For My Daughter & Other African-American Kids by Russell Simmons

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15th Annual Art For Life Gala Hosted by Russell and Danny Simmons - Arrivals

My eleven-year-old daughter, Aoki Lee, is headed for the 8th grade already and has been asking Kimora and I for months if she could attend a boarding school in Switzerland. Her dream is to become an investment banker like her step-father, who happens to be one of the smartest and best money men in the world. I, too, want Aoki to follow her dreams although I don’t want her to go away just yet (that’s another story), but I do want her to understand my contributions to the financial service industry as well. Most people think of me as the “godfather of hip-hop,” and believe me I’m proud of that title, but I know that one of my most important contribution in business has been providing a financial service for millions of Americans, giving them access to the “American Dream.” I want to state again for the umpteenth time that when I started the RUSH Card, there was no one else providing this type of service for the under-represented, under-banked or un-banked populations in this country.

As the industry has exploded with Wal-Mart, American Express, JP Morgan, Chase Manhattan, Greendot, NetSpend and so many other companies entering the space, for some reason the press continuously labels me as a celebrity who just endorsed a debit card. It is true that many celebrities have allowed for their names to be used as a selling point for someone else’s card, and it is true that most of those deals have gone sour, which yesterday’s Wall Street Journal article accurately portrayed. I would also like to mention that the journalist who wrote yesterday’s article was the one who first acknowledged the value of this financial service, so she knows this space well. However, unlike any other person with any sort of public profile, I am the only one who founded a company, invested my own money, went to work everyday trying to improve our business and to this day have not given up on anyone of our customers. We are improving our services everyday and I hope and trust that our company will continue to be a leading innovator in this space.

As for Aoki, unlike her sister Ming, she’s not so impressed with my contributions in hip-hop, but is proud of my work in the financial sector. I don’t want my daughter or anyone else for that matter, to think of me as a just some “celebrity endorser,” I want my daughter to know that I was the pioneer of a new financial services sector, helping to create what is now a multi-billion dollar industry. And I want all African-American kids to know that they also can grow up and become the smartest money men and women in the world!

-Russell Simmons

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