Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Roberts Brothers---Building a Legacy of African American Wealth

Public schools across the United States prepare children for the workforce as employees or specialists, such as carpenters, engineers, lawyers or doctors. The set up is that students attend school for thirteen years, graduate from high school qualified for college success (without a need for remediation courses) and move into a career and the middle-class. Schools provide core content curriculum that is often void of teaching financial literacy. Every now and then, the exceptions to these school rules become models to us, especially when African Americans join the Donald Trumps of the nation.

The Roberts brothers, Steven and Michael, were on track for the middle-class life but veered off into big business and wealth. Unlike their father who retired after 39 years with the U.S. Postal Service, these African American men built a billion dollar empire by building the extra into extraordinary.

"We weren't rich, we weren't poor, but we just never had any money either," says Michael about their upbringing in St. Louis. Today they are among the wealthiest African Americans in the nation. The Roberts Companies consists of more than 70 companies throughout the nation. Their holdings include hotels, television and radio broadcast properties, theatres, telecommunications facilities, shopping centers, some of the finest developed real estate properties, aviation, and much more. They are big business leaders.

Like many African Americans, Michael and Steven Roberts can tell you when they just had two quarters to rub together. Yet like what African Americans are fully capable of accomplishing, they saw beyond what were obvious and created masterpieces out of properties others thought untouchable. They trekked the typical American education route by attending public schools, college, and then law school. As lawyers, Michael and Steven teamed up to advice clients and as elected officials became Aldermen. Their journey beyond ordinary began with the purchase and development of one property in the African American community and continued with multiple purchases in the heart of St. Louis and the nation.

Michael and Steven Roberts are often called on to speak about their success. They enjoy encouraging students to become life-long learners and to identify an area of passion. Start with an idea, learn what there is to know and own it, do the work--sweat equity--of putting ideas into action, and reap the rewards. They would remind students of two key cogent points: there is no retirement in doing what you love to do, and remember the importance of service to others as you build a legacy.

The Roberts are an example of African American success. No longer relegated to sit in the back balcony because she is Black, Mom can sit where ever she wants in the theatre now owned by her sons. Now, that is letting freedom ring from the mountain tops.