Developer encourages youth to
BY JOAN CARTWRIGHT
Each setback in life is really a blessing in disguise. That’s the motto of multibillion-dollar developer R. Donahue Peebles,
who encourages young people from the African Diaspora to become entrepreneurs. Peebles, 47, of Coral Gables, is the first African American to build on
Miami Beach. “When others lose faith in you, keep faith in yourself,” he said.
in Washington, D.C., his parents divorced when he was 5, and his mom
raised him. She was a secretary who eventually earned a real estate
license and opened a brokerage company.
Her brother bought a building in Detroit for her real estate offices.
Peebles and his mother lived in Detroit for five years.
He said the attitude of his mother’s family is at the root of his
“They imposed no limitations on me. This is the primary element of
creating success -- being able to see great opportunity even in
setbacks. Always be ready to do battle for what you believe in and want
Peebles expounds on his belief in entrepreneurship in his book, The
Peebles Principles: Tales and Tactics from an Entrepreneur's Life of
Winning Deals, Succeeding in Business, and Creating a Fortune from
Scratch (Wiley, 2007).
He donated 50 of his books to the African-American Research Library and
Cultural Center near Fort Lauderdale. The library will distribute the
books to students in a program funded by a Summer Art of Learning Team
Grant (SALT) coordinated by Ann Williams.
“Peebles can elevate the dialogue in the black community about the
importance of operating businesses as a method of acquiring and keeping
wealth,” Williams said.
The recipient of an honorary doctorate in hospitality management from
Johnson & Wales University, Peebles said he believes “there’s no excuse
not to succeed. If I can do it, so can they. The American
entrepreneurial system can make it happen.’’
And while Peebles has built a fortune through developing buildings
around the country, he acknowledges that it’s harder for women and
minorities to succeed because of racism.
Women and minorities are “looked at with limiting eyes. But my mother
was my first role model,” he said.
“My father didn’t have a big role in the direction that I went,’’ he
said. “We spent weekends and holidays together until my teenage years
when there was some distance between. He didn’t support us. Mom was 16
and Dad was 26, so they weren’t compatible. Dad was a clerical
government employee with a part-time auto repair business. But he only
dreamt of owning a gas station. He didn’t take the risks to make it
happen, which is a key to entrepreneurship.”
Peebles said he believes there are more possibilities for wealth
creation in business than in sports or entertainment.
“Kids all over the country try to emulate athletes in the NBA and NFL or
they want to be like entertainers who sell a million records,’’ he said.
“But they need to learn from entrepreneurs like me. You must have a game
plan and stick to it. You need discipline and vision.’’
After one year in the Rutgers University undergraduate medical program,
Peebles left the school to pursue other opportunities. The skills his
mother helped him build at fostering relationships in the community
worked in his favor.
He and his mother eventually moved back to Washington, D.C.
His mother arranged for him to be a page in the Capitol building there,
giving him the opportunity to meet people with political power.
Mother and son supported Marion Barry’s first mayoral campaign, and
worked on his re-election against Patricia Harris. They did a lot of
fund-raising for Barry, and developed a rapport with many campaign
workers who went into Barry’s administration.
Peebles earned the confidence of Barry, who became the mayor.
Barry was determined to create more wealth in the African-American
community in D.C. He capitalized by walking through the door and acting
on the opportunities presented to him.
“No one should hold your hand. You must see it, grab it and hold on to
it,” Peebles said.
Despite doubts about his being too young, Barry appointed Peebles to the
Washington, D.C. Property Tax Appeal Board, in 1983, and a year later,
when he was 24, he became chairman and a major player in the real estate
At 27, Peebles won the bid to build an office building and signed a
lease with the District of Columbia worth over $45 million, despite
opposition from other bidders who informed newspapers that he had an
“I had to be better to get the deal. My offer was less expensive and the
mayor was committed to me, but it was the lower price that made it hard
to attack,” Peebles says.
Before age 30, Peebles was a millionaire.
But a subsequent failed deal in D.C. drove him to relocate to Florida,
where he had no business dealings at all.
Yet in 2002, he responded when lawyers and business people encouraged
him to bid on the Broward County Convention Center Hotel project.
“Sometimes turning vinegar into wine doesn’t work. You need support,’’
he said. “[Current Broward County Mayor] Joe Eggelletion was the only
African-American commissioner. This was not the environment in which to
County Commissioner Ilene Lieberman said the economics of Peebles’ deal
were not right for the county at that time.
The county is currently seeking a better deal with a clearer vision for
the project, Lieberman said.
Since the convention center hotel deal fell through, however, Peebles
has built several luxury projects, including Residences at the Bath
Club, the Royal Palm Hotel and The Lincoln, all in Miami Beach; and the
Courtyard by Marriott Convention Center and 10 G Street, N.E., two
separate buildings in Washington, D.C.
Peebles did not lose confidence when The Royal Palm Hotel project was
hit with setbacks and delays in negotiations that dragged on.
He capitalized on the opportunity to increase his percentage. When his
partners, Intercontinental Hotels, lost confidence in the project, he
bought them out, gaining 100 percent ownership.
Media exposure about construction defects and cost overruns forced the
city to bargain with him on different terms. They removed previous
prohibitions to build a hotel and condominium that unlocked tremendous
value for him.
When he sold it, his investment of $80 million yielded $128 million
cash. He retained ownership of 12.5 percent of future sales, bringing
the deal to $145 million.
Peebles says he learned that growing his business meant that he must be
willing to sell his properties.
“I made enough money to free up my time and our Florida deals helped
Miami Beach evolve as a world-class destination,” he said.
Peebles says the storm to buy property in Florida resembles “the herd
mentality” addressed in his book, written with J. P. Faber.
He planned his book several years ago but became busy with development
When he read an article on a book by Donald Trump, he realized that
someone with no network, opportunity or colleagues needed to write a
credible book on becoming successful from the ground up.
Peebles’ mission is to talk to young people about entrepreneurship and
to promote the idea that one young reader can make a difference.
Cathy Hughes of Radio One, Inc. asserts that the book “is for anyone
seeking to be involved in business. The ground rules found in each
chapter are absolute gems."
Peebles Development Corp. is developing a 90-acre parcel, 15 minutes
south of downtown San Francisco, to include retail shops, a restaurant,
spa and residential units. He has developments in Las Vegas, Manhattan,
Detroit and Chicago.
Valued at $2.5 billion, the Las Vegas project has 14 acres for Paradise
Road and Desert Inn, across from the Wynn Hotel and Golf Course. He says
it is the most desirable location for hotel and condominium development
The five-star resort will have a world-class spa, two five-star
restaurants, 800 hotel rooms and 100 residential condominiums. Phase One
is projected to be completed by 2010.
Peebles, his wife, Katrina and their children, Donahue III (13) and
Chloe (4) are spending their first summer in Bridgehampton, New York, at
their Versailles-styled home, where he is starting a second book.
This e-mail address is being protected from
Pictured above is R. Donahue Peebles, who says anyone can be
successful in business.
Last Updated ( Friday,
20 July 2007 )
A conversation with B. B. King
and Al Green
BY JOAN CARTWRIGHT
81, Riley B. King is the most notable entertainer on Earth, defining
blues worldwide, with more than 50 classic albums.
From a plantation in Itta Bena, Miss., King played in four towns a
night, for dimes, until moving to Memphis, where important Southern
musicians grooved with all styles of African-American music. King
learned the art of blues from his cousin Bukka White, a celebrated blues
performer. Hours before kicking off the B.B. King Blues Festival at the
Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino near Hollywood on July 24, King and
the Rev. Al Green said during an interview with reporters that they
believe everybody loves to be in love. And that’s the key to their
success, they said.
King said he dislikes lyrics that degrade women in today’s music. He
says ladies are the greatest gift from God.
The first woman to impress King, musically, was Bessie Smith, King said.
He found that “soul feeling that makes me pat my foot” in Aretha
Franklin, Whitney Houston and Etta James, he said.
Green joked that the first woman to really impress King was Lucille, his
guitar, and they both laughed about that.
“B.B. is the King! He’s been doing this longer than I’ve been alive,”
For King, Green’s songs are “truth and when he performs, nobody does it
Green’s hits from 1972 forward are nostalgic. But we love the oldies
that we fell in love to: Let’s Get Married, Let’s Stay Together and For
The Good Times.
Green bridges church and blues, which back in the day was considered
“devil music” by many.
King echoed a similar theme. His ambition as a young man growing up was
to be a pastor in the sanctified church. When he played gospel on the
corner, however, people praised him, but they put no money into his hat.
When he played the blues, though, the money he got supplemented what he
made picking cotton on his knees in Mississippi, he said.
He said he is hurt that blues people are segregated from church people.
He attends church and likes touring with Green. There’s no reason for
the blues to be demonized, he said.
“All music is about love,” he said. “The Great One gave us talent to
please, amuse and show that we care for one another.”
Back during the days of segregation, King said, he would cross the
tracks to sneak a drink from the whites only fountain and, “It tasted
just like the water in the colored fountain.”
He doesn’t discriminate between black and white. Music is about love and
everybody is affected by it. His fans are from all races and walks of
life. To succeed, he says, “Do what you like to do and do it well.”
King said he is not that old, considering that Brahms and Beethoven’s
music from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries is still around. He
loves performing and the late Pope John didn’t tell him when he would
“check out,” he said, so he’ll do it until it’s time for him to go.
Twice a year, he performs in the six B.B. King Clubs.
“They’re not mine, but they carry my name. I expect the best from them
and the owners have kept their word.”
King listens to young musicians like Willie Mitchell, Joe Louis Walker,
Kenny Wayne Shepherd and the late Stevie Ray Vaughan.
In the U.S. and out, he says, “I hardly hear blues on the radio.”
So, he doesn’t listen to much radio.
“I prefer CDs and watching the History Channel on television because I
didn’t get a good education and I like learning.”
During the concert, after Chaka Khan’s opening with I’m Every Woman and
her other great songs, Green brought down the house with his emotionally
In great form, he revisited his and other standards in the American Song
Book, like Take You In My Arms and Wipe All Your Tears Away, featuring
guitarist Clarence Mitchell and background singers Velisa
Brewster and his daughter, Debrah Green, who mentioned that her father
is in the Soul Hall of Fame and is a 9-time Grammy winner with sales of
over 150 million records.
Al Green invoked Sam Cooke on Bring It On Home To Me and Otis Redding in
Dock Of The Bay.
The band played Tired of Being Alone, Let's Stay Together, I Can't Get
Next to You, I'm Still in Love With
You, Call Me, and Here I Am, ending with Love and Happiness.
Green declared, Everything’s OK, the title of his new album on Blue Note
Records, featuring guitarist Willie Mitchell.
King’s veteran band came on with a hefty dose of blues on organ, guitar,
flute and horns. B.B. followed with a song, I Need You So, amplifying
his gratitude to fans.
During the concert, he said, “Growing up, life was good because I didn’t
know nothing outside the 8 or 9 miles around the farm. I went to town on
Saturday night, the only time I saw electric lights in houses. I stood
at a furniture store window, looking at a television wondering where the
man was who was talking. My cousin said, ‘on TV, fool!’”
He said there was the railroad with “us over there and ya’ll over here.”
He thanked the people of Mississippi and God, and thinks the world is so
beautiful, he said.
He loves to laugh and his song sums it up, “I’m a poor man. I’m a good
This e-mail address is being protected from
Photos by Sayre Berman
Pictured above, B.B. King, left, and Al Green, right, perform at the
Hard Rock Cafe Live Arena.
Last Updated ( Friday,
27 July 2007 )
Photos of Joan Cartwright with B. B.
articles. . .
Mary J. Blige rocks the house
and uplifts the spirit
BY JOAN CARTWRIGHT
into my light. See what I see,” says Mary J. Blige, who knows, after
more than 15 years as a recording artist, that she’s going to be around
for a very long time.
During her July 19 concert at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino near
Hollywood, comments from concert goers ranged from “fantastic” to “high
energy” regarding Mary’s testimonial that she’s risen above her
struggles with who she really is and what she really deserves.
People of all ages, particularly women, sang the lyrics of Real Love,
You Remind Me, I’m Going Down and You Know How I Feel.
Mary sings her songs of triumph deep from within. The women and men were
on their feet for Just Take Me as I Am.
Mary chants, she preaches, she screams to the heights for No More Pain
and the audience knows exactly what she means. They echo her prayer.
They know her. They hail her as the Queen of Women who will not be
scorned, beaten down, judged or ignored. “Those of you with an opinion,”
she says, “do not count. It’s my opinion about me that counts!”
A star for 15 years, Mary – at age 36 – is considered “Old School” by
women in their twenties like Janice who sat next to me at her very first
But the music, which Jamar Williams believes is “like good cake because
everyone wants a piece of it,” is very present.
The venue left something to be desired as far as acoustics, but Mary’s
message was clear, You Can’t
Hold a Good Woman Down. Some said her band was too loud. It’s true, you
couldn’t hear all the words, but you didn’t need to because the fans
sang the songs word for word.
Mary has lasted through the test of time. P. Diddy, the artist formerly
known as Puffy, is her producer. Together, they’ve amassed a fortune
with hit after hit. According to critics, she may sound better in the
studio, but Mary enjoys being onstage.
The three-time Grammy winner loves her audience and is grateful to them
for keeping her on top of the charts.
Wanda Stanton from New Jersey said she knew Mary when she was a hip
hopper using language that we’re trying to get young people to stop
using. Stanton said Mary has “turned her life around. Now, I see her as
a mature woman. This was one helluva concert!”
“Fantastic!” declared Attorney Karen Black who said that Mary’s show had
energy and the music kept flowing as a testimony to her life. Black’s
law partner, Bobo Brown, said the concert needed to be longer because,
“at the end of the day, there was a good message of triumph over
physical violence and the need to be true to you.”
[On the February 1, 2006 episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show, Mary J.
revealed that she was sexually assaulted at age five.]
At the concert, Mary covered songs making them her own like You Are
Everything by the Chi-lites and One by U2 that put her in the category
of Patti Labelle who recorded On My Own with Michael McDonald and Tina
Turner, who sang duos with David Bowie and Mick Jagger.
Mary’s passion, enthusiasm and beauty mirrors Patti and Tina, speaking
to the power of black women to take the world to the next level. As she
grows, her songs are bound to be lighter in nature and more fun.
Her band is funky, melodic and reminiscent of Prince. The background
singers are harmonious and their choreography is right on time, making
it evident that this group is cohesive, working like a well-oiled
The backdrop of lights, clouds, fire and images complement Mary’s
message and set the tone for spiritual lifting.
“I want to be happy,” Mary insists.
From verse to verse, she keeps that message coming. She dispels the
past, when she may not have considered being happy and whole. Her
transformation is the agent for healing others. To her fans, she says,
“you were there when I was going through hell and we healed together.”
Mary knows there’ll be “no more tears. No more pain. No more drama!”
Over and over, she repeats this in an operatic manner. But there is
drama, triumphant drama that’s good for the soul of those listening to
what this Diva is saying.
She vocalizes, she kneels, she chants, she prays. She is a priestess
calling for angels to come down from heaven and release us humans from
life’s suffering. Mary’s music is transforming. She may have emerged as
a Ghetto Princess, but she’s evolved into a goddess whose followers
believe she can free them from the drone of mundane existence.
They believe it and, after one evening of Mary J. Blige, so will you.
This e-mail address is being protected from
Pictured above is Triple Grammy Award winner Mary J. Blige
performs at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino near Hollywood on July
19. photo by Sayre Berman
Last Updated ( Friday,
27 July 2007 )
kicks off 20-city tour at the Hard Rock
BY JOAN CARTWRIGHT
innocent voice throws you off. Macy Gray’s stature is overshadowing,
hardly innocent. She sounds like a little girl when she speaks, but
her new CD, Big, is all grown up.
Opening with the Brand New Heavies, Gray’s 20-city tour began Aug.
14 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino near Hollywood. The New
Heavies have resurfaced after four years off the road. Their show is
non-stop funk that makes you get up and shake your booty!
This band made me think of Sly and The Family Stone and Parliament
Funkadelic without the Mothership. They sing We’ve Got [What You
Need], [Bring Back The Funky Music] Right On, and
their new CD on Delicious Vinyl states exactly what they mean –
Get Used To It!
Sleek lead singer N’Dea is originally from Atlanta, but has lived in
London and other parts of Europe for years. She’s seasoned and fresh
at the same time! The band smokes around her and she never stops
dancing. From one tune to the next, this is a well-spent hour
listening to the Brand New Heavies with drummer Jan Kincaid, bassist
Andrew Love Levy and Simon Bartholomew on lead guitar. The band also
features a trumpet and saxophone.
The audience waited with anticipation for Macy to grace the stage.
Her entrance was diva-like and – from beginning to end – the music
never stopped making you want to hear her sing another song and
another, until she gets to I Try!
Innocent? Nope! Macy declares that her lover Finally Made Me
Happy when he walked out the door (instead of in, like we
ladies usually proclaim).
When the vicious background singers – one extremely voluptuous and
the other small but very sexy – shout, “Macy don’t love you no
more!” you know she is strong-willed and about to take no stuff.
Macy ain’t innocent and Macy ain’t havin’ it. You mess up, you’re
out the door.
Macy’s band is on point. The lady on keyboards plays and sings along
with the bass and lead guitarist. One synthesizer is a young man
whom Macy calls “The Master!” The drummer’s beats are simple, but
effective for the music and the fun they produce.
It’s the two background singers who make the show happen. Macy says,
“Listen to my babies sing” and you know who she’s talking about,
because these two sisters can ‘sang’!
As rambunctious as they are, that’s how mellow Macy is. The contrast
is delightful and you know they’re part of an ensemble, yet it seems
like there are multiple acts going on, simultaneously.
Macy is the M.C. in the Center Ring and there’s a circus quality as
the players and singers dance and prance around the stage like show
horses. She mounts the drummers’ stands (it looks like there are
two) and her long legs straddle the opening between the two stands.
Macy is in a red tailored suit that will not stop!
That’s what is new about Macy. She has a clothing line. She says she
makes most of the outfits she wears onstage and, now, she’s
unveiling the Natalie Hinds line by Macy Gray (Natalie Renee
McIntyre was the name given to Macy at birth).
clothing line consists of classic jeans, shirts and vests for which
she chooses the fabric and tastily designs. The vintage vest has
mock pockets, hot pink sparkly buttons and a paisley back. She’s got
shiny shirts in bright yellow satin with long sleeves and spaghetti
strapped flimsy fuschia tops over grey jeans with shiny, silver
Simplicity, style and color best describe Macy’s designs. She adds
them to her portfolio of talent topped by songwriting, singing and
Appearances in Idlewild and Lackawanna Blues sealed the success of
this character actor who is at the beginning of a career bound to
reveal a renaissance woman who may still have a little time left to
grow up. She’s tall but shy except when she takes over the stage.
In North Hollywood, California, Macy founded a music academy with
classes in recording techniques, voice and drumming to help
exceptional students make it big in the industry.
“Music education is a tool to expose its students to beauty,
confidence and self-expression,’’ she says. “It serves to cultivate
imagination, individuality and excellence. It teaches collaboration
One thing is certain, when she does grow up, the whole world is in
for some real surprises because Macy Gray, who will turn 40 on Sept.
6, is already prolific and on her way to being a multi-dimensional
Pictured at the top of the story is Macy
Gray. Pictured in the middle of the story are samples of the Natalie
Hinds clothing line.
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Last Updated (
Friday, 24 August 2007 )