Karl Carter, CEO of Snake Nation, is committed to creating a better world and future for his family and community. From Africa to the ATL and GTM to Snake Nation, his goal to lift the Black community up has never changed. He is inspired by the work of Maynard Holbrook Jackson Jr., his uncle and the first Black mayor of Atlanta, Georgia, and determined to bring his community closer to experiencing true freedom.
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0:00:13.4 Melissa Bradley: Welcome to Porch Talks. I’m Melissa Bradley, founder of 1863 Ventures and co-founder of New Majority Ventures. Here on Porch Talks, I sit down with veteran founders, CEOs and entrepreneurs who are committed to creating wealth for the new majority. These folks have years of firsthand in-the-trenches experience navigating a fast-growing entrepreneurial ecosystem. Here they break down the roadblocks and barriers that tested their resiliency and resolve and share the lessons they’ve learned through it all. Each and every talk will support the health, wealth, and well-being of the new majority entrepreneur. Undoubtedly, these people and their stories will inspire you on your journey. From founder to CEO.
I am honored, humbled, very nervous about this conversation with my friend and my brother Karl Carter, who is the CEO of Snake Nation.
0:01:10.2 Karl Carter: Thank you.
0:01:11.0 MB: A relative, very prominent civil rights leader in Atlanta, a husband and a dad to two amazing girls. I have had the privilege to know you for almost, I guess or over 30 years.
0:01:21.3 KC: Yeah.
0:01:22.2 MB: How would you describe yourself to the world?
0:01:24.1 KC: Well, first thank you for allowing me to be here.
0:01:27.1 MB: My pleasure.
0:01:27.7 KC: Yeah. And I’ve watched your ascension, even though you’ve always been dope.
0:01:31.7 MB: I appreciate that.
0:01:32.9 KC: So I’m super thankful to be here and to see all of the evolution that has happened. I think at my core, I’m a rebel. I like to innovate. I like to do things differently. I love black people.
0:01:45.9 MB: Yes.
0:01:46.6 KC: At my core.
0:01:47.6 MB: Yep.
0:01:48.0 KC: And so for me, that’s a big part of why I do what I do. It’s like how do we help create opportunities? And I think a lot of came from the training I got from you and just making sure that whatever we’re doing, we’re doing it for the benefit of our people.
0:02:02.4 MB: Yeah.
0:02:02.5 KC: So I think that has been a pretty consistent note throughout my career. And now in Snake Nation, it has kind of become my central reason of being, I would say.
0:02:11.0 MB: So before we dive into Snake Nation, ’cause you’re dressed oh, so fine.
0:02:14.6 KC: Well thank you so much.
0:02:16.0 MB: You have always been a cultural icon and I’m a poke fan for a second though ’cause your cultural representation has varied. When I first met you had on…
0:02:25.0 KC: Oh my God here we go.
0:02:25.7 MB: You had on the blue jacket. And the starched shirt, and the bowtie and the khakis and the books, and then it evolved to some locks and black and now were like all the fancy stuff, how important is what you look like related to how you feel?
0:02:46.0 KC: I think it definitely matters. Like, I think when you hit those periods, one of the things I think I learned early on, as an entrepreneur was like, there are a couple of things that you should just always keep fresh. No matter whatever you’re going through and that helps when you have to sell. That helps when you have to go out and you never know who you’re gonna meet. Where you’re gonna meet. So I think it absolutely is just part of how you express yourself. And I remember McGhee Williams, who now is one of the owners of Burrell Communications, but that was my first advertising job out of college. And black woman taught me everything I knew about new business, as it relates to advertising. And I remember I didn’t know, I was like, “Should I wear a suit? What should I do?” And I met you, I was in college, now I’m in my mid-twenties or whatever at this time. And she was like, don’t change a thing. And so she was the first person to kind of be like there is value in being who you are.
0:03:34.9 MB: Right.
0:03:35.3 KC: And I think from that point man, I just, rolled with what felt comfortable. I’ve been tattooed since I was like 17, but…
0:03:41.5 MB: Yes.
0:03:42.3 KC: I started going really heavy in my forties, hands and you name it. So for me, it has just always been about self-expression and freedom and then I think people start to realize that you’re free for a reason.
0:03:55.2 MB: Yep.
0:03:55.4 KC: And I think that’s another type of wealth.
0:03:58.6 MB: Yep.
0:04:00.1 KC: So yes. I think the freedom is not free.
0:04:01.3 MB: Yeah, absolutely.
0:04:02.4 KC: Absolutely not free.
0:04:02.5 MB: Absolutely.
0:04:04.6 KC: And so it benefits other people to see us being free. I think it matters. So what you wear, how you choose to come, how you choose to walk in a room all of it matters.
0:04:16.1 MB: Right. But it’s also sometimes that form of rebellion.
0:04:19.7 MB: Yeah.
0:04:19.9 KC: ‘Cause they expect you to show up looking one way and then you’re like, boom.
0:04:23.2 KC: Yeah. Yeah and I mean I had locks and we had locks for 10 years and so by the time I cut my locks, they were like down on my knees. And I remember being concerned about cutting my locks ’cause like, what would people think? Then I was like, nigga, I’m not…
0:04:41.0 MB: It’s my hair.
0:04:41.5 KC: Its my locks. And so I cut it, went on and got a Mohawk or whatever. You just start to realize like, that you can’t be too attached to these external things.
0:04:49.3 MB: That’s right. I remember the Mohawk?
0:04:50.4 KC: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, yeah.
0:04:51.6 MB: I also remember after you cut your locks coming to visit you in your house and you had this dope ass mural.
0:04:58.9 KC: Yeah. You talking about in DC.
0:05:01.0 MB: In DC, so you’ve always been surrounded by art. Where did that come from?
0:05:07.6 KC: I just have always… Well one I used to draw when I was little. So I was into art.
0:05:11.9 MB: Okay.
0:05:12.4 KC: And I think a lot of what I do now in creating space for creators, like creating a pathway for other creators really comes from kinda being a creator myself.
0:05:22.3 MB: Sure.
0:05:23.1 KC: And then feeling somewhere in my teens growing up in, murder capital DC you better be practical.
0:05:28.3 MB: That’s right.
0:05:28.8 KC: Even though no one ever sat me down, I was like, you need to be practical.
0:05:31.3 MB: Right.
0:05:31.3 KC: But I think you just feel it, you just feel it that there is no way with the arts.
0:05:36.2 MB: Yeah.
0:05:36.8 KC: Unless you wanna be broke and for us, the examples were hustlers and [0:05:41.1] ____.
0:05:42.3 MB: And Disco Dan.
0:05:45.1 KC: Disco Dan all of that. The DC-ness of it all, in the ’80s and ’90s. And so I think art has always been something I’ve always loved and I’ve always appreciated. And I remember when I first started making a little bit of money, the first thing I did was I bought a piece of art. Eastern Market. And I still have that piece. Christian Moler a Nigerian artist. And it was a water bear. And it just spoke to me. I’m an Aquarius so it spoke to me. But yeah, I still have that piece and I think I bought that piece and I feel like ’98. That was my first piece of art.
0:06:14.8 MB: You were ahead of the curve.
0:06:16.2 KC: I just like what I like, I like what I like and I wanted to buy things that would last.
0:06:19.9 MB: Yeah.
0:06:21.9 MB: Now, in life, I try to think about these things also as investments. What I wanna leave. We have two or three Fahamu Pecou from 2000, so just gotta knew Fahamu and he was in the scene and he was just starting, and we were supporting his art, his art was dope back then, even before he started to be more of a mainstream hot artist that he is now and so we just had benefit of being in his space and just kind of continuing along that path, just seeing and appreciating.
0:06:54.4 MB: You talked about freedom quite big, you have two girls.
0:06:58.0 KC: Yes.
0:06:58.4 MB: Which is tough.
0:07:00.3 KC: Yes.
0:07:01.1 MB: What is the freedom you want them to experience?
0:07:03.2 KC: It’s funny man, right when Zoey was going to the college, so two years ago. I remember she started talking about her major and she starts to talk about these other majors, ’cause she has been in dance, as you know, like her whole life, and so she states… And I could see the practicality creeping in and I was like, “No.” But I could tell she was kinda receiving that from the world, “Hey you better buckle up” And I’m like you don’t have to do that, I’ve been working my whole career as a creative, so that it’s easier for you. So seeing my girls have the freedom to be whatever they wanna be, without practical worry, so how do you lay foundation so that they don’t receive those messages like with the work we’re doing in Africa, you meet some kid and he’s like a civil engineer, and he’s like, but I’m really a photographer or I’m an Electrical engineer, but I’m really into fashion. So being a creative there is like a dirty secret, like your parents will think you’re crazy.
0:08:03.8 MB: That’s right.
0:08:04.8 KC: And so how do we re-shape that starving artist narrative, ’cause there’s a lot of money in the creative economy, but not so much that comes to the homes and hands of the black creatives and so that’s the issue that I wanna address, and then I was like, well, how do we make sure that we own our narratives and do so in a way that allows us to also own the economic process that creates those narratives, and that’s how we benefit ’cause as we can see plenty of people benefit from our creativity. And then Maya, is growing up totally free, we’re homeschooling. We live in Cape Town now, so for the bulk of her life we’ve been living in Africa. And so for us, I think the mental freedom, I like to talk about how, let’s say 20% of our brain is occupied with navigating the white world. How can I reclaim that 20%. How can I use that? And so I really want her to see her parents live with no limits, and I think she feels that. And we decided to homeschool because she was in an international school, a predominantly white institution, and she’s coming home questioning her blackness.
0:09:09.9 MB: Why does my hair not look like their hair?
0:09:10.4 KC: Yeah, all of that. And we were like, what? And so just being able to educate her, but also educate other children that don’t have the privilege of access to a private education, and so we started a Super School and really its to spear heads it at our house in Capetown and so we educated Maya and two other girls from Imizamo Yethu which is one of the townships.
0:09:35.4 MB: Oh wow.
0:09:35.6 KC: And so to help grow that and make that more available to more people, ’cause I think the need for us to take full control of how we educate our children is critical. Especially when they come home, talking about “I don’t love my blackness” I just found out, we were like whoa.
0:09:53.7 MB: That’s painful. That’s painful.
0:09:55.9 KC: Yeah. Especially when you are pro-black, so you’re like what you are getting wrong.
0:09:58.7 MB: That’s right.
0:10:00.7 KC: So I think that was absolutely a wake up call.
0:10:02.7 MB: You realize that we had a pressure of the outside world than what they hear at the house.
0:10:06.0 KC: And now imagine we’re in Africa…
0:10:09.3 MB: You’re surrounded.
0:10:09.8 KC: You are surrounded and so it’s interesting ’cause we’ve been like in people’s houses, different houses up here and some of the young people are talking about the benefits of being in Jack and Jill. And it always starts off well, I’m one of the only black kids in my… And so growing up in DC, that was never our experience, chocolate city.
0:10:25.4 MB: You were the majority?
0:10:26.0 KC: Yeah we were good, but I can only imagine what that must be like and when you go in to corporate and Saida spent, my wife spent 20 something years in corporate America, and so having to thrive in those environments, so while the entrepreneurial struggle is one thing, I think all the struggles are valid, ’cause everyone is going through. Maybe that’s the type of struggle you choose, I wouldn’t choose that for me, we have our own struggles in order to be free, but I think everyone has whatever they are willing to go through to get ahead, and so I think Africa has to be in our lexicon, it has to be in options in our solution set, ’cause we can’t ignore where we come from, it’s such a source of power, it’s hard to describe it, but imagine a world where people love your blackness and every president is black and everything is black, and it’s black people on the money, and it’s everything that affirms you. That’s invaluable. That’s freedom.
0:11:22.7 MB: So I’ve known you for 30 years.
0:11:23.4 KC: Oh wow.
0:11:24.8 MB: I met you when…
0:11:25.9 KC: When I was five.
0:11:26.7 MB: Okay, I got you. That’s right, you were a baby…
0:11:29.3 KC: I was a small child running around.
0:11:30.7 MB: You were a baby genius. So you had GTM. And then that evolved to many other things you can talk about, and then it has resulted in Snake Nation talk about… To me, the recurring theme is preserving and promoting the culture, but what is GTM and what was your biggest takeaway there.
0:11:49.5 KC: So the funny stories, when we started GTM, it was summer of 2000, and at the time, the record that was blazing the airwaves was slum village, get this money. And so that was the original meaning of GTM, it was get this money, ’cause we were young black dudes, survive by Hiphop culture and all that, but we started to really realize it was so much more than that, and so GTM actually became a fluid identity, and it was a big finger to the industry to all the acronym boring companies. So the fish name was GTM it means a lot. And my GTM was, I think it’s been Gorilla take over manifesting to ghost in the machine and part of our interview process would be like, what’s your GTM? And it was our surprise question. And so we would use it to see how quickly people could think on their feet.
0:12:43.9 MB: Sure.
0:12:44.2 KC: So GTM was like this fluid identity. And it was meant to show like we don’t have to be stale and boring.
0:12:50.0 MB: Sure.
0:12:50.0 KC: To be effective. And a lot of the techniques we perfected then and identifying talent, employing young people.
0:12:58.9 MB: Yeah.
0:12:58.9 KC: We imported now into the society model for Snake Nation.
0:13:03.2 MB: Yep.
0:13:03.5 KC: So same sort of like understanding of like young people’s talents, how to cultivate young people, how to work with them. We really grew up there doing that and just applying those skillsets. And then Truth for those that don’t know was the largest social campaign ever aimed at young people? It was a multi-billion dollar campaign.
0:13:20.0 MB: Yep.
0:13:20.5 KC: And I was on the original pitch team for that and I’m a year and a half out of college. And so it was just a lot.
0:13:28.0 MB: Yep.
0:13:28.3 KC: It was a lot at once. All a blessing. Some of it, even the difficult parts a blessing. We worked on that campaign for 12 years.
0:13:35.4 MB: Right.
0:13:35.7 KC: And we were around for 15.
0:13:36.7 MB: Wow.
0:13:37.5 KC: And we worked with Diageo for 10 of those 15. So we had a really long standing run as a group of young entrepreneurs that were not in New York at the epicenter of advertising.
0:13:49.1 MB: Right.
0:13:49.3 KC: But we’re just really on this rebel shop and I think we’ve always had this kind of rebel energy.
0:13:54.8 MB: Yep.
0:13:55.2 KC: Of just doing things the way we saw them to be done and how culture was actually moving and not how people thought they moved in boardrooms.
0:14:02.7 MB: Yeah.
0:14:02.9 KC: ‘Cause we would be out all night at nightlife stuff and then the next day we’re in the office.
0:14:07.7 MB: Yes ya’ll would be.
0:14:09.8 KC: But that’s where happens.
0:14:10.9 MB: It’s like 04:00 we’re gonna get a nap before you started on?
0:14:13.5 KC: Listen man, but what you realize is like, so much of that be like, I see you at 2:00 AM and we’re gonna talk business.
0:14:19.4 MB: Which I can attest to.
0:14:20.4 KC: Which happened all the time.
0:14:21.5 MB: I could definitely attest to that.
0:14:22.3 KC: Can I see you at the spot later. Boom. So there’s a whole thing that happens at night.
0:14:25.3 MB: Yeah.
0:14:25.9 KC: That has real value.
0:14:27.5 MB: Yep.
0:14:27.7 KC: And that some of these people just, that’s how the culture moves.
0:14:30.5 MB: Out of the confines of four walls.
0:14:33.5 KC: Yeah. And that’s why you gotta be there. There’s no replacement for physically being there.
0:14:36.9 MB: Yep.
0:14:37.0 KC: And I think as you get older you’d be more selective on where you are.
0:14:40.4 MB: Sure, sure.
0:14:40.4 KC: But really it’s about having your hands in places.
0:14:42.7 MB: Yeah.
0:14:42.8 KC: So I like to think about in my later years being more like a Keyser Söze for culture, like you might be dealing with somebody that’s associated with me, but maybe you don’t know it’s me.
0:14:51.0 MB: Right.
0:14:51.3 KC: And that’s okay, everything is not about being out front.
0:14:54.9 MB: Right.
0:14:55.2 MB: A lot of it is about being like, Hey, how do we make sure that people have the platform?
0:14:58.8 MB: And that’s definitely what you’re doing now. You’re putting other people on, but you bring up that business and then of course I have to think about all the other brothers.
0:15:04.3 KC: Yes.
0:15:04.4 MB: Darius.
0:15:04.5 MB: Yes, Darius.
0:15:06.7 MB: Sean.
0:15:07.2 KC: Derrick, Kimbo, Sean, Courtney.
0:15:08.1 MB: What a group, Courtney.
0:15:09.9 KC: Absolutely. Yeah.
0:15:10.8 MB: We still talk to Courtney.
0:15:11.6 KC: Yep.
0:15:12.0 MB: What was that like having a business with your friends and…
0:15:13.8 KC: Challenging. It was challenging. I probably couldn’t be a proper CEO for seven of those years I would say. We were consensus based and I remember it being at a point, I was like, guys this ain’t working.
0:15:25.1 MB: Right.
0:15:25.3 KC: Like that and I think people could see that.
0:15:27.9 MB: Yeah.
0:15:28.4 KC: I think I have a natural knack for a new business.
0:15:33.8 MB: Yep.
0:15:34.0 KC: I’ve always had that knack. And so that was important. But when it comes to managing a company, that’s only part of the equation, technically a chief revenue officer could do that and not have to leave the company. And so for me I just learned a lot, man, I was like 27 when I started that company. I was super young. I graduated college at 25 and when I met you I was working for a living. That’s where I was at. But I would take off that tie as soon as.
0:16:00.9 MB: I know that’s right.
0:16:01.9 KC: You know what I’m saying?
0:16:02.0 MB: I just watch you cross the street. Like here comes Karl, here comes Karl, you gonna be undressed the time he gets in the office. Here he come. Here he come.
0:16:07.7 KC: No. It’s so funny because people don’t know how long I’ve known you.
0:16:11.0 MB: Right.
0:16:11.4 KC: I’m like, bro, you don’t understand. This woman helped me write my very first business plan.
0:16:15.5 MB: Yes.
0:16:15.9 KC: Yes. Like we needed every help we could get.
0:16:18.4 MB: Right.
0:16:18.5 MB: Because you’re doing this and you’re just figuring out as you go along.
0:16:21.0 MB: But you were also young.
0:16:22.0 KC: Yeah. I mean, we’re young, we’re dumb, all of the things and we had a lot of hustle, lot of success.
0:16:28.7 MB: Yeah.
0:16:28.7 KC: Out the gate. A lot of ups and downs early. But overall, I mean when you talk about those years there has not been another us since then.
0:16:36.9 MB: That’s right.
0:16:37.5 KC: And and a lot of the people in culture now, we gave them their first jobs.
0:16:42.1 MB: Sure.
0:16:42.4 KC: We identified the talent. And so we built that, we were doing, we were street promoters, we grew up in streets.
0:16:49.0 MB: Right.
0:16:49.5 KC: In culture, in nightlife.
0:16:50.7 MB: Yeah.
0:16:50.9 KC: And to make the leap we weren’t ad guys.
0:16:54.2 MB: Yeah.
0:16:54.5 KC: We were culture guys.
0:16:55.5 MB: But you were not just culture guy, you were truth tellers.
0:16:57.8 KC: Yeah.
0:16:58.2 MB: No pun intended. But when you came and you said we’re doing a Truth campaign, I think to me that was probably one of your happier moments because you were selling something you actually believed in.
0:17:09.8 KC: Yeah, but it’s also like, I think it’s addictive to use your talents for impact and you don’t have the language.
0:17:16.6 MB: Yeah.
0:17:17.3 KC: ‘Cause you’re young and it’s like, oh, we launching with a million dollar client. Like who’s doing that?
0:17:21.7 MB: Right.
0:17:21.7 KC: I mean, out the gate, but then next year you’d be like, oh wait a minute cut their budgets. What the… So it’s like highs the lows, all of the things. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
0:17:33.2 MB: Yeah.
0:17:33.4 KC: And it was such an education, that campaign was in the American Journal of Medicine.
0:17:37.9 MB: Yeah.
0:17:37.9 KC: For saving like a 100,000, 200,000 teen lives.
0:17:40.2 MB: Yeah.
0:17:41.6 KC: And so once you do stuff like that, then you start to realize like, well I don’t wanna squander this channel I’ve got.
0:17:48.2 MB: Yep.
0:17:48.4 KC: So I’ve got a channel. ‘Cause people think marketing is about like moving products and it’s actually about influence.
0:17:56.9 MB: That’s right.
0:17:57.5 KC: It’s about, and if you’re in a place where you…
0:18:00.6 MB: You make people feel something. ‘Cause you make people feel something.
0:18:01.8 KC: Yeah.
0:18:02.0 MB: Good, bad or indifferent.
0:18:02.7 KC: Good, bad or indifferent.
0:18:03.5 MB: Right.
0:18:03.6 KC: And it’s been interesting ’cause it’s like Snake Nation really came out of a space of wanting to give back and really realizing like, yo I’ve had the benefit of being a creator my whole life.
0:18:15.7 MB: Right.
0:18:15.8 KC: Very few people have that benefit.
0:18:17.5 MB: Right.
0:18:17.7 KC: And to like make a good living out of it.
0:18:19.7 MB: Yep.
0:18:19.9 KC: And so how do we change that? And what we did, so we did a show with Smirnoff.
0:18:24.0 MB: Yep.
0:18:24.0 KC: Back in the GTM days called Master of the Mix. And it was… We broke all type of records with that, from half a billion PR pressures in our third season to having Smirnoff as a global brand up 20%. And so, we were proving on all levels and what we really found was it didn’t matter because at the end of the day, people get promoted.
0:18:46.1 MB: That’s right.
0:18:47.4 KC: Other people come in, not my baby. Doesn’t matter what you’re doing.
0:18:49.5 MB: Right. You gotta switch it up.
0:18:51.3 KC: And so, we had to learn that the hard way.
0:18:53.0 MB: Yeah.
0:18:53.5 KC: And I think coming out of that, again, when you think you’re like, I’m at the pinnacle, we have a show on television sponsored by a client, network doesn’t own it, we own rights in it. You know how hard it is to own rights when your work as a marketer? Incredibly difficult. That was a one in a 100 deal. And we negotiated that deal. And so, coming out of that, I was like, how do we scale that? How do we take that 1% and then build platforms that allow more people to participate in the deal flow, more people to participate in a negotiating ability?
0:19:20.0 MB: And that’s Snake Nation.
0:19:22.0 KC: And that’s Snake Nation. And that really was the impetus was like, this ain’t enough. And you wind up being just like I said, you’re a glorified salesperson. I got 10 things in the chamber, let me show you what I’m doing, it’s too much.
0:19:33.9 MB: And half of them won’t come out.
0:19:35.2 KC: A lot of them won’t come out. A lot of them won’t come out. And so, you really start to realize there’s just no power in that. And we’re about power. We’re about tangible, real generational wealth and power. Do what matters. Do what stands the test of time.
0:19:52.6 MB: That’s right.
0:19:54.1 KC: Yep.[music]
0:19:54.1 MB: After the break, we’re back to talk more with Karl Carter.
Welcome back. Here’s more of my conversation with our guest, Karl Carter.
I wanna go from Africa to ATL for a second.
0:20:09.9 KC: Oh yeah, let’s do it.
0:20:10.5 MB: As you were talking, I automatically said, “I know Maynard Jackson is proud.”
0:20:17.5 KC: Ah.
0:20:18.1 MB: I know he is, I know he is.
0:20:21.2 KC: Appreciate it.
0:20:21.6 MB: Talk about your uncle.
0:20:22.1 KC: Ah man, why you gonna do this?
0:20:24.1 KC: But who is he to the world and who was he to you? ‘Cause I met him several times, but the first time I had a real conversation with him was with you. You were like, “Yo, come to ATL. Come on, I gotta run this errand.” I was like, “Oh Lord, am I gonna get in trouble? What errand is this going to be?” And we showed up at an office building and I was like, “I don’t think I’m dressed appropriate.” You like, “Come on.” And there was Maynard, feeling like 10 feet tall.
0:20:45.1 KC: Yeah, no.
0:20:46.0 MB: And he was like, “Hey, I know about you. Yeah. You Karl’s friend da, da, da, da”
0:20:49.4 KC: Yeah.
0:20:49.6 MB: And I was like, “Huh?”
0:20:50.7 KC: Yeah. No, it’s interesting. My uncle was an amazing man, the bar is so high. When you talk about Black leadership period, I mean the dude is like excellent.
0:21:05.5 MB: Right. That’s right.
0:21:06.1 KC: But when you talk about the bar he set for Black leadership, it’s still aspirational for most of our leaders. And I’ll say that. I mean, somebody whose mission it was to create economic opportunity for Black people.
0:21:22.4 MB: That’s right. That’s right. He would rather not see the airport built, unless black people are gonna get those contracts.
0:21:28.2 KC: And did it.
0:21:28.1 MB: That’s right.
0:21:28.2 KC: And I think the quote was, “Grass will grow. Grass will grow.” And so, it’s interesting when you talk about, his role, John Wesley Dobbs, his grandfather, Maynard Jackson Senior, his father. And just that track record of Black leadership. And so, absolutely, you start to be like, “Well, okay, what are you doing with your life.”
0:21:55.8 MB: Right. The mirror goes, “Hello.”
0:21:57.4 KC: Hello. And I think for me that really resonated. And I think about him a lot, because to lose him was such a, it was…
0:22:07.9 MB: A big deal.
0:22:08.0 KC: Big deal. And it was one of those things that…
0:22:10.4 MB: It was unexpected.
0:22:11.2 KC: Yeah, ’cause I grew up in DC so it was different. If I had grown up in Atlanta, it probably would’ve been a different life for me. But we grew up in DC like everybody else and we dealt with all of the things that comes from being a murder capital and seeing your friends die and go to jail and crack and that whole thing. We were right there front and center for that. And so, it would be interesting and leave that, where the only people who we saw that had wealth were drug dealers. And then to go to Atlanta and it’s like, even then, kids with Range Rovers and the Black people like, so between Atlanta and LA, my dad’s side of the family, ’cause my grandfather was a self-made millionaire, Chicago, depression era, grand numbers, got into the army, worked his way up, graduated from dental school, was the dentist for the Tuskegee Airman.
0:23:02.0 MB: Whoa, whoa, the one doctor they could trust.
0:23:03.4 KC: Yeah, no, exactly. So, it was one of those things where I had these examples of Black excellence. But my dad was a civil rights attorney, my mother was a teacher, so it was just, we just had a different reality. And so, I think for me, he was just always my uncle. And it literally, throughout life, I think when we started GTM, when we started our first company, we were open for three years before he knew…
0:23:26.6 MB: What y’all were doing.
0:23:28.3 KC: Yeah, ’cause I was like, “I’m not coming to.”
0:23:30.1 MB: He’s like, “What’s this little street?”
0:23:32.7 KC: Yeah. What’s this? He shows up one day, he’s in the lobby, they’re like, Karl, your uncle’s in the lobby. I’m like what?[laughter]
0:23:38.2 KC: But he was so proud.
0:23:39.8 MB: Yep. Of course he was.
0:23:41.0 KC: And yeah, he was very proud and he was grooming me. He was definitely like, I would go to, I’ve sat in rooms with him and seen him talk to political leaders. I’m not gonna name no names. [laughter], but I remember one time being in LA and like being at a prominent person’s house for dinner. And he’s like, hits LA I’m living in LA at the time. He’s like, come to dinner with me. So I go to dinner with him and and they’re all there basically pressing him to come back to politics. He had now, was no longer mayor, he had exited, whatever. In my ’20s, I’m just listening. He’s like, I don’t have to do nothing but stay black and die.
0:24:15.7 MB: There you go. There you go.
0:24:17.4 KC: And so, even to, see, like even at those heights, there’s still just a lot that we’re not comfortable with in our own power. Even those that have power. And that’s why I think Africa matters. Because we talk about power, it’s interesting like with Roe v. Wade, we talk about power and one of of the most interesting articles I wrote about was like, we got too heavy on soft power. Whereas Republicans were more focused on judges and the laws around that. And so that whole maneuvering, I mean, how many years are we gonna go into with this Supreme Court? Even with the first black woman Supreme Court…
0:24:52.2 MB: That’s right.
0:24:52.4 KC: Justice, we are still in an uphill battle in this country, it cannot be our only thought process.
0:24:56.8 MB: What do you mean by soft power?
0:24:58.4 KC: Well, in a sense cultural power.
0:25:00.9 MB: Okay.
0:25:01.0 KC: Right. So there’s a lot of celebrations about first woman this, first woman that, and so there was a lot of like more celebrations of…
0:25:05.5 MB: Oneness.
0:25:05.8 KC: Soft power.
0:25:06.8 MB: Yeah.
0:25:07.1 KC: Yeah, oneness, recognition.
0:25:08.2 MB: Yep.
0:25:09.0 KC: But realizing like that’s not enough, and so I look at these things and, I think about him and I think a lot of times about like, what it would be like if he was alive?
0:25:18.9 MB: Well, ’cause it’s funny how many people don’t even know him. Because like, “Oh, Barack did… ” And I’m like, “Okay. Yeah, he was the president.” I said, but there have been many black leaders who have uplifted states and communities. I mean, Maynard was an icon for the country.
0:25:34.3 KC: Yeah.
0:25:34.5 MB: Because he, like Barack was one of the few that didn’t get in trouble.
0:25:37.4 KC: Yeah. I mean, when you talk about his ethical track records.
0:25:42.5 MB: Stellar.
0:25:43.0 KC: Stellar.
0:25:44.2 MB: Stellar.
0:25:44.6 KC: And not only that, what I also found sort of over the years was that the Atlanta City policies became blueprint for black economic empowerment for South Africa. And so the policies that he initiated have had widespread impact, ’cause a lot of people from his administration were also…
0:26:00.9 MB: Came over.
0:26:01.0 KC: Early consultants.
0:26:00.8 MB: Sure.
0:26:00.8 KC: And there was a strong connection between South Africa and Atlanta.
0:26:05.0 MB: Right.
0:26:05.2 KC: I mean, him and Nelson Mandela were very tight.
0:26:07.2 MB: Wow.
0:26:07.6 KC: And so he’s a world leader. And so that’s the thing, I think, when I’m kind of assessing my later years, what are you going to do? I think, when you start to be like, “Well I’ve been a creator for 30 years, and earned a living and done well and kids in college…
0:26:24.6 MB: Yes.
0:26:24.9 KC: Like, what responsibility do you have? And I think that’s the question, that I started asking myself when I hit my 40s’ when I started like, and we were like kind of at the height of doing all of the things we were doing at GTM.
0:26:39.1 MB: Sure, yep.
0:26:39.6 KC: Shows on television and the whole nine.
0:26:41.7 MB: Yeah.
0:26:42.3 KC: And you think like that’s the height of what you can do, I’ve made it, but it was like nothing. I’m selling you a show on your platform, at the end of the day, I’m a salesperson at the end of the day, maybe. Well, everyone’s doing well, family’s eating, everybody’s family’s around me are eating, everybody’s good. But what power do we have? And that’s where it really started to feel hollow for me. And I was like, “Yo, if I die tomorrow, I don’t wanna be like, here lies a great marketer.” [laughter] no one cares about that guy.
0:27:12.5 MB: What’s your proudest personal moment?
0:27:15.6 KC: Daughters. Daughters. The daughters, easy, easy. And really man, seeing them just grow.
0:27:24.4 MB: They’re beautiful.
0:27:25.4 KC: Oh my God. I mean when Zoe was born…
0:27:27.2 MB: I Remember Zoe Just got here.
0:27:28.0 KC: I was what.
0:27:29.4 MB: Oh, what was it like?
0:27:29.6 KC: 30 years old.
0:27:30.7 MB: Yep.
0:27:31.9 KC: You talk about wake up call.
0:27:33.4 MB: Right?[laughter]
0:27:35.1 KC: Total wake up call, young Karl was like, what?
0:27:38.1 MB: Right? At first the call came and went to voicemail [laughter] ’cause you weren’t trying to hear it. I remember.
0:27:44.7 KC: No, listen, it was wild because, you had, I think when Zoe was, when the, ’cause Zoe came like three weeks early, so I had to rush back to LA, we drove all night to get there the next morning to be there. And she came, following day and again, it’s like, I think the first time I got a glimpse of why kids matter was when my younger brother had his first son. Now I remember being deathly afraid of kids. [laughter] I was like not, I was not here for the kids, [laughter] one day but as an entrepreneur I’m like, “I don’t need anything that’s gonna take me off my game.”
0:28:21.6 MB: I can see that.
0:28:22.3 KC: And being one of four I can see my parents struggle, as independent people.
0:28:25.8 MB: Right.
0:28:26.2 KC: My dad has always been independent. I was like, “Nah, nah.” But then when my nephew was born, I remember walking around the office with him first GTM office and holding him and it being like really, just resonated.
0:28:42.0 MB: Sure.
0:28:42.9 KC: This is why you’re doing this.
0:28:43.9 MB: That’s right. Legacy man, right there.
0:28:45.9 KC: Legacy, and so that was the first sort of aha moment. And then when Zoe was born, that was like ridiculous, it totally changed my entire perspective on what I was doing and why. And then Maya as well, my kids are 10 years apart and so Karl at 30 is very different from Karl at 40, but a lot of the same things resonate.
0:29:05.4 MB: Sure.
0:29:05.7 KC: Yeah, a lot of the same things resonate. And it’s that desire to give them freedom, at the end of the day, like, see us being free. See the whole thing, it’s just like them having to see business upfront, and see, all of it and it’s not pretty sometimes.
0:29:24.2 MB: Right.
0:29:24.8 KC: But it’s all necessary, so I hoped at the time that, she was seeing something that would give her confidence in her ability to do whatever she wants to do. And so I think that’s the best thing we can do. And I think oftentimes we worry about our kids seeing struggle, but whether or not you’re work somewhere 20 years and all of a sudden you hit a ceiling, that’s a struggle. Whether or not you’re being passed over because you’re black or you’re a woman or you’re in a queer community, whatever it is that is limiting you is also a struggle.
0:30:00.8 MB: Yeah.
0:30:00.9 KC: Just ’cause you’re in Connecticut and you’re in private school, don’t mean that your parents aren’t somewhere being like, What in the hell…
0:30:06.1 MB: That’s right.
0:30:06.5 KC: Is going on?”
0:30:07.1 MB: That’s right, ’cause they’re struggling behind the scenes.
0:30:08.6 KC: ‘Cause they’re struggling behind the scenes with whatever their struggle is.
0:30:11.4 MB: That’s right.
0:30:11.6 KC: And maybe not even financially struggling, but you’re spiritually struggling, or mentally struggling, right? All of those things play out, nobody has an extension that looks like this, even the ones that we celebrate so heavily.
0:30:22.0 MB: Right. There’s always a story.
0:30:24.3 KC: Always a story.
0:30:24.6 MB: Always a story.
0:30:24.9 KC: Always a story. And so, when you talk about the heavyweights in tech and it’s like I just got tired of reading business books what they talk about is the, fantastic struggles of white men. I’m like, “Bruh.” We have to really have these people that we can celebrate, and so that people can look at us and be like, “Yo, this is possible.”
0:30:44.1 MB: Yeah.
0:30:44.2 KC: At the end of the time and we are all in street shit, like everybody was doing everything at the time. You had jobs, you hustled, you did parties, you did everything you could to make it. And I think that drive as an entrepreneur, you just can’t replace that. That’s a skillset that never goes away. And I found that again when I moved to Africa, where now I don’t have a company anymore, I’m launching a startup. I’m not this established person, nobody knows me.
0:31:12.8 MB: Well, everybody they think you’re a rapper.
0:31:14.3 KC: They think I’m a rapper. [laughter] I probably should sign a record deal.[laughter]
0:31:17.5 MB: If you’re a little tall, they would’ve said you played NBA.
0:31:21.2 KC: I know, exactly. Exactly.
0:31:22.5 MB: You gotta grow a little bit.
0:31:24.3 KC: Yeah.
0:31:24.4 MB: You gotta grow a little bit.
0:31:24.5 KC: Well that ship has sailed.
0:31:25.6 MB: I know.
0:31:25.9 KC: Yeah.
0:31:26.2 MB: But I wanna say thank you.
0:31:27.3 KC: Thank you.
0:31:27.7 MB: Truly thank you for coming to the Porch.
0:31:28.9 KC: Thank you. Thank you.
0:31:29.2 MB: Love you.
0:31:30.9 KC: Love you too.
0:31:35.4 MB: Thank you for listening to my conversation with Karl Carter who stands in the shoes of his Uncle Maynard Jackson and desires to carry on his vision for the black community. If you enjoyed our conversation, please leave us a rating and a review to learn more about our guest and find a link to the website, check out our show notes. You can find us on social media @wearenmv, or search for us with the #PorchTalks.
0:32:01.2 MB: What’s your favorite tattoo?
0:32:03.8 KC: Favorite tattoo?
0:32:04.5 MB: ‘Cause I will never catch up with you, but I’m getting there though. But what’s your favorite tattoo?
0:32:08.9 KC: I think my favorite tattoo are the ones I got for my daughters, so I have like a tattoo for Maya here that I got in 2020 ’cause I was stuck in Atlanta, I never missed her birthday.
0:32:20.4 MB: Okay.
0:32:21.2 KC: And I missed her birthday, I was not there with her. So I got a tattoo for her on her birthday.
0:32:25.4 MB: Okay.
0:32:25.6 KC: And it’s a heart with a snake.
0:32:27.4 MB: Okay.
0:32:28.1 KC: And it’s got Maya Haley in it and then Zoe Bird, which is across my chest. And I got that one in a kitchen in DC.
0:32:35.1 MB: Cool, okay.
0:32:35.8 KC: Yeah, at my god…
0:32:37.0 MB: We would not recommend that, but okay.
0:32:38.6 KC: I would not recommend that as a way to get tattooed, but thank God it worked out.
0:32:44.8 MB: Porch Talks is a production of kinetic energy, entertainment, and new majority ventures. Recording and video production services were provided by Modulus Studios. This podcast was recorded at the Black Joy House in Oak Bluffs, Martha’s Vineyard. Our producer is Ann Kane. Our social media producer is Misako Envela, and the show is mixed by Sonya Harris. The Porch Talks theme is A New View by Tony Cruise. Thanks again for listening. See you back on The Porch.