This past weekend, Sean “Diddy” Combs spoke about the importance of investing in the Black community during a fireside chat at Invest Fest 2023 in Atlanta, GA.
The business mogul was Saturday’s (Aug. 26) headliner and keynote speaker for the third annual festival curated to “combine investing, entrepreneurship, pop culture, and entertainment.” The event was created and hosted by “Earn Your Leisure’s” Rashad Bilal and Troy Millings, who also helm REVOLT’s financial literacy show “Assets Over Liabilities.” During his segment with the duo, Diddy spoke to the difficulties he faces as one of the few Black billionaires worldwide and the importance of Black Americans investing in their communities.
In the spirit of transparency, the Harlem native wanted all attendees to know that although he’s broken barriers and is a part of the exclusive billionaire circle, Diddy still endures the hardship of not being included. He shared how the media will portray an elevated yet false image of inclusivity because Black celebrities are thriving in various arenas.
“When they talk about us having money and they look at us, it’s truly an illusion of inclusion. I can’t play a part of the illusion of inclusion. You’re looking here at me like I’m totally included… No, I’m fighting [for] the same thing I was fighting for when I got in the game and it’s on another level,” the businessman explained. “It’s very important to understand, out of all the billionaires in the world — the world got almost 9 billion people in it — there’s only 16 Black billionaires, so that’s the illusion.”
He continued, “Yeah, it feels good for one of us to get in, but we got to stop taking the crumbs. It’s time for way more. Out of 9 million, I want 2 billion to be millionaires.”
Being one of the few Black men in an elite group of society, and a groundbreaker, Diddy doesn’t have many peers who have acquired more than him to turn to for advice. This has left the icon feeling lonely many times in his career since he’s the person most people seek for mentorship, which he feels speaks to the lack of money circulating and one of the main issues in Black America: generational wealth.
“It’s definitely lonely. It’s not that many people to talk to. I talk to JAY and some other friends, but when I look at it, I know the truth. It’s not enough wealth being spread around,” Diddy commented. “I’m at this point and that’s what energizes me. I don’t really look at it as far as I’m a billionaire. I’m more like, my people are not doing good. Yes, I’m blessed to [be a] billionaire but at the same time, if my people aren’t doing good, I can’t be subtle.”
When Bilal asked about the 53-year-old’s experience of discovery during his decadeslong career, the “Assets Over Liabilities” talent wanted to know if Diddy was affected by the truth behind the scenes when he connected with other rich businessmen in the upper class.
“Just sitting here, this is 30 years of experience, of seeing things at a level that most people haven’t seen it at. It’s important that I tell people the truth. That’s why I say, ‘The time is now.’ No one is saving us ’cause I’m at that mountain, and I’m seeing the oppression that’s still at that level. Because they put us in the media like we’re doing so good, y’all don’t feel that level of the stoppage of creating wealth,” the Bad Boy Records founder said. “So, when it gets up to that point, and when [we] talk about generational wealth, we’re fighting just to get normal wealth, but we’re so caught up in a billionaire or this and that, we’re not understanding that once you get to that level, there’s even more obstacles that are ahead of you.”
To further his point, Diddy talked about the time he decided to run the 2003 New York City marathon with just weeks left until showtime, a moment that was televised for the world to see on MTV. The mogul admitted he got ahead of himself, as it is something people typically start training for eight months in advance.
“On the 10th mile, I hit a wall. I felt like I was literally going to die and I wanted to stop. I hit that level, I hit that ceiling in business, but I had to keep going. So, I’m in pain, I’m struggling, but I had to keep going. That’s kind of a metaphor for my life, and for everybody who is in here, that’s on a road of being an entrepreneur,” the CÎROC owner shared. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint. You’re going to hit these obstacles, and there’s different levels, there’s different miles, there’s different levels of intensity. I was able to make it and finish the marathon, and I was able to take that with me and apply it to business.”
Diddy acknowledged the power of the Black dollar and how his people’s spending habits are detrimental to changing the trajectory of their future.
“One of the things I’ve been blessed to see having 30 years in corporate America with partnerships… We have to come to the reality that no one is coming to save us,” he disclosed. “Out of all the business revenue in America, only 1 percent goes to Black business, but then it’s an [accountability] from us because we have a $1.8 trillion buying power and only 2 percent of that, we circulate in our own communities,” the “Act Bad” artist explained. “We can’t complain. We know what it is. It’s time to change the tone. We have to unify our dollars or else nothing will change. We have to weaponize the almighty Black dollar to save us.”
“We can’t have these festivals or conventions but then we leave here, and we don’t understand the power of our $1.8 trillion spending power. Self-love is making sure that you take care of yourself, your family, and your people first,” Diddy insisted.
The media titan also addressed how much of a threat it is to other races, especially white people, when they see Black people coming together. The projection of Black households hitting a median of zero net wealth by 2053 was discussed, as well. This led him to reference history and the constant struggle Black community members face any time they’ve networked among themselves to evolve and achieve more together, which is why he founded Empower Global, a Black-owned marketplace for Black business owners.
“There’s a level that you get to, and you get to the point of being successful, and as a Black person, there’s this thing that kicks in. There’s this jealousy that kicks in… There’s this fear that kicks in. Then they start to burn things down, then they start to take the freedom back, then they go back on the 40 acres and the mule, then we don’t deserve our worth,” he told attendees.
“I remembered Tulsa, and I was like, ‘Tulsa, Black Wall Street, Black Main Street’… I was like, ‘I’m standing on the shoulders of my ancestors right now.’ I have the mind and creativity to make a global marketplace, to make the new Black Amazon, where we can see ourselves circulating our dollars. I don’t want to have nobody for s**t,” Diddy added. “Empower Global was created for entrepreneurs of color all around the world and the whole diaspora to be able to tap in, to be able to support each other. That right there is the mission. That’s one of the parts of the solution.”
The businessman revealed this, among other things, is why he wanted to be a leader in media. This year, he will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of REVOLT, which he launched because it’s important for the Black community to accurately tell their stories, share information, and represent themselves effectively.
“Media is the most powerful industry in the world. If you don’t control your narrative, somebody else will control it. I built REVOLT not just as a platform to follow in the footsteps of BET,” he revealed. “To me, it was so important for us to have our own free Black press. Information is so valuable and so crucial, so it isn’t like I wanted REVOLT to come out and we do a bunch of reality shows. I wanted REVOLT to be a base, a foundation of information that people of other colors have the luxury to have.”
Diddy continued, “With REVOLT, I had to look at the fact that we did not, as a people, have a free press. That means we have no voice. You can’t say what you really want to say… At REVOLT, you can say what you really want to say, so that’s freedom. That’s why it was important to go and really, really invest in Black media.”
The go-getter isn’t concerned if his work of uplifting and investing in his people makes him the villain in others’ eyes. He is confident that giving back to his community is the answer to concerns about prosperity, and he won’t stop until his goal is reached due to his position as an influential leader.
“I’m laser-focused on the mission. I’m laser-focused on change. I’m laser-focused on my purpose. None of that noise means anything, and I know my truth,” Diddy said. “I’m comfortable with my receipts and I know my purpose. I know I’m sitting here on God’s mission, so knowing, I don’t even really go into the comments and do that to myself… I’m on a mission to shake the world for my people.”
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