By Glenn Hunter
Northwestern Mutual hosted “Community Conversations,” a brunch event at Ginny’s Supper Club at Red Rooster Harlem.
The brunch included a conversation with business and real estate panelists to discuss building generational wealth and closing the racial wealth gap. Musical entertainment was provided by “The Rakiem Walker Project.”
Emcee Ronald Adams, Vice President – Distribution and Performance at Northwestern Mutual. Ron called the event a “Meeting of the Minds and Hearts” designed to relieve financial anxiety. He was instrumental in opening Northwestern Mutual’s Harlem office.
Moderator Darryl K. Roberts, CEO of the nonprofit “Bridging Structural Holes,” received much of his education on social engagement in endangered communities in Harlem. Darryl acknowledged the vast knowledge and experience of the esteemed panelists and referred to them as community icons who have made a direct impact on Harlem. He did a masterful job of guiding this critical conversation.
Panelist Marcus Samuelsson, the acclaimed chef behind many restaurants worldwide including Red Rooster Harlem, talked about the “journey of struggle” that entrepreneurs must expect and that one must hustle to become successful. Marcus told of how he was inspired by Lillian Harris Dean aka “Pig Foot Mary,” an African-American cook and entrepreneur who became a celebrity in the 1920s for bringing the cuisine of Harlem to national attention. He reminded the audience that Harlem is synonymous with Black excellence.
Panelist Anthony Williams began his career with Northwestern Mutual in 2014 as a college intern, becoming #1 on the east coast and top 10 in the US. Anthony said that substantial wealth is not a prerequisite for financial planning and there are still misconceptions about financial instruments such as life insurance. He emphasized the need to increase minority representation of financial advisors to “combat excuses” to avoid financial planning.
Panelist Nikoa Evans is a strategic advisor whose past and present clients include Uber, Uber Eats, Whole Foods Market, and the economic development corporation Harlem Park to Park (HP2P) where she served as a founding board member, consultant, and Executive Director for 13 years. Nikoa emphasized that one must have the “stomach for the ride” and be prepared for failure. She mentioned how she learned the “4 P’s” – Purpose and Passion must be aligned and Pick Partners wisely.
Panelist Katrell Lewis, a Principal at Cozen O’Connor Public Strategies, successfully advanced bipartisan state legislation to reform the state’s affordable homeownership program. Katrell served as VP of Government and Community Partnerships for Habitat for Humanity NYC and Westchester County. He also talked about the need to “hustle” to understand the path to home ownership and how government agencies are devoted to providing direction and assistance.
Panelist Karl Franz Williams is a sought-after speaker and consultant in branding, small business development, bar management, and spirits/mixology. Karl translated this love for well-crafted drinks into 67 Orange Street – recently acknowledged as one of Esquire’s Top 27 Bars in America. He emphasized the importance of protecting ones assets and having a 20–30 year plan.
Moderator Darryl K. Roberts facilitated an audience Q&A and focused on what’s working, financial literacy tools, product-based vs. service-based enterprises, understanding policies, and monetization of community-based cultural assets. Emcee Ronald Adams closed the event by saying, “Talk About, Be About It!”
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Photo credit: 1) Marcus Samuelsson. 2) Katrel Lewis. 3) Nikoa Evans. 4) Band. By Rudy Collins.