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Blend Capitalism With Service, Actor Tells Local Leaders

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By Kalin Thomas
Special to the NNPA from The Atlanta Voice

ATLANTA – Award-winning Hollywood celebrity Blair Underwood is widely known for his compelling acting roles, his directorial credentials and – let’s face it – his captivating good looks, but it is his business acumen that brought him before a group of 200 entrepreneurs here this week to honor entrepreneurs in Atlanta.

Speaking at the Atlanta Business League’s 79th Annual Meeting & Dinner Nov. 27 at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis, Underwood told audience members that while researching his ancestry, he discovered that he came from a long line of successful entrepreneurs.“But I don’t know if I got my love for business from [my ancestors] or if it’s just my good old-fashioned street hustle to survive and provide for my family,” he said with a laugh.

While he enjoys making money, however, Underwood said he understands the importance of blending capitalism with service – something he said black people learned from their ancestors.

“They say when America gets a cold, black America gets pneumonia, but we’ve learned to survive,” Underwood said. “And even through all the years of economic downturns, we still find a way to make money and give back to the community.”

It’s something Underwood said he is doing himself through his new BU (Blair Underwood) clothing line at K&G Fashion Superstores.

“My BU collection is a lifestyle brand that encourages philanthropy and allows nonprofits to fundraise through sales,” he said. “Soon we’ll launch a program where… corporate and community partners will get an ‘affinity card’ with a bar code on the back.

“So when you buy from the BU collection, you’ll get a discount and part of that sale will go back to your organization.”

Underwood, well known for his award-winning roles on television, film and stage, was in Atlanta to help the Atlanta Business League celebrate 79 years of contributions to the business community.

Business league president & CEO Leona Barr-Davenport said the annual event is designed to celebrate entrepreneurs who are making a difference in metro Atlanta.

“This event gives us a chance to reflect on what we’ve done as an organization and toot our own horn,” she said. “And we thought it was significant to have Blair be our keynote speaker because he is an entrepreneur personified.”

Hall of Fame inductees included: Orlando Lynch, president and CEO of Atlanta Peach Movers; Pat Lottier, Publisher of Atlanta Tribune: The Magazine; and Harvey Newton, vice president and CEO of Dove Direct.

At the dinner, outgoing business league chairman and 100 Black Men president emeritus, Thomas Dortch – a longtime friend of Underwood’s – presented the actor with a painting by Atlanta artist, Cecil Bernard. And Barr-Davenport pinned Underwood as an honorary member of ABL.

Underwood called Atlanta one of his favorite U.S. destinations.

“I love Atlanta. I’ve been coming back and forth here for as long as I’ve been in show business,” he told The Atlanta Voice. “We also shot the film “Mama Flora’s Family” here years ago. So I feel like Atlanta is a great place to come home to.”

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