I thought that Simmons' approach to the book was interesting. Reflecting his Buddhist background, Simmons said, "Its about making people focused and free and not fearful. So they can get up and give in the morning. Instead of waking up and thinking what you're gonna get, wake up and thing what your're gonna give. That's a different mindset. That's the mindset the we have to be in to not only be successful but to be happy."
I like the way that Simmons first describes wealth in a broader context: That your goals are to be happy and giving, so that you can live a wealthy life. Part of living a wealthy life means maintaining a sense of purpose and giving to something greater than yourself. Those who accumulate material possessions and selfishly utilize them to engage in one indulgence after another eventually find themselves feeling empty and depressed. After a while, another car, another party and another vacation doesn't do the trick the way it used to.
Money is a powerful tool for the improvement of your life and the lives of those around you. It is also a key to our liberation as a people. When I wrote 'Black American Money,' one of the key points I wanted to make is that for African Americans, a lack of access to wealth often drives us to give up many of our key freedoms as Americans. We can't stand up against injustice as readily as we would like, primarily because we continue to return to our historical oppressors to get the very things we need. In other words, when your boss says something racist, you can't speak up because you need his money in order to feed your children. So, wealth can be your key to personal power.
Another point about living a liberated life is that we must remember the power that debt has to enslave us. Our culture of mass consumption in the United States, combined with a growing gap between the rich and the poor, has more and more Americans relying on debt in order to survive. When you are deep in debt and have no savings, you've got no choice but to keep going back to the well of capitalist oppression. These problems affect us all, but being aware of the issues is the first step toward solving the problem.
I've had my disagreements with Simmons in the past, but I respect the man immensely. He has been part of the incredible growth of the hip-hop music industry over the last 30 years, and his achievements are virtually unprecedented. Also, the brand of hip-hop that Simmons has served to promote has not been nearly as destructive as some of the gangsta rap that has come from the west coast and the South. His vision as a businessman reminds all of us that within every industry, the best opportunities are on the management side, not the entertainment side.
I do hope, however, that Simmons helps young artists to remember the power of their own words when it comes to influencing the money management habits of young African Americans. Rappers who tell their audience to waste their money at the club, on designer clothes or expensive jewelry are not good for our community, for we know that life imitates art, especially in the hip-hop music industry. When it comes to learning how to become "super rich," all of us as a people must be committed to elevating our thinking. Simmons can be a part of that process.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.