Bishop T.D Jakes needs no introduction. He’s been the resounding voice of our souls for over four decades. His influence covers generations, and the power within him shakes the very foundation of the world. Whether he is broadcasting to millions of people hungry for the word that pours out of him with ease or graciously passing the baton to the voices of today, what is always constant is that Jakes operates purposefully.
His objective is always clear: inspire, enrich and arm. His leadership reaches far beyond the pulpit of The Potter’s House and has infiltrated everything from music to TV to the New York Times bestsellers list. Now, through T.D. Jakes Enterprises, he is set to embark on creating the communities he believes can truly make a difference while equipping the next generation with the tools they need to acquire and sustain financial independence. And as any great leader would, he’s not just teaching, he’s also learning.
Teaming up with entrepreneurs like Enitan Bereola and Steve Canal of Black-owned business marketplace, Flourysh;culture leader Detavio Samuels of Revolt Media and hitmaking producer Timbaland for his inaugural ‘Good Soil’ event on May 3, Jakes continues to bridge the gap between not only different generations but the church and the world it was meant to serve.
EBONY caught up with hip-hop’s favorite preacher to discuss Black financial empowerment and how his new film Pride tackles mental health issues.
EBONY: Let’s first talk about the work being done by TD Jakes Real Estate Ventures. Can you speak to how imperative it is that we create sustainable neighborhoods in our communities and why you are taking that on?
T.D. Jakes: It’s something I feel is of the utmost importance, and I’ve been frustrated about it for a long time. I am interested in closing the gap of homeownership. I’m interested in eradicating food deserts. I’m interested in providing upward mobility by establishing mixed income communities that have all the necessary components to living: grocery stores, drug stores, dry cleaners. All the things that are needed to create a real and livable community. I’m being conscious of green spaces and all the easily overlooked parts of maintaining neighborhoods that create holistic living.
Many folks wonder why you’re turning your attention to this in such a major way.
Well, I’ve been doing real estate almost all my life. My mother did real estate before me. Almost every major city has a mayor screaming about affordable housing and low incoming housing, but I believe mixed income housing creates the best results sociologically. When people aren’t categorized totally, by their income, they’re able to contribute to a holistic community. The stats all say that more diverse communities do better. There’s a clear domino effect. And I kept thinking, “Somebody ought to do something about that”—and why not me? I decided to form this real estate venture company—and there are others doing the work as well. It’s going to take all of us to bring about sustainable change.
For many millennials and definitely for a large fraction of Gen Z, homeownership seems nearly impossible with layoffs and an unstable economic landscape. What kind of resources and information are you looking to arm us with to approach ownership and financial stability?
It’s interesting that you say that because one of the greatest ways to aggregate wealth is through homeownership. The problems that you listed are turbulences in the economic climate that I can’t control. But, I can teach young people that homeownership doesn’t mean that they're locked into anything. They can rent it out, AirBNB it and really create subsequent income that helps them build wealth in their sleep. When you own a home, the valuation continues to increase without work and effort; those are real strong tips. Just changing the way of thinking about it. We’ll also have a lot of resources for first-time home buyers. Benefits that can minimize or, often, wave down payments. There is a myriad of information that needs to permeate our community in order for us to understand the options we have to be upwardly mobile and sustainable in the process.
What have been the key components to financial freedom for you?
Multiple streams of income. We hear that all the time, but more specifically, passive and aggressive streams are equally important. I think the problem we have as a community is that when we think about business, we start thinking about “hustling.”.And the problem with hustling or grinding is that you only have two hands—and that limits you right away. You can’t be here and there. But if you develop a business and a network, you can delegate and have exponential growth very rapidly. We have to first disrupt the way we think about it. I am really trying to break the culture of being on the hamster’s wheel, running faster and faster as the economy escalates. When you only make money with your own two hands, you’ve limited your ability to increase your income. You’re working so hard and it’s to the detriment of your family, your children—you’re working harder and harder to make less and less. We have to see changes in the inequity of pay between men and women; because in many of our families, women are the breadwinners. We have to make sure there’s an equity in the corporate and business worlds.
And then we have to talk about marketing. Being able to promote yourself beyond Instagram and Facebook. These companies change algorithms, and you’re not reaching as many people as you think you are. You have to be able to subsidize your marketing efforts in creative ways. Finally, there are grants out there to help you move forward. Let’s understand how to use free money to empower your business. Sometimes, we’re living hand to mouth. We’re using our rent money and food money just to get things off the ground. Mixing personal money with business money is a recipe for failure. You have to separate them.
There can be a lack of intergenerational conversations about these subjects. What have you learned from some of your discussions with today’s entrepreneurs?
I've learned a lot. You have AI and cybermarketing. I’m a big supporter of STEM programs, but I wasn’t as well-versed in what they entailed before I really started having these conversations. I do think that the current generation can become shortsighted because of a few people’s success through TikTok or Instagram. When you really weigh it out, the percentage of people who really are able to create sustainable wealth for themselves through those avenues is miniscule. I’m not saying to dismiss any opportunities; continue to do it all, but enhance it by networking. People do business with people they know, like and trust. You have to leave the online world. We want to arm you with all the tools. In this market, you have to use everything: old school, new school, preschool. To really get in the game and be successful, you have to diversify. We are seeing a widening of the wealth gap that is scary, and the predictions of where we'll be by 2025 are frightening in part because the jobs will be replaced by tech. If you don’t have a strategy in place, it’ll be to the detriment of your overall being.
Can you tell me a bit about your new film project Pride?
I’m excited about that one. Kudos to Lifetime for giving us a platform that's for us by us. We get to tell our own stories in a way that reflects the diversity in our community. For too long, there have been stereotypical depictions of us; we're treated like a monolith.
This film highlights that there can be issues with mental health right in your family, and you may not know that’s what you’re seeing. It’s about being able to earmark those situations and subvert them before they become explosive. Pride is a very powerful in that it reflects the introspective conversations we need to be having in our families. It’s a cautionary tale.