by Kila Weaver
kicking off this issue with an interview with Mellody Hobson, 32, President
of Ariel Capital Management, Inc. In 1999, this Princeton grad was named
one of Crain's Chicago Business magazine's "Top 40 Under 40".
She is also on the board of directors at the Chicago Public Library, St.
Ignatius College Preparatory School, and The Field Museum, among other
Ariel is an African American owned asset manager located in Chicago. Besides
managing over $5 billion in assets, they offer a top performing family
of mutual funds. Ariel Mutual Funds practices socially responsible investing,
avoiding the traditional sin stocks, i.e., alcohol and tobacco.
And Ariel takes social responsibility seriously. Their mission goes beyond
the usual corporate goals of profits and growth. There is the Ariel Community
Academy, located on the South Side of Chicago, with over 200 students.
And under Mellodys leadership, Ariel is aiming to transform the
way African Americans think about money and investing.
theHotness: How is Ariel reaching
potential clients in the African American community?
Mellody Hobson: We want to make the
stock market the subject of dinner table conversation in African American
households. Weve sponsored educational seminars around the country
on investing. Weve also used traditional marketing, co-sponsoring
events and working with Black Enterprise Magazine and the Chicago Bulls.
We have a new, non-traditional marketing initiative, co-sponsored with
Vibe Magazine. Its a stock-picking contest featuring three hiphop
stars. We started last fall (October 2000) with Jay-Z, the RZA and Eve.
This time weve got Xzibit, Prodigy and Funkmaster Flex. On the website,
www.arielcream.com, referring to the Wu Tang song C.R.E.A.M. (Cash Rules
Everything Around Me), you can see each players stock picks and
their performance. Visitors to the site can enter a contest to win $10,000
in Ariel Mutual Funds. The interest level has been huge.
tH: A lot of young women of color
feel overwhelmed by the avalanche of information about the market and
slightly intimidated because equity investing has been so mystified. How
can one get started?
MH: Because of the expanded coverage
of the stock market in general media, a lot of the mystery has been cleared
away. You can get started with your daily newspaper. Use it to get comfortable
with reading information about companies. Above all, be disciplined. Its
like when a basketball player favors dribbling with the right hand, so
the coach makes her dribble with the left. You have to double up your
effort. Because, really, you cant afford not to. Second, there are
business magazines like Black Enterprise that offer articles on a wide
range of people-- from Ken Chennault (CEO of American Express) to Master
P-- that are of interest to our community. Lastly, find a broker or investment
advisor to help you. And be disciplined about that, too. If you relocated,
you wouldnt pick your new dentist or doctor blindly from the phone
book. In the same way, you should find an investment advisor whom you
trust to discuss you personal finances. There are a lot of good people
out there that can help you.
tH: Whom do you most admire?
MH: (After a long, thoughtful pause.)
My mom, because she was nontraditional. She empowered us at a young age
to do whatever we wanted and she instilled responsibility in us through
trust. John (Rogers, Jr., CEO and founder of Ariel Capital Management)
because of his vision. Hes also non-traditional. Hes unselfish
and the type of leader who makes you a better person just by being around
him. Rev. (Jesse) Jackson. Im overwhelmed by him. He does the right
thing and hes non-elitist. He has pure motivation. I aspire to be
that selfless and compassionate. And he works. I think I work hard, until
I look at Rev. Jackson. He works hard for other people. Lastly, Martin
Luther King, Jr. He changed the world, not just for African Americans
but for all of us. I think hes this countrys most significant
political leader. The will he had was great-- his will, his discipline
and his legacy.
tH: We know the statistics that say
that African Americans and Hispanic
Americans lag behind the mainstream in savings, net assets and retirement
benefits, because as a group were relative newcomers to the investment
arena. What is your vision for the economic and financial future of the
African American community?
MH: That each African American child
at birth receives gifts of mutual funds and stocks that will follow them
throughout his or her life. That we develop a strong sensitivity to, and
comfort with, investing in the stock market. That as that child grows
up he or she has a college fund, the capital to start a business after
college, the money for a down payment on a home, ample resources for a
comfortable retirement and money to leave to his or her children. That
we become part of the economic mainstream, with the emotional and financial
security that accompanies it.
On Mellody Hobsons bookshelf:
The Making Of An American Capitalist, Roger Lowenstein. Excellent business
biography of uber investor Warren Buffett.
The Money Masters, John Train. Interviews with famous investors (Benjamin
Graham, Sir John Templeton, T. Rowe Price).
One Up On Wall Street, Peter Lynch. An investing classic, in plain English.
Kila Weaver, has been keeping track of her finances ever since she
understood the power of lemonade stands and piggy banks.
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White & Jewish
Rebecca Walkers autobiography produces this eerie sense of relief
because its written on the edge of being found out in
a genre thats all about letting it out in public. Black, White
and Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self, is a memoir of Rebeccas
first eighteen years, filled with the anxiety and determination of an
adolescent who constantly feels that someone more authentic,
more real and reliable than she, will walk in and mess up her story. Summed
up, the story reads like so: a child born to people committed to changeunconventional,
political people with causes to fight and the determination to do so.
When the world does actually change, Alice Walker and her Jewish lawyer
husband, Mel Leventhal, find themselves polarized with Alice defining
herself as Black and Mel returning to the world of white, Jewish liberals
and daughter Rebecca torn between the two at home in neither world.
The chapters of Rebeccas life are short and sewn together by a strong
thread of uneasiness, worry and resentment for parents who seem less than
interested in Rebeccas motives, activities and relationships; less
than understanding about the strain of commuting between coasts and even
between cultures. In response, Rebeccas own take on her parents,
also becomes vague and distant. Alice in particular, remains inaccessible
in this narrative, demonstrating, perhaps her coolness and the unnerving
calm that makes her more a sister at the expense of motherhood.
For the biracial, bisexual founder of Third Wave Foundation, a non-profit
organization that promotes young womens leadership, telling the
truth has not always been enough or appropriate. Her campaign for truth
telling in race, feminism and cultural experience is one that dismisses
the right or consistent story in favor of fuller descriptions
and multiplicity that show how shes attempted to master cultural
codes and gestures. This all the while hiding desires that exceeded her
circumstance, stifling contradictions that exposed what she calls the
cracker lurking in my laugh. Throughout the book she is on guard
for that comment that will compromise her efforts to fit in: from the
boyfriend that says he forgets she is a real sister to the
Jewish American Princess camp that refuses her rightfully
elected role as a song leader, there are all of these situations
that rupture her desire of not wanting to be considered too black or too
One might approach this book as a therapeutic process of re-membering
a self stretched and torn apart. From Danzy Senna to Lani Guinier, we
are used to hearing biracial women tell their stories in the midst of
crisis. Yet, this Mississippi born southern gal reminds us early on, I
am not tragic. How is it then that these tense moments of feeling
unloved and excluded lead us not to the usual despair-filled tragic mulatta
story conclusion? Somehow Rebecca, now 31, has figured out a way.
It would seem that the last word in the new biracial narrative is not
about assimilation or privileging one parent over the other, but it is
about a movement between cultures that is finally visible, acceptable
and no longer suspicious: a decidedly untragic coming of age story. Whether
society, family and friends included, like it or not-- Rebecca is a Black
Jewish White girl! This like it or not attitude claims without
waiting to be claimed. It is self-defining in a maelstrom of distortion
~ Ebony E.A. Chatman is a doctoral candidate at Stanford University
whose self-defining experiences with race and culture often lead to Africa.
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Am My Daughters Mother
by Leslie Hinkson
a mother of a biracial child, there are many issues Ive had to deal
with that Im sure many other mothers do not. Two years ago when
my husband, whose background is Scotch-Irish, and I decided
we were ready to be parents, I thought it was my duty to try and prepare
him for the challenges he would face being a father to a biracial child.
Especially the hurt he might experience when people did not immediately
recognize the child as his. Ironically though, it was I that was unprepared.
My daughter Olivia is extremely fair with blonde hair and gray eyes. In
short, she looks just like her father. The first experience I had with
someone questioning her maternity was in the hospital. The doctor on call
asked me three times whether I was sure the baby I wanted to sign out
of the hospital was actually mine. She even checked my I.D. bracelet to
make sure. Since then, it has been part of the normal course of a week
to be questioned at least once on this point.
In the beginning, I thought it was funny. The way people craned their
necks to see her when her father and I set out on our daily stroll, how
their eyes would pop out of their heads when they realized that I was
breastfeeding this child. They probably thought I was some crazy Black
woman straight out of a Toni Morrison novel. But after about 3 months,
I began to get angry. My husband told me that I was blowing it all out
of proportion, that Olivia knew I was her mother and she was the only
one that counted. What did he know about the humiliation I felt each time
I had to correct a stranger or assure my friends and family (and myself)
that shed darken over time? I would walk around the City and see
White women with their biracial babies who looked so much more like me
than my own did. Did anyone question their claim to their children? And
didnt I carry Olivia around for 10 months, suffer through heartburn,
gain 50 pounds and do all the pushing in that hospital bed? Why would
no one let me claim Olivia as mine? This question forced me to face some
unsettling truths about my own racial perceptions and those of society
at large. It also made me think more about women who raise other womens
I too have been guilty of assuming that every fair child I see with a
woman of color is someone elses. Its hard not to when in the
playgrounds of Park Slope and Brooklyn Heights and along the streets of
Manhattan little White children are being walked and rocked and held and
scolded by women of color, mainly immigrants from islands like the one
my family is from. Black women in this country have been taking care of
other peoples children for centuries. Some of these women, due to
financial hardship, must leave their own children behind in their native
countries in order to do so. I often wondered what it must be like to
watch a child take his or her first steps, speak his or her first word
and yet not be entitled to claim any of that progress for yourself. Now,
in some way, I think I know what that feels like.
When I first realized that people assumed I was my daughters nanny,
I was shocked, angry, then mortified. I tried as hard as I could to think
of ways to separate myself from them. After all, I didnt spend 4
years at an elite college and then graduate school for nothing. But that
was just nonsense. There is not much that separates me from these women.
We are Black, many of us are West Indian. And although I gave birth to
Olivia, they are in many respects as much mothers to the children in their
care as I am to her. The caregivers that I meet, with Olivia in tow, have
offered me invaluable advice on topics ranging from child rearing to how
not to kill your man when he sleeps through every 4am feeding. We meet
in the library, the park, the museum and our children do not seem to care
at all about the class lines that separate us or the racial ones that
separate them from Olivia. They just want to play.
I also realized I wasnt the only one building up barriers. Some
of the nannies I meet seem almost condemning when they realize that Olivia
is mine. Some may even want to distance themselves because if they are
live-ins, they know the fine line they must walk in establishing both
intimacy with and distance from the families they are a part of--particularly
in terms of being aware of the territorial limits that we women as a rule
mark off in protecting our homes, our children, and (yes) our men. It
is not an easy job to say the least. Especially considering that for many,
salary and benefits are not reflective of the boom economy we have been
experiencing thus far. Being a mother has forced me to think of all these
things much more than ever before. And Ive learned that trying to
separate myself from my sisters only served to increase my own insecurities
about my daughter. It was a practice in self-hatred that I never thought
myself capable of. I hope that I can raise my daughter well enough so
that she never has to fall into such a horrible trap. And I hope that
the other mothers like me out there who have learned to turn their heads
when they see caregivers or my daughter and I enter the library or the
playground, also learn this lesson before it is too late for their children.
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