JAY WILLIAMS, HOST:
Welcome to THE LIMITS. I'm Jay Williams, and I want to take a step back this week to talk about something that is extremely meaningful to me - mentorship. We talk so much on this show about hustling, focus, all these attributes that define people who are great. But it's so damn easy to forget that it takes an actual village to get there. What makes a good mentor, you ask. I know I wouldn't be here without Coach K, the legendary former head coach of Duke Men's Basketball. So I wanted to turn to a few of my friends on the pod this year who talked about the mentors that defined them - first up, food and design mogul Jon Gray. His Black-owned collective Ghetto Gastro brings the Bronx to the world and the world to the Bronx through food pop-ups, merchandise and partnerships. You see; for Jon, it's all about community. And here are some of the people who made it work.
Virgil Abloh said new spaces for new dialogue and that brands have new types of dialogue with their customers. And, you know, you said something during your TED talk - and I just want to quote it because I thought it was it was brilliant - about, you know, Ghetto Gastro and what that means. You say you want to locate our people and to indict the systems of neglect that create these conditions. So not only is it the taste of the palate, but it's the experiential education that you're giving me. You were even talking about Robert Moses and redlining, about the community of the Bronx. So you've been able to take the authenticity of the Bronx, express that through the food but open dialogue about this new type of kind of connectivity you have to culture, sharing that it's OK. Like, that's - man, like, the way you market that through your articulation of where it comes from and what it means to you, Jon, is - it's really impressive. How long did it take for you to kind of orchestrate that and - because I know you felt it, but to properly articulate it?
JON GRAY: No, yeah, it takes community. And, like, I think me - like I mentioned earlier, like, I'm not a traditionally educated person. Like, I learned through experience - like L-O-X, like The Lox. So I learned off experience. So for me, like, I learned what we were doing by doing it. Like, we had the mission, like, from Day 1. We're like, yeah, we want to teach people. We want to spread love. We want to, like, just change also health outcomes in our community, right? But to get the words - it's like having people like Dream Hampton that's like, no, this is, like, what - people that are telling me the work that I'm doing. I always knew about Robert Moses. I had got a graphic novel about - like, a mini version of "The Power Broker." And my great-grandparents - or my grandfather had a street named after him in the Bronx - my great-grandfather, who I'm named after, Bishop Jon Arthur Jones. So his house was maybe - like, if it was 50 feet more to the east, the Cross Bronx Expressway would have knocked it down, and it would no longer exist, right?
So I always - like, as a toddler, as a baby, I always, like, dealt with this. Like, yo; why don't they just put this through here like this, or why are parkways not big enough for buses to drive on? Oh, because you don't want people from neighborhoods that don't have cars to access the beaches in New York City and - right? And these type of things and this type of design - it's not unique to New York. Like, you go to Brazil. You see the favelas. You go to Joburg, you know, go to Mumbai - like, all different types of, quote-unquote, "slums." So for us, it's like, food is our tool. But I'm sure everybody else in these neighborhoods could find their tool - right? - and just to, I think, just reject and rebel against the system.
WILLIAMS: Yeah, exactly. The racism is literally built into the infrastructure. And there's a ton of rebellion and education we need in order to combat that. And speaking of Virgil and that necessary disruption - and it's been a while now since we've lost him. But one of the things I love that he always did - he always gave back to his community, right? He was either giving lectures. He was offering advice on his websites. I mean, it just felt like he was always doing things to enhance the way we thought about ourselves and about where we are going. Is that part of your internal mission? Like, as you're thriving with your businesses, is it also to educate about where we need to go as people and also how powerful we can actually be if we apply ourselves mentally to what we're trying to accomplish?
GRAY: You took the words out of my mouth. Like, the business part of it - like, that's, like - for me, it's important, like you said, to show what we could do and show our value because, you know, people respect certain things, right? Like, everybody's not going to take the wisdom from the person that might be houseless on Skid Row, but they might have some gems, right? But if you're doing - if you're gaining material success in this capitalist society, you know, that we exist in, like, people respond to that. And they'll be - they're more - be more receptive to the gems you drop. And I think Virgil - what he did that was amazing - yeah, like, he open-sourced the whole game. Like, he shared the gems. And because me and him ran in the same circles, I didn't appreciate it because we were so - like, we'd be at the same dinner. We'd be at the Serpentine Gallery as, like, one of five Black people in London - you know what I'm saying? - at the joint. So we were always moving in these spaces and exchanging notes.
But I think, like, the legacy that he left behind - and because Black culture is such a visual culture - like, the medium of clothing is such an important medium for us for expression - right? - because often, if you don't have, like, a really good house - right? - or you might not have a great car depending on the city you live in. Cars are also a means of expression. The visual - we express our visual appreciation. Like, take it back to Sunday's best. Like, clothing is a big part of the culture. So for him to be able to impact and to take it to the echelons in which he took it and bring streetwear, essentially - you know, with Louis Vuitton men's, you look back 10 years. It was all, like, made-to-measure suits and stuff that they were doing. To do that is just amazing. But I think for us, it's like what 2Pac said. If we don't change the world is to inspire the minds that do. So I can only imagine how many people that are, like, 7 years old, 8 years old - it's the norm for them to look at that fashion house like Louis Vuitton and see somebody that was Black running it. I think the next step is for it not to be - need to be Louis Vuitton, for us to own our infrastructure, for us to own IP because I think so often what we do is we create a lot of value, and we don't capture the value.
So I think, for me, that's the legacy I want to leave behind - value creation and value capture 'cause even when you think about fine art, like, somebody like Kerry James Marshall - he might work in a studio on the South Side of Chicago, make a painting. He sells it. He gets paid for it. Maybe let's say he made 100, 200 grand for it, which is good money. But then 10 years later, somebody sells it at Sotheby's for 20 million - granted usually - Diddy bought that painting, so it stayed within the community. But usually, those type of stories are somebody else - that value capture's what's going to send their kids to private schools outside the community. So I think - and you look at the music biz. You look at athletics, right? Like, we got to capture the value that we're creating, you know what I'm saying?
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WILLIAMS: One of my all-time favorite lines - value capture in addition to value creation. That's going to stay with me a long time. Thanks, Jon, for that. Now we turn to former NFL star Deion Sanders, aka Prime Time. Earlier this year, we talked to him about his latest feat, trying to change the future of HBCU athletics as head coach of Jackson State University. Deion's worn so many hats at this point - baseball, football, reality TV and so on. So I had to ask him where that belief in himself comes from. He tells me about the man who taught him to be great on and off the field.
You talk about putting your kids on the game. Who put you on game back in the day, and how valuable of a lesson was it?
DEION SANDERS: I tell you, not the game that they put me on, but betting on me - Dick Howser, man. The late, great Dick Howser was the manager of the Kansas City Royals. OK. I was a little hustler, Jay. I lived in the inner city, but where the Kansas City Royals spring train at was probably 4 or 5 miles from my house. I could outrun everybody. So I was like, 7 - 6, 7, 8 years old. They hit home runs. I outrun everybody, get the home run ball. Put it in the sock. OK, sell the home run balls for about 3.50, $4. I get an autograph. I sell it for 5.50. I get a cracked bat. I help them pick up the balls at the batting cage. And I was hustling, man. I had a whole little hustle. And I got a ball signed by darn everybody on the team. I would give it to my teacher, and I - OK, ain't going to be here 'cause they got home game, so you know that. So - but this is my hustle. I'm hooking you up. So I was all - I was a respectable hustler. So I did that as a kid, man. Wouldn't you know it, in Fort Myers, Fla., Jay, I get drafted - by who? The Kansas City Royals.
Now, Dick Howser is the manager. He wasn't the manager then when I was hustling. But he's the manager now. And he's a Florida State guy. So he gave me a brand-new, like, $200 glove back then. A $100 glove is crazy. I'm in the outfield. You can't tell me nothing. I'm really Jackie Robinson. I'm everything in center field. You know, I'm in my high school and doing my thing. I get drafted. He says, son, I shouldn't be telling you this, but I hear you're a pretty darn good football player. If you're good as they say you are, go to college. You can play baseball there. You can play football there. We're going to draft you again in three years. If I were you, that's what I would do. That changed my life, man. What he was telling me was, bet on you. Never look back.
And I bet on me, and I had a two-way go. The Yankees drafted me, and I didn't play baseball my junior year. I went and played that whole summer and made about - I think 250, $300 thousand, something like that - crazy money for college kid. So now I come back to school as a walk-on because I accepted pro money. So now you can't tell me nothing on campus. I got the car. I got the phone. I ain't talking to nobody, although I'm on the phone. I'm fly. I got a neck full of jewelry. You can't question me. I got Louis Vuitton bags. You can't say nothing about nothing because I made this money. So that was probably the first NIL deal...
SANDERS: ...You know? And I knew how to handle it. I knew how to make sure I worked my butt off so my teammates never got jealous. I worked my butt off so my teammates never was curious. And I went, man, and then I get drafted by the Dirty Bird Falcons. And I'm playing pro baseball, so I got two sports. I got options. But I would have never had options and endorsements had Dick Howser confirmed what I was already feeling. So that was the game he put me up on. I would say, that's the game.
WILLIAMS: A big reminder to people - who's in your corner matters. Sometimes you just need somebody in your ear to remind you to bet on yourself. After the break, Dapper Dan on the hustlers that defined him.
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WILLIAMS: A few months ago, I was at Dapper Dan's magnificent - wait, I learned a new word - atelier in Harlem. I'm so proud of myself. I've never seen anything like it. And it came from a lifetime of hustling and staying true to his artistry. When I asked him about the people that made him who he is, he took it way, way back.
DAPPER DAN: I had two heroes, right? One I call the hero from hell, another one I call the hero from heaven. The hero from hell was a guy who name was Joe Jackson. Joe Jackson was the best hustler in Harlem. Everybody respected him, you know? He was like, what you hear about Bumpy Johnson. But he was more than Bumpy Johnson to us because he was gifted in all the different attributes that you need to survive in Harlem. You know, he was a pimp. He was a con man. He was a dice player. But in all of that, he didn't smoke or drink and nothing. So he was my hero.
WILLIAMS: Always about his business.
DAPPER DAN: Yes, he was just the archvillain of evil. But - yet and still, that is how he walked the streets. But internally, he was in charge of himself. So that was my hero for the streets if I was to adapt to the street life, you know? - which I did early on. And he was the model I used. But my other hero was Malcolm (ph). He didn't smoke. He didn't drink. He didn't chase women. He - you know, I mean, he didn't even know he didn't have no money. So Malcolm was my hero. So I had these two heroes, right?
WILLIAMS: You know, Dap, I know you went through some serious challenges when your store got shut down - and at several other points of your life. But I'm curious. How have you managed to look ahead and reinvent and get to what's next instead of focusing on what was before?
DAPPER DAN: I've always studied, always wanted to know. I always wanted to know. And I always wanted to know, what governs how people act? And why do I act the way I act? So I was studying all the time, you know. Like, I tell the young guys today, and I tell young parents today, I say - I'm talking to the kids on the corner - here's an interesting thing, a little sidebar story. You ready for this one?
DAPPER DAN: What I realized is that we have to take charge. And we don't know when we're incapable of taking charge. So the young kids in the neighborhood - right? - I used to say, how can I reach them? So they used to see me run. I used to run 6 miles every day. So I say I'm going to try to get them to run with me. So I would pay them to run with me.
WILLIAMS: You would pay them to run with you?
DAPPER DAN: Yeah.
WILLIAMS: How much you pay them to...
DAPPER DAN: Five dollars to run with me. That's a big deal to them - 8, 9, 10, 11 - to run with me, right? Then when we get back, I sit them on my brownstone stoop so that I can talk to them. And I talk to them, right? And so one day I told them, I said, listen. In order for you - I said, you're going to be a drug dealer. You're going to do, you know, all kind of criminal stuff. They was jumping up and down. Oh, I ain't. I am going to be a lawyer. I am going to be a doctor. I'm saying, you have to have the proper disposition to be any of those things. And I said, and you're not getting it right now, and I'm going to show you why you're not.
You have to be in charge of yourself, right? And I'm going to show you that you're not in charge of yourself. I said, whoever can go the weekend without eating candy gets a free Gucci jacket, you know. I want them to see that they - the whole problem with young people is they don't know they're not in charge of theyself (ph). They think they can do it, but they can't. So they didn't last a whole weekend, you know. The one who got the jacket was - the kid who got the jacket, I didn't catch him, you know. So I couldn't - so I gave - he got the jacket.
But I try to do that to young people, show them what I can show them. And so - and I devised a system for them. I said, listen. This is how it's going to happen. This is the way it happened to me. You're going to transgress. You're going to make transgressions. Your first transgression is going to be against yourself. And that's going to be you going to smoke a cigarette. You're going to use alcohol. You're going to drink; you're going to throw up. You're going to smoke a cigarette. You're going to choke until your body say, well, I better compromise with him. And then your body's going to help you compromise. But you're still going to be in that process of deteriorating your body. I said, that's the first step.
The second step is you're going to transgress against your parents because they don't want you doing certainly all the behavior and stuff like that. That's going to be the second transgression. The third transgression is going to be with society. And society's not tolerating it. Then you're going to end up incarcerated. So those are the three steps of destruction that I try to explain to young guys, you heard me? And it always happens that way. First, they do harm to theyself. Then as a result of that, their family try to help them and then - till they can't tolerate it no more. They've got to get them out of they midst. Or they're going to take them down, too. And then the third is society. Society's not tolerating it. And those are the three steps of destruction for them. And I try to explain that to them.
WILLIAMS: I'd like to give a big shout-out and a big thank you to Dapper Dan, Deion Sanders and Jon Gray for all their wisdom about mentorship. We wouldn't be here today without these people. And it's on us to pay it forward. We'll be back next week with another episode. As always, remember, stay positive. And let's keep it moving.
THE LIMITS is produced by Devan Schwartz, Mano Sundaresan, Max Freedman and Leena Sanzgiri. Video production by Kaz Fantone, Langston Sessoms, Christina Shaman, Iman Young and Nick Michael. Our executive producers are Karen Kinney, Veralyn Williams and Yolanda Sangweni. Our senior VP of programming and audience development is Anya Grundmann. Music by Ramtin Arablouei. Special thanks to Christina Hardy, Rhudy Correa and Charla Riggi.
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