“To have once been a criminal is no disgrace. To remain a criminal is the disgrace”
― Malcolm X
The life of Curtis Carrol was not especially significant. It was the all too familiar script for far too many black people in America. The script reads like this: fatherless boy born to crack addicted mother in an impoverished desolate neighborhood. Where? It does matter! From there, he enters into school with little to no supervision from his mother. He drops out and is largely, illiterate. He is the epitome of Slick Rick’s Children Story. He was simply a man on his way to the grave through a path of irrelevant nigga rituals chasing cash that he wouldn’t live to spend. So it was not surprising when Carrol caught a 54-yr sentence for robbery murder and was incarcerated in San Quentin Prison. And this is where our story really begins.
One day while serving an otherwise forgettable day for his sentence, Curtis accidentally picked up the financial section of the newspaper, when a Col. Stinkmeaner like apparition appeared in the form of a fellow inmate and asked him: “what are you doing with financial section of the paper, you don’t know nothing about stocks!” When Curtis inquired as to what were stocks, the inmate replied: “that’s where white people put their money.” That statement awoke in Curtis the long buried desire to become mentally alive. Curtis taught himself to read by reading the financial section of the newspaper. He dived head long into basic principles of saving and investing. During this arduous process, Curtis Carrol was becoming a new being, a new entity, and before long, the one fly in the milk of the prison industrial complex.
He honed his skill to god-like proportions and began teasing the guards about their weak 401-k retirement plans. Unsurprisingly, the guards wrote him off as just another pseudo intellectual pro-black islamic jail convert. Their faces displayed a look of incredulity at this illiterate inmate’s admonitions of their lack of financial planning. They dismissed him as simply bad comedy in an environment where prison education is almost cliche’
However, one person saw the fire in Curtis’s eyes and his resolution of spirit and made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. The prison warden threatened Curtis with time in the hole if he refused to teach his knowledge to other inmates. The result was the birth of a financial god. His long nights of preparation and studying created extraordinary memorization skills that easily recognized the mathematical patterns of the stock market. Through family members, he set up an e-trade account on the outside and began trading in stock. In partnership with the son of the late Robin Williams, he set up a financial literacy program in the heart of San Quentin where he taught inmates how to save and invest their commissary money. He organized their portfolios for free. He has made hundreds of thousands for investors and colleagues alike on the outside. It is estimated that if or when he leaves prison, Carrol will leave with a million dollar severance package.
Wallstreet, as he is now called, has become a cause celeb inside of the American prison system. He is safer than any guard. He is arguably, more valuable than the warden. But what he did, holds some very profound implications for blacks incarcerated in the system, in particular, and for Black America at large. Wallstreet’s program has the potential to reverse the harmful effects of the prison system by teaching inmates a skill that will free them from the scarlet letter of a felony conviction. They will no longer need to worry how they will make their daily bread as they will own the dough, the bowl, the flower, and the oven. Consequently, recidivism can be cut to nearly zero as inmates learn how to truly empower themselves. But there is a much more serious crack in the system.
Western Capitalism functions best when there is a permanent underclass of consumers. Indeed, there must be people who are badly educated to work meaningless labor intensive jobs for meager wages in order to produce powerful familial empires. These people must be the least protected and the most vulnerable to the slightest change in the economy. They must also be politically and economically impotent to prevent challenges to the status quo. If this group of people come in contact with a means of decentralizing wealth and power in western economies, they can totally re-order society. With new economic power, they can break the stranglehold of corporate lobbyists on local, federal and state politics and challenge “old money” for control of the state. Dare I dream?…lol
But most important, The Curtis Carrol story represents a kind of scary hope for black men. Hope from the perspective that a come up is possible, but scary from the aspect that Curtis’s successes mean that there are really no more excuses. If this man can discipline himself to become a financial powerhouse in the most repressive environment on the planet, then what’s our excuse for our communities remaining backward, powerless and collectively impoverished? White supremacy can no longer be a fallback rationale for black lethargy. Curtis Carrol is an example of what can happen when you take your balls and your destiny in your own hands and dare to break from the pre-written script of euthanasia.
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