Jaylen Bledsoe is a one of kind superstar. The 15-year old sophomore started his own tech company a few years ago, and has found entrepreneurship to be his calling. As a result, he is his own man, and a millionaire because of it.
Jaylen says that he started his firm when he was 12-years old, and plans to attend Harvard after he finishes high school. Jaylen’s company, Bledsoe Technologies, is now worth an estimated $3.5 million. This means that if he manages his wealth in the right way, he will be set for life.
Jaylen doesn’t spend his time memorizing lyrics from the rapper “2Chainz,” sippin “sizzurp” or chasing girls on Saturday nights. Instead, he spends his time chasing paper, pursuing his dreams and positioning himself for a truly empowered existence. Personally, I’m proud of him. I can also see that he is the beneficiary of good parents and role models. Our kids are like products off an assembly line: The outcomes we see in kids Jaylen’s age are direct products of what they’ve been exposed to on a daily basis.
Jason’s company does web design and other forms of IT consulting for companies located mainly in the Midwest. He actually reminds me of another young person I met recently, Emerson Spartz, the founder of Spartz Media. Spartz is not African American, but both of these young men serve as powerful templates for what our boys can become if given the right guidance.
When I spoke with Emerson, we both agreed that around the age of 12, we probably had ADHD. But we also both agreed that, while ADHD gets you in trouble in school, it can actually be beneficial to have a mind that races from one good idea to the next. Personally, my short attention span caused me to struggle in school until I gained my footing in college. High school felt like prison to me, and my horrible grades reflected that sentiment.
Emerson’s parents had a better idea: Take him out of the school system altogether. But not only were they going to home school their son, they also decided that they weren’t going to force him to learn any particular subject. Instead, Emerson’s parents focused on making sure that their child could read well, communicate in writing, and do math, which is pretty much what any person needs to know in order to succeed in life. I’ve rarely seen anyone struggle in their profession because they’ve never read old English literature or learned the Periodic Table in Chemistry.
So, basically, Emerson’s parents allowed him to study whatever he wanted, which sounds almost insane. They also required him to read a biography of a successful person every day to get a vision for his future. Before long, Emerson, like a lot of kids, gained a strong interest in Harry Potter. He then went on to found Mugglenet.com, the largest Harry Potter site in the world. So, just like Jaylen, Emerson was a 15-year old millionaire. He is now a 26-year old genius with a natural and burning desire to learn new things. Speaking to him was like talking to other college professors in academia.
Young men like Jaylen and Emerson define the vision of what we’re seeking to do with the group of educators we’ve gathered around the country for our homeschooling initiative at Your Black World. The public school system is failing our black boys, turning potential leaders into tiny men with low self-esteem. This has produced a state of emergency where, for every Jaylen Bledsoe, we produce a thousand wannabe rappers and basketball players. The next Martin Luther King is being killed every single day of the week.
Public school systems have become a virus, infecting millions of our boys with the disease of mediocrity. With each additional day of education, they become more deeply socialized into the mental health crisis that undermines their ability to be strong husbands and fathers. They then enter into an economic system that is not wired to give them employment, even when they’ve made good choices and obtained several years of post-secondary education. We must be honest and admit that this country is not designed for most black men to be successful.
My suggestion on this issue is simple: 1) Every black child in America should be home schooled, even if they go to school someplace else, and 2) Every black child in America should be taught the basics of how to run their own business.
Homeschooling may not mean taking your child out of school every day, but it does mean using the time that your child is not in school to teach him skills he will need to be a successful adult: The basics of black history, how to be a good parent, how to invest, etc. In other words, it means being a truly educated human being with adequate life skills and the ability to engage in critical thinking.
Secondly, being an entrepreneur doesn’t mean not working for anyone else, but it does mean having alternative streams of revenue so that you are not enslaved by a corporation that causes you to check your freedom and self-esteem at the door. That way, when situations call for you to stand up, you’re not faced with a corporate overseer telling you to sit right back down. Living paycheck-to-paycheck, deep in debt, on one stream of income is a surefire pathway to a lifetime of socioeconomic servitude.
When I come to Medgar Evers College in New York this month with Dr. Cornel West, Dr. Marc Lamont Hill (Columbia University), Dr. Wilmer Leon (Howard University) and Dr. Christopher Emdin (Columbia University) for our next forum on Wealth, Education, Family and Community, our goal is to emphasize a new paradigm of thought as it pertains to how we go about developing our youth. They must be prepared to survive and compete in a world that doesn’t always love them, and have the skills necessary to overcome obstacles that they will most likely face in their path.
We MUST create more Jaylen Bledsoes and fewer Lil Waynes. The truth is that both of these young men are geniuses, and both of them know how to work hard. The difference is that one is a net asset to his community and the other is a blatant liability. One of these men is positioned for freedom and the other has been pre-assigned to psychological slavery. One of them is going to live long and prosper, while the other one might be d**d before the age of 35. Both of these men are prototypes, and every prototype can be replicated with the thoughtful design of pre-determined structural and environmental factors. Don’t believe me? Check out Rosz Akins and the Carter G. Woodson Academy in Kentucky, where she manufacturers extraordinary young black men who are equipped to become world leaders in politics, business, science and everything else. This DOES NOT happen with luck.
We live in a world where a prison cell and a casket are being built for every black boy on the day he is born. If we do not change the trajectory of that child’s life at an early age, then their fate is already sealed. Not only do our boys have the tools to survive all enemies foreign and domestic, they have the power to thrive and conquer when their energies are channeled in the right direction. Our community MUST regain control of this process.