You do things out of commitment and things result from that, but your critics will act like you just figured out this will make you famous. How would I know at 13 years old where this was going to go?

Allison Kugel: After reading your book cover to cover I went to sleep and woke up the next morning with this thought: We are supposed to be the smartest, most sophisticated species on the planet.  However, we have trillions of dollars in circulation on this planet, and millions of people are broke.  We have more than enough food, to the point that we throw out ridiculous amounts of food every day, and millions of people are starving. So, we can’t be that smart.

Reverend Al Sharpton: I think you should be an activist.  You are absolutely right.  It’s a matter of will and a matter of using the intelligence we claim to have to distribute things more wisely, and to make people the priority rather than greed and ego. It’s a decision that we throw out food and not feed everybody. There is enough food for everybody. It is a decision to allow the water and the air to be polluted for people’s profit. We can clean up the air and the water. That is part of why I’m saying we need to Rise Up (the title of Sharpton’s new book, out 9/29), and this is not a book that just deals with blacks. I deal with climate change. I deal with LGBTQ rights. I’m saying, across the board, we could be better than this, but we are not rising up and demanding these things.

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Allison Kugel: In your book you illustrate a parallel between The Great Depression and The New Deal put in place by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and our current economic crisis due to COVID-19 and the potential solution of a Green New Deal. Have you had the chance to speak with Kamala Harris or Joe Biden about this? 

Reverend Al Sharpton: During the [primary] campaign, yes. There was the meeting when Kamala came to Harlem and went with me to Sylvia’s soul food restaurant. I’ve talked to them separately. I’ve not talked to them at length since they were nominated. Obviously, we’ve talked on the phone, but this is something that I’m pushing out and I’m encouraging them to do. With COVID-19 this country is going to go through a tremendous economic challenge. We need a Marshall Plan and government involvement to bring the country back. If we don’t have that kind of engagement, we are going to have a very difficult 2021 and 2022.

Allison Kugel: How do you see a Green New Deal rolling out despite the strong lobby for oil? How can a new administration circumvent that? 

Reverend Al Sharpton: Rise up and vote in this election and put in office people that will not be in any way swayed by the lobbyists. We have to change the lawmakers. Lobbyists can only go as far as who they can influence. You currently have people in the Senate and the Congress that they can influence. They have to have that majority commit to it; the same way Roosevelt did with The New Deal. That is why I wanted this book out before the upcoming election, to lay all of this out.

Allison Kugel: With the worldwide protests that erupted after the murder of George Floyd, what do you ultimately see resulting from all the protesting?

Reverend Al Sharpton: The legislation is one, as I said, but the overall result should be how we as a culture redefine policing and move past police being above the law while questioning the actions of some police is thought to be anti-police. I think legislation can enforce this, or we need a cultural shift. One of the reasons the Floyd case caught on the way it did is that it happened in the middle of a pandemic and everyone was in lockdown. There were no sports, so people were watching the news to see what was happening with the lockdown. They kept seeing this footage over and over again, and they couldn’t turn to sports as a distraction. There was no distraction with George Floyd, and I think that caused an eruption. How could somebody press their weight with their knee on someone’s neck for more than eight minutes unless there was some venom there?

Allison Kugel: I believe everything happens for a reason. I love how you said that God chooses the most unlikely people to make the biggest impact on the world. George Floyd’s story and his likeness will be passed down for generations to come. Has the Floyd family grasped the enormity of that?

Reverend Al Sharpton: Yes, we talk about it all the time.  His brother, Philonise, who does a lot of speaking for the family, we talk almost every day. We talked last night, and I think they have begun to understand the impact. Their immediate reaction was they didn’t understand it, because they were suddenly thrust into something [public] and they were also mourning. As time has gone on and they see people responding to George and his image, they understand that maybe God used him as an instrument. I told them God absolutely used him as an instrument. Nothing but God could have brought it to this level, and you have to be at peace with that and also set your responsibility in that.

Allison Kugel: I want to talk to you about Defund the Police. I read where you are not in favor of it, and I’m definitely not for it. Rather than defund the police, I am of the mind that some funds should be reallocated towards programs for compassion, empathy, tolerance, psychological competency, and things like that. What are your thoughts?  

Reverend Al Sharpton: I think that we should redistribute how we do the resources like dealing with some of the things you outlined. A month after we did the eulogies for George Floyd, I did a eulogy for a 17-year-old kid killed by a stray bullet in the Bronx, and a eulogy for a one-year old baby that was killed by a straight bullet in Brooklyn. How can we say we don’t need policing when our communities are disproportionately victims of crime? We are the only community that has reasonable fear of cops and robbers. I think we need to reallocate how we deal with the funds for police. We must have police in presence because right now we are inundating our communities with guns and drugs, and that is reality. Ironically though, I think what people don’t understand, Allison, is the one who has defunded the police is Trump. By Trump ineffectively handling COVID-19, most of these cities are going to be in deficit and will be laying off police. That is a bigger threat than people stating it at rallies. They have run out of funds. They are laying off teachers and policeman in some cities.

Allison Kugel: Good point. And whether you love Trump or hate him, every American should be aware that an important part of our democracy is a free press, as well as our postal service. When you have somebody in the highest office in the land who essentially gaslights the American public and says, “You can’t trust the media, you can’t trust the medical experts; only believe Me,” that is very dangerous rhetoric and undermines our democracy.  Why do you think so many Trump supporters aren’t seeing that? 

Reverend Al Sharpton: It baffles me on one level, and on another level, I think because the country is so divided, and they have been divided by the media. The media has convinced people that everybody but FOX {News] and a few radio talk show guys are buffaloing you or fooling you. They set a climate where a guy like Trump, who really is representing himself almost as an autocrat, can rise up and take advantage of that. He can say, “Don’t believe them, believe me. I’m one of you.” There is nobody more not one of them than Trump, with the glitzy billionaire lifestyle he lives. Whether he is a real billionaire or not, we don’t know. But he’s been able to sell that to people who are suffering through existence issues that are lower-middle class or poor, like I grew up. It’s appealing to them that they are doing this to me, and he has identified “they” as the liberal media. He gives everybody a blame game. In the interim, he does policies that don’t help them, but that they can feel that it is not his fault, instead it’s their fault.

rev al sharpton

Allison Kugel: Throwing it back to the 2016 presidential election, do you think Hillary Clinton was a strong and viable candidate? 

Reverend Al Sharpton: I think she was a strong and viable candidate, but she did not run a strong and viable campaign. They did not engage the ground enough. To lose Michigan by 12,000 votes, I know three churches that could have given her that. They never went into Detroit. They never really went into Milwaukee. I think there was almost this feeling of, “We got this. Nobody is going to vote for Trump.” She certainly had the credentials. I think she had the vision, and I think she is a decent person. I knew her since she was First Lady, but I think her campaign was too up in the air, too high ground. They didn’t get on the ground, and that is where the voters were. It left an opening for Trump to do it. I think that Biden has not run that campaign so far.

Allison Kugel: Meaning he has been on the ground? 

Reverend Al Sharpton: He has been on the ground and he has his infrastructure on the ground.

Allison Kugel: As a Jewish American, this next question is more personal. There is a faction of the Black American movement that has become antisemitic as of late. It’s confounding to me based on our shared history and a lot of our shared activism. How can we clear up some of these misconceptions? 

Reverend Al Sharpton: We need to stand and walk together and go back to the history. When I was a kid, I will never forget, Reverend Jackson brought me to the Jewish Theological Seminary, and I met Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel who marched with Dr. King. Rabbi Heschel gave me a collection of his books and I still have some, like God and Man, and some others. There are people like Heschel, who were part of the backbone of the Civil Rights Movement. I tell a lot of people today that when we talk about voting rights, Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner, were three Jews who died to get us the right to vote. I don’t think enough of us talk about that in the Black community. And yes, we may have had our disagreements, but the history of it is not put out enough and we have to deliberately deal with the misnomer that we have not come together and suffered together. I remember when 9/11 happened. I went to Mort Zuckerman, who was then the head of the Conference of  Jewish Organizations, and I said I want to go to Israel and identify with the fact that they live under this kind of terrorism all the time, and we just went through it in New York. [Former Israeli President] Shimon Peres invited me as his guest to Israel and I went and met with him. He asked me to take that message to [Yasser] Arafat. He set up a meeting with [Yasser] Arafat (late Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization), and I went and worked with them. There are people on both sides that don’t want to let certain things go, but we have to keep standing up and represent the facts of history. We’ve suffered together, we’ve fought together, and at this time we cannot afford to be separate. We are fighting the same enemy. Most people that are racist are also antisemitic, and those who are antisemitic are mostly racist. We are connected and we need to stop acting like we are not.

al sharpton

Allison Kugel: I like that. A big part of your organization, the National Action Network, is Criminal Justice Reform. Recently Kim Kardashian worked with President Trump to have the life sentence of Alice Marie Johnson, a nonviolent offender, commuted.  Would you ever be open to following suit and working with this current administration on Criminal Justice Reform?  

Reverend Al Sharpton: I don’t trust Trump. I did support the [Emergency Community Supervision Act of 2020] bill that Corey Booker and Hakeem Jeffries came to me with. They said, “Even though we are working with Jared Kushner, would you support this bill?” Van Jones called me, and he was working very closely with Jared Kushner. I said, “I’m not going to do photo ops with them, but I support the bill.” I went on my show and endorsed the bill. I think you have to put principle over personality, but I don’t want a photo opp with this president. He called me after he won and invited me to Mar-A-Lago, and I wouldn’t go because I believe he is just a cynical manipulator. Even bad people can sometimes deliver good results, and I didn’t want to get in the way of the results. I wanted to support it even though I do not trust him. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Allison Kugel: (Laugh) Lastly, there has been a lot of rioting and looting mixed in with peaceful protesting.  Your organization’s famous slogan is, “No Justice, No Peace.” Do you want to clear up, for people, what you mean by that?

Reverend Al Sharpton: It means the only way we are going to have real peace, where we can live together as a society that respects each other, is to have justice. I don’t mean “no peace” in the sense of violence. I am absolutely, unequivocally against violence. I have denounced it everywhere and will continue to. As far as the two cops shot in Louisville, Kentucky, I think it is morally wrong. You cannot become like the people you are fighting. If you become like that, if you have the same values and the same moral code, they have already defeated you. At the same time, I think there’s a difference between peace and quiet. Quiet means just shut up and suffer.  Peace means let’s strive to work together even if we’ve got to march and make noise together to get an equal society for everybody.  That is what I mean by “No Justice, No Peace.”

Rise Up: Confronting A Country At The Crossroads, the latest book by Reverend Al Sharpton, is out Tuesday, September 29, 2020, everywhere books are sold.  Visit www.alsharptonbooks.com for links to purchase. Follow Reverend Sharpton on Instagram @real_sharpton and on Twitter @thereval. To learn more about the National Action Network (NAN), visit www.nationalactionnetwork.net.

Photo of Reverend Al Sharpton Courtesy of Michael Frost. Book Cover Art, Courtesy of Hanover Square Press

allison kugel

Allison Kugel

Allison Kugel is a syndicated entertainment and pop culture columnist and author of the book, Journaling Fame: A memoir of a life unhinged and on the record. Follow her on Instagram @theallisonkugel and at AllisonKugel.com.

 

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Kristen Welker: Presidential Debate Moderator is One Bad-azz Sista!

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Kristen Welker - at debate1 - Getty5f9293a0abcd0c0018d69433
Kristen Welker (debate - Getty) - BB1ajEXz

Kristen Welker (Getty)

*OK Kristen Welker, let us join the chorus of praise you are getting for your stellar job of moderating Thursday night’s presidential debate. In fact, one of the participants owes you an apology. We’ll get to that later.

For those experiencing Welker for the first time and don’t anything about her, she grew up in Philadelphia and graduated from Harvard in 1998. She became NBC’s White House Correspondent in 2011, and was recently named co-anchor of NBC show Weekend Today.

Welker, 44, is only the second black woman to moderate a presidential debate alone. The first was ABC News journalist Carole Simpson in 1992.

Earlier this month, two other journalists tried their hands at moderating and it didn’t turn out so well for them. Fox News’ Chris Wallace caught  heat for his moderation of the first Trump-Biden debate, while USA Today’s Susan Page was also criticized for her handling of the vice-presidential debate between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris.

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Chris Wallace - Kristen Welker (Getty)

Chris Wallace – Kristen Welker (Dailly Beast composite/Getty)

Even Wallace admitted he was “jealous.” During Fox News’ post-debate coverage, in so many words he said he wishes it was him instead of Welker at last night’s debate:

“I would have liked to have been able to moderate that debate and to get a real exchange of views instead of hundreds of interruptions.”

But in all honesty, Welker didn’t have a complete fool in Donald Trump to deal with like Wallace did. In any event, it’s obvious Welker didn’t want to deal with the BS Wallace had to deal with, as she was praised specifically for managing to keep the Trump and Biden in line, and controlling the conversation – though she did have the advantage of the candidates being muted during each others’ allotted two minutes.

Meanwhile, fellow journalists are also praising Welker’s performance. NBC’s Chief White House Correspondent Hallie Jackson called it “a career-defining moment,” while another sista, Fox News anchor Harris Faulkner said she “gave the American people a real debate.”

Also, PBS White House Correspondent Yamiche Alcindor said she was “beaming” watching Welker.

Author Brigitte Gabriel said she did a better job than Wallace, and one person went so far as to suggest she deserved a medal for her performance.

And despite calling Welker “terrible and unfair” ahead before the debate, Trump took time during the debate to praise the moderator’s performance.

“By the way, so far I respect very much the way you’re handling this,” he said.

And for even those words of praise to come out of HIS mouth is nothing short of a miracle and is the closest thing resembling an apology to ever come from Donald Trump.

Dayuuuum Kristen, you are one bad-azz sista!

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Pastor Cal Keeps Love Alive on ‘Married at First Sight’ (EUR EXCLUSIVE!)

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Pastor Cal - Calvin Roberson

eur mafs poster

*For 11 seasons, “Married at First Sight” (MAFS) has been the ultimate experiment in matchmaking as couples who have never met – complete strangers – tie the knot.

If you are not familiar with the popular Lifetime series, people looking for love are matched by relationship experts (Dr. Pepper Schwartz, Dr. Viviana Coles, and Pastor Calvin Roberson-known as Pastor Cal) and agree to tie the knot before meeting their mates.

The show follows the couples for a few weeks as they experience their first meeting at their weddings, their honeymoons, meeting each other’s families, and other milestone events all the while being counseled by the experts. At the end of each season, the couples are given the chance to continue in their marriage or get a divorce.

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Pastor Calvin Roberson (Pastor Cal) is one of the experts matching couples on “Married at First Sight.” (Photo: Lifetime)

While some may question the show’s premise, the EUR spoke to Pastor Cal recently and he said the series is genuine.

“My job on the show is to get these couples, put them together, and make sure they stay together,” said Pastor Cal. “My goal is to look at their differences, see where they’re compatible, counsel them and in some cases, threaten them, to make it work. All the experts, our focus, is simply making sure the couples stay together.”

As for a method in which the couples are matched, he added, “There isn’t a solid formula we apply to every couple. It has to be tweaked as we find out people’s peculiarities. It can be nerve-wracking but it’s rewarding in the end.”

Like many MAFS seasons, there are surprising revelations and this one, featuring couples from New Orleans, is no exception.

“Season 11 has brought us so many surprises,” Pastor Cal said. “Even in casting, one of the couples we thought would get along much quicker is one of the ones lagging behind. And one couple we thought would move slower to intimacy are moving ahead. And that’s with Miles and Karen being the slower and Woody and Amani being the faster of the two.”

EUR MAFS-S11-Couples_Woodrow-Amani

Woody and Amani in current season (11) of “Married at First Sight.” (Photo: Lifetime)

He continued, “Also, by my own admission, I fall on the sword on this one, I was not expecting Bennett and Amelia to get along so well. I thought she would be put off more by his lack of profession. It was a big surprise to me.”

The next MAFS season will include Atlanta couples and after that the show heads to Houston, which is casting now. Pastor Cal told the EUR that the show adapts to the couples from each city.

“I believe that every city we film in brings a certain flavor and the participants from that city take on the flavor from that city,” Pastor Cal said. “New Orleans is laid-back, they party, and it’s a very fun city as opposed to a city like D.C. that is very political, buttoned up, and tight. But definitely we found that every city influences the participants. We definitely see different personalities coming out of each city.”

MAFS Houston Flyer

Speaking of Atlanta, Pastor Cal is the lead pastor at Progression church in the peach city. He and his wife Wendy have a marriage coaching organization that offers marriage and relationship conferences, boot camps, and seminars worldwide.

While COVID-19 may have slowed down the in-person events, that has not stopped people from contacting Pastor Cal for love connections, “Because of COVID, we’re online. I get more people through DM’s, email, etc. asking me to match them.”

And how does the church feel about the show?

“My church actually loves it.” Pastor Cal said. “They are so supportive and such an incredible group of people. They tell people about the show. Our church was actually founded on relationships, so it was an easy fit. Our church was founded on positive marriage and positive family.”

Look out for Pastor Cal’s book, “Marriage Ain’t for Punks,” slated to come out next year.

If you are interested in being on “Married at First Sight” and live in Houston, click here to apply.

For more information on MAFS’ current season, click here.

 

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Ross Williams: ‘Made It Out’ Author Recalls Escape from Streets of New Orleans and Corporate America

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Ross Williams

Ross Williams

*Ross Williams made it out, and then he wrote a book about it.

Growing up in New Orleans’ 7th Ward can be rife with challenges. The horror stories far exceed the successful ones. Ross’s journey is an exception, and an exceptional one.

Surrounded by a solid family with community values, Williams attended Tulane University where he studied sociology. He has gone on to become the author of two best-sellers within an eight-month span.

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“Made It Out” is testimony not only to his journey, but also to the similarities of surviving the streets and corporate America. His follow-up book, “Crabs In A Barrel: War On Racism,” gives a different perspective on the phrase that focuses more on the barrel than on the crab.

Author is just one of Williams’ many hats. He is also CEO of Williams Commerce Writing Services, which aims to empower job seekers, authors and entrepreneurs.

Photo courtesy of Ross Williams

Zenger News invited Williams for a Q&A session to learn more about his break-out book and journey of discovery.

Percy Crawford interviewed Ross Williams for Zenger News.


Percy Crawford interviewed Ross Williams for Zenger News (Photo courtesy of Percy Crawford)

Zenger: How did you break the cycle, so to speak, and make it out of the 7th Ward in New Orleans?

Williams: Really learned as much as possible. So, really learning what cursed prior generations and trying to avoid those same things. A lot of that came from learning from my parents who were born in the 1940s, so a lot of my family members are older. So, I have a lot of old-school values. I had the chance to learn about life before my era… I was able to accumulate all of that and just learn from every lesson or loss that I had in life and just never settled.

Zenger: What was it like growing up there and seeing some of the things you experienced?

Williams: I had a sense of pride about my community. My mother’s side of the family has been part of the St. Bernard, 7th Ward community since it was established back in the 1930s and 40s. A lot of people talk about the downfall of the neighborhood. Of course, I discuss that in my first book, “Made It Out,” some of the things I experienced. But one of the big things my neighborhood helped with was just building a confidence about myself and my abilities. At first it was basketball and then it became a swag with everything I do. I believe that I can be the best at whatever I put my mind to.

Zenger: What made you decide to even write a book?

Williams: Really to help other people to make it out of situations that they encountered. At first when I was writing my book, it was kind of like making it out of the inner city. I felt my lessons were applicable to any environment that you can grow up in. Like I said, learning from mistakes, gravitating towards positive energy, and learning from your losses. I really just wanted to give people the blueprint because halfway through the book it became about making it out of corporate America and becoming an entrepreneur. As of right now, even just picking up from there, I’m trying to show the world that I’ve made it out since then. Since the book, I’m still making it out.

Zenger: You actually make parallels in the book about the similarities of making it out of the street life and making it through corporate America. As crazy as it sounds, there’s not very much separation, is there?

Williams: I think in society with social engineering, a lot of us feel that if we are a different race or different religion, society has taught us that the next person is very different from us. And we can’t see eye-to-eye just because we come from different worlds or experiences. Gangstas and crooked people growing up in inner cities are no different than white collar gangstas. White collar gangstas are actually more cutthroat because at least in the neighborhood you know who to look out for. In corporate America, a lot of people have ulterior motives, but they project friendly energy. It’s not really necessary. It’s not these people need me to get by like in the neighborhood. It’s just out of malice. That’s why I feel like it’s grimier in corporate America because of how it’s presented to you.

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Zenger: It can be difficult to navigate that.

Williams: Right. And something that my neighborhood taught me, once I started communicating with people in higher level CEO positions or people that made in the upper six figures or north of that, just the intellect and growing the confidence once I interacted with these people, it’s like, “Oh, I can sit in these positions too.” A lot of times we are made to look at certain people as if they are superior to us, especially when we’re coming from inner cities. But we have the same abilities as those people. A lot of those people had easier routes to get there. That’s one thing of just gaining confidence along each step of your journey.

Zenger: Did you anticipate becoming a best-selling author and your books having the kind of impact that they have had?

Williams: Humbly speaking, my mom always told me, “Don’t step at all if you are going to half step.” So, I know the tears, the blood and sweat that I put into each project, or even a client’s book. I put that same energy towards everything. I’m very strategic and I move with a sense of urgency. I visualized the successes that I have had in my career so many times over and over, that all of the excitement is poured into the process each day. So, when it happens, I’m kind of militant about it, so I’m really not surprised. I really put my all into each thing and utilize my natural skillset. I haven’t been surprised so far.

(Edited by André Johnson and Judy Isacoff)



The post ‘Made It Out’ Author Recalls Escape From Streets of New Orleans and Corporate America appeared first on Zenger News.

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