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A Message to Young Men of Color in South L.A.

    From Russell Simmons

    Russell Simmons

    Russell Simmons

    You have to start before you can succeed at anything. That is where I begin everyday. I just start. Whatever obstacles appear in my path, I put my head down and get past them.

    I know that some of you might say, “That is easy for you to say.” But I grew up in Hollis, Queens in New York, and most of my friends are dead or in jail. Actually, most of them are dead.

    I was recently looking at a picture of my second grade basketball team and there was only one other person in the photo I knew was still alive. So there was no free ride on the train for me either, or on the bus if you’re riding in Los Angeles.

    The spiritual awakening that’s going to lead to your change and eventual enlightenment can come at any second. Some people can find inspiration in any environment. But most of us have to fight with every ounce of our body just to make it through the day. However difficult you think it might be, I can assure you that you were born with inspiration that was meant to be shared with the world.

    When you can approach all of your work with a smile and make no distinction between success and failure, the world will open up for you. Nothing—not a lack of opportunity, or racism, or the economy, or haters—is more likely to derail your dreams than stressing over them.

    That is not to say that we, as men of color, do not face extraordinary challenges. From mass incarceration to laws directly targeted at us (i.e. “stop & frisk” in New York City) to record unemployment. When America gets a cold, we get pneumonia. I have fought for years to make the lives of many people better, especially those who are struggling. I have used my resources to bring attention to the inequities that we face as a people, whether it is the lack of economic opportunity, poor education, inadequate healthcare, racist drug laws, marriage inequality or more. These are just a few obstacles that are in our way.

    However, we must keep pushing forward no matter what sort of obstacles we face. If we dwell on our obstacles all day long, we will not find time during the day to figure out ways to overcome them. You just have to understand that you can do better as long as you don’t give up.

    Be encouraged. Stay on your hustle. You can’t fail until you quit. Whatever you imagine, you can achieve. Once you realize this truth, no one is going to be able to stop you.

    Russell Simmons is the co-founder of Def Jam Recordings, Phat Farm and the Rush Card. He is also the founder of GlobalGrind.com, a daily entertainment, music, style and news site that celebrates the new American mainstream.

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