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Power Network at Carnegie Hall

Source: Fadi Kheir / Courtesy of Carnegie Hall

It’s the eve of Valentine’s Day on a snow-melting New York City evening. Black couples draped in their finest $5,000-a-plate fur-cloaked gala attire wandered around a half-filled Carnegie Hall auditorium, seeking and finding a place to purchase cocktails in the the Sanford I. Weill Cafe.

Power Network at Carnegie Hall

Source: Fadi Kheir / Courtesy of Carnegie Hall

Among the aforementioned are business casual and informally dressed attendees, some even in snow boots and leisurewear. They all learned about the Power Network’s “A Black History Month Conversation and Celebration.” Its purpose was to unite a niche audience commemorating Black excellence with decorated professionals, followed by an exhilarating mini-concert by Rick Ross hosted by legendary radio personality, Ed Lover.

Event organizers Lew Tucker and Terry Ross invited an impressive selection of renowned guest speakers and panelists tasked to discuss tangible ways technology, artificial intelligence and politics can leapfrog an encumbered community out of multi-generational poverty. Each subject matter expert offered their brand of solutions – voting, equity ownership and advanced education were at the top of the list for the most part. However, some conversations had such galvanizing perspectives, making the call to action a revolution worth exploring.

In the first panel of the night, moderator and Vibranium Central Foundation executive Derek Ferguson kicked off the discussion with a malfunctioned video clip of the late Nipsey Hussle discussing the distrust in cryptocurrencies in Black communities and his desire to remediate it with technology. Megan Holston-Alexander, a partner at Andreessen Horowitz heading the Cultural Leadership Fund in Silicon Valley, discussed how the power of equity ownership in tech is a fast track to bridging the wage gap if investors are strategic enough to secure it.

An easy way to bypass an often impenetrable venture capital fund is through “employment-ship,” as she describes. Candidates would seek employment at a budding tech start-up and secure company stock through a compensation package, which can instantly become worth millions if a larger company acquires the business or goes public on the stock market. It’s extended gameplay but has given professionals an expedited pathway toward real wealth.

Ron Busby Sr., a business executive at U.S. Black Chambers Inc., reminded the audience how the government glosses over Black issues by enveloping other ethnicities into federal funding under the umbrella term “minority,” which he claims has served white women the most at an astounding 78% of the budget. If Black enterprises certify their businesses on as Black-owned businesses, they actively create a demand for federal dollars explicitly earmarked for Black business owners. Additionally, using acquisitions by becoming a 51% owner of small companies would help expand their businesses and aid them in gaining larger contracts that are otherwise inaccessible to small businesses.

Power Network at Carnegie Hall

Source: Fadi Kheir / Courtesy of Carnegie Hall

The second act of the event was a pleasant pivot into political activism with Maryland Gov. Wes Moore, moderated by Earn Your Leisure founders Rashad Bilal and Troy Millings.

Moore’s decorated life story is one for the books. The former Robin Hood CEO, who once managed to distribute $600 million towards impoverished families before taking his talents into politics in 2023, won his first elected seat into office on the first try.

His new career starts without deep political ties, which historically has muddled the landscape along with backroom deals and false promises to its constituents. Instead, Moore’s business-minded approach focuses on demolishing generational poverty in the Black community through policy.

From his perspective, gaining access to the state budget has given him a unique understanding of how deliberate policy-driven racism has strategically pigeonholed Black Americans into disenfranchisement.

Power Network at Carnegie Hall

Source: Fadi Kheir / Courtesy of Carnegie Hall

Billionaire Robert F. Smith, who also serves as Carnegie Hall’s chairman, joined the governor’s conversation with HarbourView CEO Sherrese Clarke Soares. The refreshed panel closed out the final segment of the evening. Both executives spoke in depth about the impact technology and AI will have on the future of Black families in America.

Smith highlighted the underrepresentation of Black professionals in tech and the dangers it threatens as AI amalgamates itself into corporate America. Eventually, executives will rely on automation software to eliminate an already fragile workforce paranoid about employment stability. Those positions are mainly held by Black Americans at a disturbing rate, fueling the conversation about the widening wealth gap. Smith believes the digital revolution can quantum leap the community into generational wealth and advancement, a theory solely based on the historic inventions created from thwarted access to essential resources through systemic racism.

Soares introduced the creator economy throughout entertainment and media verticals, declaring that audience and consumerism dictate new lanes of opportunity. Content is king here; there’s an opportunity to gain wealth through premier intellectual property investment. As AI continues to disrupt the bottlenecking strategies traditionally used to generate revenue streams at the expense of undervalued creators, global investment firms like HarborView will invest millions into an artist’s publishing catalog, for example. Jeremih recently partnered with Soares’s firm to sell published and recorded assets from the “Birthday Sex” singer for an undisclosed amount—monumental deals like these open avenues for wealth development in film, TV and sports for creators. As Black communities have dictated the pulse of popular culture throughout documented history, it’s remarkable to imagine the untapped market this will uncover as creators define the value of their artistic collections.

Pleasantly, each panelist left a tangible blueprint with accessible methods for average citizens to advance themselves toward generational wealth. If Black Americans play their hand right, technology and AI can dismount the longstanding systemic gatekeeping that has stagnated disenfranchised families for centuries and finally catapult folks out of poverty.

Power Network at Carnegie Hall

Source: Fadi Kheir / Courtesy of Carnegie Hall

The auditorium erupted in electric applause after statements closed, interlocking the audience with a contagious wave of empowerment. Anyone can be a big boss if they conquer their impostor syndrome. And cleverly, Rick Ross’ mini-concert with a live orchestra cemented the moment most perfectly.

The mini-concert began with “I’m A Boss,” harmoniously synchronized with the talented Revive Big Band, blowing their horns simultaneously with the recorded track as a projector displayed a montage of visuals of the famous rapper. While the intro played out, a white fur coat-wearing Rozay strolled onto the stage to take in the crowd before picking up his microphone to belt out his verse. The “All I Do Is Win” chorus then transitioned to “I’m On One.” The fur coat didn’t last five minutes on the chubby Wing Stop franchisee before being removed for the rest of the song’s performance.


While the “Hustlin’” intro played, the Biggest Boss poured a glass of Luc Belaire Rare Rose into a champagne flute from a table placed behind him and raised it towards the crowd in the form of cheers before powering through half of the first verse. This formula went on throughout the show, using Maybach Music crowd favorites as transition markers into selected orchestra-assisted songs from Rick Ross’ vast catalog, including “Hustle Hard,” “Diced Pineapples,” “Aston Martin Music” and “Pop That.”

“B.M.F.“ is when the energy shifted on stage, causing him to belt, “I think I’m Big Meech, free Larry Hoover!” into the microphone with unfathomable conviction. He was finally loosening up.

In between song transitions, Renzel daps up band members as they catch their breath in time for the next song. They didn’t mind, as they were equally excited to interact with him, presumably forged by their mutual respect for the love of music.

“I’m Not A Star” and “Stay Schemin’” were played unassisted by the band through their discrete break, allowing fans to pick up the slack, screaming the lyrics word for word against the track.

The song that evangelized the crowd was DJ Khalid’s “God Did,” cueing the band to pick up their instruments to play along to the Grammy nominated song in a beautiful culmination of live notes. It was the perfect backdrop; Rick Ross used the time to crowd work. With his Luc Belaire-filled flute, he emphatically mouthed the song’s title intimately towards the fans sitting in the balconies overlooking the stage. It was strange but on par with the rapper’s animated personality. The moment was the perfect show closer to a fantastic setlist. Unencumbered by the exhausting 25-minute-long performance, Rozay took time to sign autographs and take pictures before disappearing backstage.

The night was long for a mid-week event, but it was worth the trip for what it offered. If using a Keith Lee rating system; 8 out of 10, which would jump to a 9.2 if there were some lemon pepper wings from Wing Stop on site.