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‘Most Powerful Tools We Have In the Arsenal That We’ll Use to Empower the Black Community’: Black Business Leaders Talk Racial Wealth Gap, Entrepreneurship

Sharing your own experience about entrepreneurism and the realities of today’s racial wealth gap is one way to make a difference when it comes empowering others, say some Black business leaders. This group of professionals spoke to CNBC recently to share some of this knowledge.

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Robert Johnson (Photo from https://rljcompanies.com/)

Finance Entrepreneur Greg Branch: Share your story of success

Black business leaders must provide the blueprint for future generations in order to push for the advancement of Black America, said Greg Branch, founder and managing partner of Veritas Financial Group.

“I like to remind our current and future leaders during Black History Month, those of you who have broken down barriers and shattered ceilings and kicked down doors, that the community needs you to stay vocal, visible, and involved. Your very example can help broaden horizons and aspirations,” he told CNBC.

Branch added that it is vital for leaders in all arenas to share their stories of success. “Hearing how you got there can help engender the motivation and discipline needed to take advantage of today’s and tomorrow’s opportunities. And this is one of the most powerful tools we have in the arsenal that we’ll use to empower the Black community.”

Robert Johnson: Black entrepreneurs need more financial support and encouragement

“As an entrepreneur, there’s some gene that floats around and inside you that makes you want to achieve things that others may feel is not possible. So my inspiration came from believing in myself, and having friends who encouraged me to be the best that I can be,” BET founder Robert Johnson told CNBC. The sell of BET to Viacom in 2000, for $3 billion made Johnson the country’s first Black billionaire. He launched Black Entertainment Television with a $15,000 loan in 1980, and, by 1991, he debuted it as a public company. Doing so made it the first African-American-owned firm traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

Johnson, now the chairman of real estate investment trust The RLJ Companies, added, “And I think if more Black Americans had that encouragement, had that support and level of confidence presented to them, I think more Black Americans can achieve their success as I have.”

Civil Rights Attorney David Henderson: Acknowledge financial discrimination exists

Civil Rights attorney David Henderson experienced discrimination last year while appraising his home. “My wife and I had our house appraised twice last year so we could sell it, and the second time, it appraised almost $50,000 higher than it did the first time,” Henderson told CNBC. “What changed? The first time we were home. The second time we made sure that we weren’t. And we took down all the pictures of ourselves and our family.”

This is quite common. Homes in Black neighborhoods are underpriced by 23 percent, or about $48,000 per home, compared to those in similar white neighborhoods. Racial housing inequality costs nearly 800,000 jobs and $400 billion in tax revenue, estimates multinational investment bank and financial services company Morgan Stanley.

His message to other Black Americans: Discrimination still exists, and you can’t fix what you don’t acknowledge. “One of the most important things you can do to improve the financial future for the Black community is recognize that discrimination like this occurs because you can’t fix what you won’t acknowledge.”

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