For the past decade, the city of Chicago has been known to most of us not just as the The Windy City or Chi-Town but also “Murder City” and “Chi-raq” due to the intolerable gun violence that has reached horrific proportions… Although officials claim a downward trend in what seems to be a never-ending problem with no solutions in sight, at least 1,433 people have been shot with at least 246 homicides this year alone.
Prompted by a public outcry for help, Shamekia Sulcer, a celebrity event planner who’s family hails from Chicago and who’s boyfriend was killed last year due to gun violence, felt it her duty to produce a panel that would explore sustainable solutions to prevent violence through entrepeneurship.
“You think we can get J Prince on this event?” Sulcer called and asked me late last month, just weeks before it was scheduled to take place.
“I don’t know,” I told her, “I’m actually reading his new book and he talks about managing Floyd back in the day so it would be perfect… Let me send some emails out.”
About a week later we got confirmation that J Prince would be able to attend and participate. Being from Houston, I was more than excited to share the news with her, and we immediately got to work…
Hosted by undefeated champion boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr and moderated by media maven Karen Civil, the event took place this past Saturday at The DuSable Museum, one of the few independent institutions of its kind in the United States that was developed to preserve and interpret experiences and achievements of people of African descent.
Other panelists also included Ryan Henry of VH1’s Black Ink Chicago, founder of Rap-A-Lot Records, author, and former manager to Mayweather, J Prince, D Nash, founder of Replace Guns With Hammers, and Corey Gilkey, founder of footwear store Leaders 1354. Each panelist gave their own personal life experiences from childhood to adulthood, and shared how they were able to overcome impoverishment through the exploration of non-traditional career paths.
“Being from the hood does not mean abandoning it once you make it,” said J Prince.
“Part of giving back to the hood means making sure you help rebuild it once you are able.”
Continuing the discussion, an open Q&A from the audience took place and it didn’t come without harsh criticism. One audience member challenged the panelists asking specifically what they planned on doing not just for the city of Chicago, but for their own personal cities as well.
“All of you have the resources to give back,” claimed one audience member. “What are you doing to contribute to the resilience of these economic ecosystems?”
“I give back year-round,” replied Mayweather. “You don’t hear about it because I don’t feel it necessary to let anyone know what I’m doing to give back. I just get it done. I was that kid at one point who didn’t get Christmas gifts so if I can give back, I’m going to.”
As the panel came to a close, President and CEO Perri Irmer of the museum presented Mayweather with a Resolution Of Lifetime Membership.
Audience members and ticket holders gathered for a meet-and-greet following the panel where they were met with cocktails and light bites provided by Penthouse Sweets Chicago.
Following the panel and meet-and-greet, a 50 person private dinner took place at the upscale RPM Steakhouse where guests of the champ were treated to a lavish 4-course meal.
Everybody from A-list actress Taraji P. Henson to Winndye Jenkins, wife of Chicago street gang The Gangster Disciples founder Larry Hoover were in attendance. Spirits were high and the drinks flowed as everyone dined and reflected on the day’s events.
Besides the Louis XIII toast presented by Remy Martin, my favorite moment was when J Prince personally served attendees plates of the homemade banana pudding Ms. Jenkins had brought to the dinner.
“Everytime I come to Chicago,” he said “I always make sure I don’t leave until I’ve had some of this pudding. Would you like some?”
“Of course I would,” I replied to the OG who’s career I have followed since I was in my teens. “Thank you for being here,” I said. “You have no idea how much your attendance means to this event.”
“Thank you for the invite,” he said with his signature smirk as he signed my copy of The Art and Science of Respect, a memoir he recently authored, “Y’all did a wonderful job.”