It’s graduation season and I’m sure you all remember the pride that you and your loved ones felt as you walked across that stage. Some of y’all are still struggling in that Accounting 101 class, don’t stress, you’ll figure it out.
4 years of blood, sweat, tears, and money went into that degree of yours and now it’s time to enter society and make a living for yourself. But that ain’t the end of the story, because some of y’all will be paying Uncle Sam or Sallie Mae until you retire. You might not be able to afford a car so you’ll name your daughter Alexis.
Well guess what, the homie Robert F. Smith came through for some members of the next generation.
If you don’t know who he is, Robert F. Smith is an entrepreneur and founder of the investment firm, Vista Equity Partners. He’s worth about $5 billion, according to Forbes and is the richest black person in America. The 56-year-old Smith was a chemical engineer for Goodyear and Kraft before attending business school. He worked for Goldman Sachs, specializing in tech investments before starting his firm Vista Equity in 2000. According to the company website, Vista Equity invests solely in software, data, and technology companies and boasts capital commitments of $46 billion.
While giving the commencement at HBCU Morehouse College’s 2019 graduation, he surprised the crowd by declaring that he’d created a grant to pay off all of the debt of each member of the graduating class.
“On behalf of the eight generations of my family who have been in this country, we’re going to put a little fuel in your bus. Now, I know my class will make sure they pay this forward. I want my class to look at these these beautiful Morehouse brothers and let’s make sure every class has the same opportunity going forward because we are enough to take care of our own community. We are enough to ensure we have all the opportunities of the American dream.”
Now, we at OB often talk about creating black wealth. We have conversations about what we need to do in order to make a dent in the wealth gap that black Americans are beholden to.
F. Dougie: This reached out and touched my heart. It really did. Not too long ago, we wrote an article about how fed up we were with all of the negativity and killing out there in society. Given that many of us are always taught that we should lift each other up as brothers and sisters, It hurts even more when we as black people are doing it to each other. But when we see people like Mr. Smith lifting up young black men, it really makes us feel like there’s hope. It’s really true, When you have to service debt, the choices about what you can go do in the world are constrained. Now, hopefully these young men can use their gift as an advantage to make intelligent decisions and do even better than their parents before them. The possibilities are endless.
Idris Gray: This is truly touching. As someone who is still paying for loans, I can’t help but to wish that I too was apart of this class. Or better yet, that my sister was a part of this class so that perhaps her loans could be taken care of. DO NOT CO-SIGN LOANS, PEOPLE!
Anyway this is really amazing for these young people and I envy them and applaud the selfless act of Mr. Smith. I don’t care how much money you make, you don’t want to spend $40 Million of it on an investment you’ll probably never see monetary gains on. That being said, the homie was sitting on 5 BILLY! I digress, but even if he never gave those students that loan forgiveness, he gave them something special. Inspiration. When we talk about the 1% we picture old white dudes, not black ones. So just seeing that this kind of thing is possible for black people to attain is dope.
It’s too easy for black men relegate themselves to being happy with any kind of employment when the stereotype is “broke black man”, or just straight up “criminal”. When thoughts like that run through your head you tend to accept the bare minimum instead of pushing yourself to get all the things you want out of life. Sometimes you forget that anything is possible with hard work and dedication regardless of skin tone. The list of great black business people, medical professionals, artists etc isn’t short. Still, we are depicted in a negative light on the news and in the media.
It’s time we stop feeding into this narrative. There are too many successful black male figures outside of sports and music. We are CEOs, entrepreneurs, writers, directors, engineers, and doctors, lawyers, and everything else. It’s over for all that. We need young black boys to know that they have more options than ball or rap.