Our culture seems to have tolerated the world just as we found it. Few people have dared to face that lion and bring about reform. Jeff is one of the few. Wherever he is, there are no stones left unturned. He unsettles the dust. He has always been someone who cared for the community. All of his careers have served the commune in some capacity or another. But one of the demographics that he is heedful of are men of color. He was keen to incept something that thriving African American men could call their own; a place where they belong – the Gentleman’s Factory. It is a place where our Black men could rise and progress together. There is also GroomedSuccess. Everyone who knows him knows he was always destined for greatness even down to his wardrobe. He, like the old adage goes, “dresses to impress.” This platform he created is established to educate and empower Black men of all ages. He is esteemed for his resilience. Growing up, he had a stuttering disorder. Most people would have allowed it to cripple them but in Jeff’s case, it gave him the courage to challenge it. He defied the odds.
Here goes my virtual interview with Jeff:
If you could rewrite your past, what’s one thing you’d change?
I wouldn’t rewrite my past because everything, every error, error setback, every tear, every laugh, every stress, every joy, every mistake and every achievement have given me the clarity to move forward. I use the fullness of my experiences to design my future.
What legacy do you hope to leave behind?
I want to help black people better navigate, participate and succeed in today’s World. I hope to make it easier for black people to be free financially, academically, emotionally and spiritually.
What daily discipline do you feel has contributed most to your success?
I remain consistent. Consistency is important. I don’t have bad days but I have bad moments. I don’t let bad moments mess up my day. I manage my emotions well. I’m always acquiring knowledge. The most dangerous thing someone can do is isolate themselves. I avoid being isolated. If you are isolated, then where are you getting your knowledge? I surround myself with so many thinkers that have helped me to view the world in a multi-facet lens.
Who has influenced you the most and how?
My parents are the greatest influencers in my life because we came to the country in 1989 with not a lot of money, not much resource but a hope, a dream and ambition to be great. They’ve sacrificed a lot for my sisters and I, specifically for me as a young black man. The sacrifices they’ve made have helped me trail blazed through life. I knew I had the emotional support of my parents, which gave me the confidence and belief that America is mine too.
What has growing up in Coney Island taught you?
Growing up in Coney Island gave me practical real life experience that no university on the planet could teach me. Though I didn’t join a gang or been a troublesome child, the things that I’ve seen have helped me to survive that environment. Though I’m no longer fighting for my life where I now live, I’m no longer fearful. Coney Island is such a beautiful community but because we are under-resourced many people in the community had to resort into survival tactics that have put other people at stake. Now, it has really helped me appreciate my upbringing because it gave me the ambition to help create change so that the young people growing up don’t have to experience what I had to.
What would you like to say to 16 years old Olivia and 21 years old JJ?
I want my kids to know that this world is theirs too. I’ve worked hard for them so that they don’t have to work as hard as I did. Money is not everything but it allows people to make great choices. I want them to make good choices, to pursue what they are truly passionate about. God has created them for a specific mission and I want to help facilitate that. As a parent, I don’t want to dictate their life but to coach them. This world isn’t very kind but I hope they will focus on helping find a solution.
What qualities do you look for in people to hang out with?
Innovation – I really value people who can help the future and find solutions for the future, all the while thinking big doing it.
What hope do you have for younger black men growing up in America?
My hope is that they grow up in an America where they would not be seen as 3/5 of a person but that America would embrace their whole identity. And that they live in an America that fully embraces and appreciates their perspectives and their brilliance.
I’m stronger with him and so is the community and the world at large. As he climbs the ladder of success, he keeps looking back to ensure that he leaves no one behind. He encourages us to never be tightfisted with the formulas of success. Share the resources you have with others. Remember this, each of us has great purpose. Find it!
Cheers to a Legacy of Black Excellence!