Is Ariel Alternatives’ Project Black Really Black? (Chicago, Illinois) – When I see Black faces in Corporate America and hear about Corporate America supporting Black initiatives, I always ask myself are they Really Black or just another Sellout complicit with the Black-Washing and is the Black initiative really about the Black community, which brings me to Ariel Alternatives’ Project Black because it’s founders, Mellody Hobson and Leslie Brun, are Black and utilizes John W. Rogers Jr.’s Ariel’s brand name, the oldest Black mutual fund company, and John is on Ariel Alternatives’ Advisory Board with J.P. Morgan Chase as a fund partner.
How We Got to this Point
Let me tell you how we got to this point and draw the Really Black conclusion. In the fall of 2014, I met the Byrd Brothers, Darrell and James F. Byrd Jr., Black McDonald’s franchisees at a Memphis Grizzlies basketball game. They told me that they had eight (8) McDonald’s stores, four (4) each, and McDonald’s was forcing them to sell four (4) stores, two (2) each, to Fred Tillman, who’s White and at that time was the largest McDonald’s USA franchisee.
The problem with all of this is that McDonald’s systematically took the four (4) good stores and left the Byrd Brothers with three (3) bad stores and one (1) good store, which the sales of the one (1) good store were cannibalized by the three (3) bad stores. If that’s not financially engineered systemic racism, then what is; so I said, let’s sue McDonald’s and the Byrd Brothers were too scared in 2014 and did on October 29, 2020.
So, I took all of the disparities along with the inability for growth and development for Black franchisees in the McDonald’s USA franchise system and conceptualized the Alternative Finance for Minority Fast Food Franchise Owners Fund. I sent it to National Urban League (NUL) President & CEO Marc H. Morial, who had NUL’s Urban Empowerment Fund (UEF) President Donald Bowen reach out to me.
So, on April 2, 2015, the Byrd Brothers, Investment Banker / Attorney Norbert A. Simmons and I met with Marc and Don at NUL’s corporate headquarters in New York City. NUL nor UEF was not, and is not set up to deal with economic development, fund management and is controlled by their White Board members and Corporate America sponsors. At that time two (2) of NUL’s Board members were Big Bank Executives. One (1) from Wells Fargo (McDonald’s National Lender and 7.9 Million McDonald’s Shares). One (1) from Morgan Stanley (8.7 Million McDonald’s Shares).
In the midst of the George Floyd murder, the two (2) former Black female McDonald’s Executives’ filed discrimination lawsuits. After receiving the draft complaint of the former Black McDonald’s franchisees; in June 2020, McDonald’s donated $500,000.00 to NUL National and $500,000.00 to NAACP National, and not a peep out of NUL National or NAACP National regarding McDonald’s multiple discrimination lawsuits and decades long history of Corporate Systemic Racism.
Therefore, is NUL National and NAACP National Really Black? Now, it’s time to see if Reverend Jesse L. Jackson Sr.’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition is Really Black? On October 16, 2015, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition was having their 17th Annual Rainbow PUSH and Citizenship Education Fund Project Fundraiser Gala and celebrating Reverend Jesse L. Jackson Sr.’s 74th Birthday.
So, on October 15, 2015, the Byrd Brothers and I met with William “Bill” Shack, Vice Chairman Rainbow PUSH Coalition; Martin King, Chairman Rainbow PUSH Coalition; John Mitchell, Chief of Staff Reverend Jesse L. Jackson Sr. (Founder & President Rainbow PUSH Coalition); and two (2) other Rainbow PUSH Coalition Board Members at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, Los Angeles, California.
Meeting with Rainbow Push
I led the meeting from our side and Bill lead the meeting from the Rainbow Push Coalition’s side; so at the end of my presentation, Martin agreed that I was right. Bill called for a vote to take it to Reverend Jackson and when Bill was the only NO vote, Bill got mad, asked when had we made a donation to the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, ended the meeting, and got up and left. They couldn’t override Bill because he was a significant financial supporter on top of being the Vice Chairman of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.
Fast forward to February 20, 2021, the day before the Byrd Brothers, Wallace “Gator” Bradley, Founder & President United in Peace Inc. and I launched the DON’T BE McFOOLED Protest at McDonald’s corporate headquarters in Chicago, Illinois. Who reaches out to us but none other than the Rainbow PUSH Coalition to let us know that Reverend Jackson would like to have a conference call with us and the lawyers at 5:00pm CT.
Reverend Jackson tried to take control of the protest and attempted to sign the plaintiffs up to consulting agreements so he could serve them up to McDonald’s through his Rainbow PUSH Coalition Board Member as well as McDonald’s Board Member, John W. Rogers Jr., and I blocked it. Now, is the Rainbow PUSH Coalition Really Black?
On November 6, 2015, my phone rang at about 6:00 am CT, it was Carol Willis, the Political Godfather – Lifelong Friend & Aide to President Bill Clinton, affectionately known as the 1st Black President before President Obama became the 1st. Carol told me to get them Hamburger Boys together and come on to Little Rock because we’re going to meet with this Old Boy tonight. That Old Boy he was referring to was the 42nd President of the United States, William J. Clinton.
So, the Byrd Brothers and I drove from Memphis to Little Rock and Investor Banker / Attorney Norbert A. Simmons flew from Miami to Little Rock. After the launch of the Coca Cola exhibit at the Clinton Library, we went downstairs to 42 for the VIP reception and the meeting. President Clinton understood what was going and agreed to help after Secretary Hillary Clinton was in the White House, which as we know didn’t happen; because it was a national issue and needed federal resources. Despite it not happening and President Clinton not being born Black, is President Clinton Really Black? Now, let’s get back to Ariel Alternatives’ Project Black.
Project Black Launch
When Ariel Alternatives launched Project Black, I was cautiously optimistic. After my two (2) Zoom meetings with John W. Rogers Jr.; one (1) zoom meeting with Nikki Stokes-Thompson, Chief of Staff Ariel Alternatives; and a 5-minute phone call with Mellody Hobson, which was only because of my 6-page letter to her and John stating the White and Black facts about Project Black and the exponential amount of Black-Washing and Black-Box Checking going on in Corporate America, post George Floyd’s murder. With Mellody being a J.P. Morgan Chase Board Member and Ariel Alternatives’ Co-Founder, my antennas went off when Nikki told us about Project Black’s investment strategy to buy a minority equity stake in White-Owned companies, with J.P. Morgan Chase being a Project Black fund partner ($200 Million); which checks the Black-Box and counts towards J.P. Morgan Chase’s $30 Billion Racial Equity Commitment.
Nikki removed whatever hope I had for Project Black when she told us about the Call Center investment. I was approached a week ago by a NYC Investment Banker to be a Black Majority-Owned (51/49) Minority Sleeve to the White Majority-Owned near bankrupt Ohio Call Center, use my Black status and Political Capital to procure government contracts in Ohio and Mississippi; which is nothing more than a Black hedge with government guaranteed contracts. Before the 5 minute call with Mellody, I was already done and after the 5-minute call with Mellody, we both were done.
J.P. Morgan Chase
J.P. Morgan Chase is one of McDonald’s National Lenders and largest shareholders (13.6 Million McDonald’s Shares) and the NBMOA (National Black McDonald’s Operators Association) is one (1) of the largest Black business groups (186 franchisees –1,318 stores – $3 Billion Plus Gross Sales – $1 Billion Plus Debt Service – $1 Billion Payroll); you would think with Mellody Hobson on J.P. Morgan Chase’s Board and John W. Rogers Jr. on McDonald’s Board (and let’s not forget the Rainbow PUSH Coalition Board) would be really checking the Black-Box for Black franchisees with the USA franchising industry annually grossing $674 Billion. So, are J.P. Morgan Chase and McDonald’s Black-Washing and are Mellody, John and Project Black Really Black?
Since 1998, the NBMOA has lost 191 Black franchisees; since 2008, the Black Automobile Dealers have been cut 50%; only 8% of restaurants are Black-Owned when Black’s are 14% of the population and 30% of McDonald’s gross sales; and only 1% of hotels are Black-Owned.
Black Box Checks
These are the Black-Box checks that told me it was long overdue for the Black community to get a Really Black Organization with a scalable Black investment initiative, of which the Multicultural Foodservice Hospitality Alliance (MFHA) is a Really Black Organization and MFHA’s Pathways to Black Franchisee Ownership Program is a Really Black investment initiative. I learned what being Really Black is in my hometown, Mound Bayou “Jewel of the Delta”, Mississippi, the oldest Black town in America, the Really Black Blueprint!
Is Ariel Alternatives’ Project Black Really Black?