Get the Bag: Seven Laws of Wealth for Black New Orleanians


Get the Bag: Getting a Large Amount of Money – Urban Dictionary

When it comes to being black and living in New Orleans, how does the community look on paper – what do the statistics say? Generally speaking, NOLA’s black community looks as if odds are stacked against them.

In 2016:

  • Black households earned 63% less than white households
  • Half of all black families in New Orleans earned less than $25,324
  • Nearly ½ of New Orleans’ African American children live in poverty; 9% of white children are poor
  • A living wage (allowing one adult and one child to subsist without government assistance) in New Orleans is $47,611;apx. 60,500 black households earned less than $45,000 (17,500 white households earned less than 45k)
  • Tourism is the largest traded, export cluster in New Orleans, yielding more than 15,000 jobs; the tourism workforce is 50% black and provides an average annual wage of $34,220 – including tips
  • Approximately 60% black New Orleanians rented; half of them paid unaffordable costs
  • Individuals detained in Orleans Parish Prison were four times more likely to be black than white

(New Orleans Prosperity Index: Tricentennial Edition, April 2018)

Nevertheless, odds can be overcome; statistics can be beaten. While they remain a small percentage, black people are finding ways to defy the odds by working their way into millionaire and even billionaire statuses. They started from the bottom and worked their way up. Has their success, however, allowed people behind them to do the same? Have black millionaires and billionaires created a pathway for those who are serious to follow? Is it possible for any of us to get the bag if we are black and at the bottom?  

Dr. Dennis Kimbro wrote The Wealth Choice – a novel that outlines seven laws of wealth. Published in 2013, Dr. Kimbro surveyed and interviewed 1,000 black millionaires; the seven laws in the book are created from the results of his survey. What did the survey say? What traits did the black millionaires have in common? Is what he found in 2013 still relevant?

Dr. Kimbro was able to collect the trends and the habits that allowed disadvantaged black people to experience extreme financial success. He was able to pattern how they defied the odds – even when those odds are stacked as high as what is evident in New Orleans, Louisiana.

First Law of Wealth: Wealth begins in the mind and ends in the purse

What do black billionaires do in common – even at their lowest point before the bag was filled? The Wealth Choice discusses how black millionaires use their minds to end the cycle of poverty. The millionaires in his study were determined to seek knowledge, constantly. Reading, attending conferences, staying informed about their craft. Knowledge is power – but it is also a way out of your circumstances and into a new way of living.

All too often, when we are stuck in the statistics, we cannot get passed the first law. Outside of the traditional educational system, we must put forward the time and the availability to read, learn, empower ourselves for where it is we want to go. It takes consistency and work to use knowledge to defy the odds. Kimbro explains:

“Perhaps you are what the world calls poor. So what? Who cares? Most of the men and women found on these pages were and are the offspring of poverty. Each knew the pressure of limited resources and the fragile nature of their monetary means…Each of us must aggressively pursue our individual right to wealth. Falling down does not constitute failure; refusing to rise and fight again surely does.” (36)

In other words and as an example: the future success of NOLA’s ever-growing hospitality industry can come from the creation and the minds of black people in business rather than coming off the backs of black people in the community. As it stands, NOLA’s black-owned businesses make up a mere 2% of the receipts in New Orleans’ economy. Programs such as Launch NOLA strive to help locals do the work to endure the inescapable challenges involved with developing and establishing your startup business. The Wealth Choice suggests we can get involved with prosperity; we, too, can Think and Grow Rich.

It is critical to stay in a learning state of mind. Learn resources that are available to you, find out organizations committed to helping you, learn how to network with the right people about your business goals. It may start with Google, but, like us, black millionaires and billionaires had to start somewhere. Kimbro says, “I have found the Black wealthy to be constant learners and calculated risk takers unafraid to attempt new ideas, even at the risk of appearing foolish to their peers.” (45)

Second Law of Wealth: Decide that you will not be poor

“What are stumbling blocks to the poor and defeated are but stepping-stones to the strong and determined; poverty and humble birth do not bar the progress of men and women with the grit to seize their chance.” (43)

The city of New Orleans is filled with talent. There are black New Orleanians with dreams that can help turn the city around economically while also taking themselves out of their own poverty. The Wealth Choice second law states that readers rise up and decide not to be poor. People such as Madam C.J. Walker, Daymond John, Steve Harvey, Spike Lee…they decided not to be poor, despite once having been exactly that. We are no different; we can make the same decision and attain our own measure of success.

It is important to make this decision daily with actions, not mere words. For example: after the shift at work, the bus ride home, picking up the kids, after dinner is made, after kids are in bed, and after you are exhausted from the day – you hold yourself to go online and research. Do this every day – consistently. Connect with people on social media, send questions on direct message or group chats, watch seminars on YouTube, write down your goals, listen to motivational speakers who will keep your spirit in the right place. Every time that you have the opportunity to do this (lunch break, bus ride, walking home, in the car), you are doing what is required to defy the odds and commit yourself to a prosperous new life.

Third Law of Wealth: Believe in thyself when no one else will

“Faith, it has been said, is the best substitute for friends, pedigree, influence, and capital. It has mastered more obstacles, overcome more difficulties, and enabled more millionaires than any other human capacity.” (111)

Not everyone wants to become a millionaire, but many of us want to live life on our own terms. In New Orleans, many would like to be able to pay the bills with one good job instead of three. Some want to overcome the life setback of doing time in Angola. There are black New Orleanians who would like to move up in their company. Some people may want to own a business and others have a dream of leading the entire city; The Wealth Choice encourages us to believe in ourselves and our dreams – even when other people may think we are completely unqualified and utterly crazy. We must believe when the entire system ignores our neighborhoods and seems, many times, to be pushing us out. Opposition, naysayers, and oppression are very tough – but so are we. The Wealth Choice insists – we must believe in the face of living in resistive conditions.    

“Our faith is a measure of our inner belief. It provides us with a glimpse of our possibilities. The individual who possesses little faith reaps little while those who live by a mighty faith receive much. The only inferiority in us is that which we place into ourselves…No one is defeated until he or she gives up. And the point is: Don’t give up.” (122)

Fourth Law of Wealth: To thine own self be true; find your unique gifts and talents

The path that has been well laid for black people in New Orleans (and across the country) is to remain in the lag. If NOLA’s past predicts the future: we must continue to take subpar wages, we must continue to allow tourism to prevail while our surrounding communities suffer; we must continue to keep going to jail, keep struggling through the education system, keep renting and not buying, keep living below the poverty line…

Can we negate this history by challenging the system with our God-given calling – with our gifts and talents? Or is the system too overpowering? Do we truly know what our talents are? Under the fourth law of wealth, it is time to find out and be true to ourselves. Our talents have the potential to supply our needs and the power to re-build NOLA’s communities.

Dr. Kimbro explains:

“Practically speaking, here lie the two assumptions that guide the thinking of Black America’s financial elite:

  1. Each of us has been given talents and gifts that are enduring and unique.  
  2. Individually, your greatest opportunity for financial growth lies within your greatest strengths, talents, and gifts.  

These two assumptions explain why Black millionaires continue to think outside of the box…Realizing that no individual can be ideally successful until he or she has found his or her true place, they refuse to be a square peg in a round hole.” (157)

Fifth Law of Wealth: How may I serve thee?

We understand our communities better than anyone.  We understand the problem and can be of greatest service to the solution. Dr. Kimbro puts it like this:

“To walk among the Black financial elite – those who’ve earned seven-figure incomes – remember, wealth is not an amount, but a habit, an act, an attitude…”  He goes on to characterize black financial elite as “a problem solver and not a problem; [they] do what needed to be done, never waiting to be told what to do.” (191)

The Wealth Choice advises readers to hire themselves, create their own jobs, be their own boss, and be powerful problem solvers. We can pursue our own vision for being the answer to the problems that we see in the west bank, east bank, 3rd ward, 9th ward…  

Sixth Law of Wealth: Thou shall own thy own business

“Working solely for a paycheck is neither wrong nor bad, but it is a risky proposition. Risky because as your paycheck increases, so do your taxes; and, as your paycheck grows so does your dependence on others…Those who have retained their jobs must do more for less – shoulder more of the workload, work longer hours, and often forgo any form of additional compensation.” (241 -242)

Affordable housing issues, expensive insurance costs, and low wages are a major hurdle for many black New Orleanians. Having the determination to get out of the rat race involved with New Orleans employment limitations allows one to embrace the freedom of being in business for yourself. Kimbro says, “it is you who must develop a deep desire for independence as well as a proclivity to act if you are to pave a new road to your financial future.” (244)

Seventh Law of Wealth: Make Thy Money Grow

Much like the classic novel, Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill; The Wealth Choice proves its timelessness, even now – six years after its 2013 publication. The following points are five wealth building strategies outlined in the book:

  1. The best investment will always be yourself
  2. Managing your finances is your responsibility
  3. Get your spending under control
  4. Pay yourself first.  Saving is permissible.
  5. Make your money work as hard as you do

We can learn from many different types of people. Sometimes, however, there is a special gleam of hope attached to learning from someone who shares your skin color and, once also, shared your financial struggle. The 1,000 black millionaires who provided the lessons we now learn from were committed to the habits required of each law. Dr. Kimbro explains, “saving and investing enables men and women to lift their heads above the crowds; to be independent, self-reliant, and shielded from debt and anxiety.” (174)  

Did this article make you want to get established and do big things for the city? Want to connect with other like-minded people? Contact the author, Nicole Nixon, at NOLA Leadership and Business:

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