Andre T. Wright has all the makings of a media mogul. By day, he’s a life coach with a robust following. He’s the author of two self-help books. He’s a veteran radio personality for multiple stations. And most recently, he started up Thinking Black Men of Providence, a membership program for empowering African-American leaders and entrepreneurs.
You would never guess that, in 2005, Wright spent eight months on the street, penniless, shunned by his family, expelled from college, and completely alone. His misfortunes had followed him through 27 foster care placements and four group homes, from his native Chicago to Michigan and then Massachusetts. After two decades of violent abuse and limited guidance, Wright had hit rock bottom.
“I was living in a shelter,” Wright recalls. “I was looking for a job. I had gotten turned down by a few of them.”
Everything changed when he interviewed for a position with Kevin Tarpley, an alderman and youth coordinator based in Somerville, Massachusetts. Tarpley was moved by Wright’s situation and became his mentor, helping him earn his first real job and secure housing. From there, Wright was introduced to a world of possibility – and that world has been expanding ever since.
“He was the first to say, ‘Don’t be afraid, just jump into it,’” Wright remembers. “He gave me a whole different way of looking at things. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be here right now.”
Fifteen years later, Wright is an ebullient father of three, including his son in Florida. His wife, Elisa, teaches English language learners in Boston. A former track and field star, Wright remains athletic and energetic. A year and a half ago, the family escaped the expense of urban Massachusetts and moved to Federal Hill. Wright knew friends in Providence and had spent quiet time in local hotels to compose his books. Now, Providence has become their home.
The concept for Thinking Black Men started in Boston, but Wright filed the LLC in Providence last year, and he’s focused his attention on Rhode Island. TBM is an “organization committed to the intellectual development of Black Men in Rhode Island and economic empowerment of the African-American community.”
You may raise an eyebrow at “thinking,” but Wright wants the word to speak to innovation and breaking new ground, specifically among African-American males. “I want people to know, you can do anything, and you can do it as a team,” says Wright, who counted 75 TBM members and 5,000 Facebook followers at the beginning of July. “We focus on building businesses, building the community. And we don’t have to keep doing the same thing if it’s not working.”
As if Wright weren’t busy enough, he recently established a streaming television network, KAG TV, which will be accessed exclusively through the TBM website and provide a range of content pertinent to the African-American community. “KAG” takes its title from his kids’ middle names.
It’s difficult to say where all these prospects will lead, but Wright hopes that TBM will help embolden African-Americans to dream big – just as Kevin Tarpley, all those years ago, emboldened him.
“Tomorrow is never promised,” says Wright, referring to a personal mantra. “But I feel more comfortable now, now that the agenda is out there, and people are seeing it the way I’ve seen it for a long time.”
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