By: Donald V. Watkins
Copyrighted and Published on August 28, 2020
Knowledge is a powerful tool. It is the one thing that nobody can take away from you. It is a fundamental building block to success in life.
When I entered the Talladega Federal Prison Camp on August 28, 2019, I was blessed with an assignment in the Education Department that consisted of teaching GED courses and a class in Entrepreneurship. This assignment became a life altering event for me and a wonderful opportunity to share academic knowledge and practical experience with men who were thirsty for it.
My classes in Entrepreneurship were not mandatory; they were voluntary. The attendance in this class exploded over the course of the 2019-20 academic year. It also exposed me to some of the best and brightest minds in the Camp.
Unlike teaching jobs in the free world, this assignment also exposed me to students who were highly disciplined, extremely motivated, and mentally tough. Many of them were intellectually gifted. A couple of them had genius IQs. One of these geniuses was in my GED class.
Three of my students – Isaac Culver, Johann Jordan and Dr. Donatus Mbanefo – formed an advanced mathematics team that worked on the solution to one of the Clay Mathematics Institute’s six unsolved math problems called the “Navier-Stokes Equation”. Before we could complete the documentation on our work relating to this math problem, the coronavirus halted our ability to work as a team. Fortunately, we figured out the Equation and surmised the intended military application of our solution. We will complete the technical work on Navier-Stokes and validate our findings after we are released from custody. Culver, Jordan and Mbanefo have brilliant analytical minds. Jordan is a former math instructor at South Carolina State University. His mother, Mary Jordan, is a retired English professor at the University. Our team has the capability to solve two of the Clay Mathematics Institute’s six unsolved problems, but we only had time and resources to work on one of them at the Prison Camp.
Several of my students excelled in banking and finance. These students included Johann Jordan, Philip Day, Isaac Culver, Chris Pitts, Ontario Watson and Julius Womack. They spent weeks learning how to properly vet banks, how to form banking relationships, the mechanics of the “deposit” and “products” side of commercial banking, the Rothchild’s banking model, investment banking, asset management, mergers and acquisitions, risk mitigation techniques and access to working capital for start-up businesses. All six of these students while prohibited by law from owning a commercial bank themselves, have the family structure and knowledge in place for their families to own a successful commercial bank. All six of these men are African Americans and their families would become the first Blacks in America to acquire full-service commercial bank charters since I received mine in 1999. They also know where their families can access the required capital for their de novo banks.
Philip Day is from Los Angeles. His brain functions like a highly educated “logic” engineer. He thinks of creative solutions to real world problems, and his solutions have global commercial applications. He now knows how and where to properly commercialize his intellectual property to achieve dynamic economic value. I predict that Philip Day will become the first billionaire out of my group of students. This man is brilliant!
Horace “Chico” Hudson has an IQ in the 160-170 range. The Pinebluff, Arkansas native was a 9th grade dropout. He can outthink and outwork anybody in the business world. His ability to analyze and solve complex commercial problems is awesome. Plus, Mr. Hudson is an impressive 6’4” motivational speaker. Remember his name; Mr. Hudson is destined for fame and success in the international business world.
For the first time in decades, I believe that Blacks in America have a chance to succeed in high value mainstream businesses because these men possess knowledge, skills and abilities necessary to compete and succeed on an unlevel business playing field. They do not need a minority business set-aside contract to create economic value in their businesses. They will compete for mainstream business opportunities and win.
My students know how to keep their eyes on the prize. They can tune out hatred, jealousy and envy from blacks and whites. They don’t need “sunshine” friends or insincere “cheerleaders”. They have mastered the knowledge of creating substantial wealth from intellectual ideas and services that have global consumer markets. Nobody can break their spirit.
On August 28, 2029, I will hold a reunion with my students in Geneva, Switzerland. We will celebrate their commercial success and transformed lives with a reception at the Lombard Odier Group. Founded in 1796, Lombard Odier is the oldest private bank in continuous operation anywhere in the world.
The journey from Talladega Federal Prison Camp to Lombard Odier seems impossible to people in the free world, but my students have “the right stuff” to reach this goal of commercial success. Join me in wishing my students well on their long, difficult, ambitious journey from prison to redemption and commercial success. Each one of them will make it to our joyful reunion.