Posted by madcityradio.com on February 23, 2009 at 12:19:56:
Dave Zweifel's Plain Talk: UW alum breaks ground with CNBC documentary
Dave Zweifel — TCT 2/23/2009 8:34 am
Back in the mid-1990s, a young African-American UW student named Lee Hawkins wrote some gutsy, provocative op-ed columns for us. We knew then he had a great future ahead of him.
Fresh out of school, where he wrote a regular column for the Badger Herald, he landed a job for a while covering business for the State Journal, went on to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel a short time later and in 2003 joined the reporting staff of the Wall Street Journal, where he was responsible for covering General Motors.
Today he works as the Journal's correspondent with CNBC and at 8 p.m. this Thursday night he will anchor a one-hour documentary that is based on a book he's written called "NEWBOs: The Rise of America's New Black Overclass."
It's safe to say that there's never been a book quite like it, for it examines the wealth of the young African Americans who have become sports and entertainment stars and what they're doing with all their fame and money.
It's a good-news, bad-news book, Lee told me on the phone last week.
"I've always believed that equal rights can only be achieve through economic empowerment," he said, pointing out that blacks with comparable skills and jobs still make about 70 cents on the dollar compared to whites and there are still only three African-American CEOs of Fortune 500 corporations.
Hawkins reveals that collectively, black athletes in the NFL, NBA, and Major League Baseball earned more than $4 billion last year and the country's 20 highest-paid hip-hop entrepreneurs earned more than $500 million.
He examines how that money has impacted their lives and families. Some of them have been generous helping to fund education and mentorship programs and lending their celebrity to causes that can lift up the black community. Others have not.
He compared basketball great LeBron James and baseball's Torii Hunter with Michael Jordan. James, who has formed his own African American-controlled marketing company, went so far as to get involved with Barack Obama's campaign last fall while Hunter uses his fame and some of his fortune to expose more black youths to baseball. Jordan, on the other hand, has been like many wealthy black athletes, preferring instead to distance himself from any social or political responsibility.
Hawkins devotes the first chapter of his book to what he calls "the pioneers." They include football great Jim Brown and boxing hero Muhammad Ali. When Ali challenged the Vietnam War and the draft, Brown came to his defense, something that was quite unusual for athletes of their day.
If Hawkins had his way, he said, many of these wealthy athletes and entertainers would pool some of their capital to provide other young blacks with opportunities that would allow them to share in the nation's wealth.
Hawkins' Thursday documentary will include James Hunter, Terrell Owens, Sean "Diddy" Combs, Wyclef Jean, Lil' Wayne and the Williams Brothers of Cash Money Records, Kirk Franklin and Bob Johnson, the founder of the Black Entertainment Television network and the country's first black billionaire.
There are a couple of other Madison connections on the show. Hawkins was assisted in determining the athletes' and entertainers' wealth by UW-Madison professor Donald Downs' students and the theme song for the documentary was composed by Greg Doby, the Madison hip-hop producer who has gained a national reputation in the music industry.
The CNBC documentary is one to see. Besides, many will see a familiar face of someone who got his start right here in town.
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