By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, Chicago Crusader
Louis Carr has worked for national royalty when it comes to Black media. He is currently President of Broadcast Media Sales for Black Entertainment Television, or commonly known as BET. He has worked for Ebony magazine with Johnson Publishing Company’s the late John H. Johnson, who Carr says fired him, but checked up on him months later. He has also worked with the late Earl Graves for Black Enterprise magazine. But he would tell you that he has as much worked for these men as these men provided services to him, as well, in that they gave him the tools to be successful at his game.
Carr discussed his new book “Dirty Little Secrets” at Fellowship Chicago on a recent Sunday, where Pastor Charles Jenkins led an interview, instead of a traditional sermon. Press materials for the book explain that the media industry is like a dirty little secret, because while it impacts and influences thoughts, minds and behavior, it is ever so powerful. Carr’s intent with his book and life story is to have as many Blacks become successful and participate in this so-called “media game.” According to Carr, “this book is a payment on a debt to all those people who helped and guided me.”
A promising track star with Lane Tech, Carr grew up in the Garfield Park area and didn’t have a clue or even the desire to attend college. He had early instruction at a Nation of Islam-led school, but at Lane Tech, he was thrown into an environment with white students, around whom he had little experience. He says he didn’t want to stand out, even though he became a stand out on the track team.
Ranked No. 2 in the country, Carr had previously pulled a hamstring, but his running expertise gave him the opportunity of a lifetime in 1974, and a college scholarship just fell into his lap. He shared the story of how the track coach from Drake University came to his home to speak with his parents and offer him a full ride to the University—all on the advice of someone else and all banking on what was considered a big chance on Carr’s ability and commitment.
“I saw God’s blessings and grace at the age of 18,” he said. While growing up on the West Side, as with many Black families, his parents did the best they could to provide for him. He was an only child, and Carr says he didn’t know he was poor until he got to college in Iowa. “I wouldn’t trade my upbringing for anything in the world, because it gave me a sense of respect and sharing.”
Carr, who also owns a real estate company and heads a foundation for students aimed at promoting diversity in corporate America, offered some tips for success that are covered in his book. He explained that going to church is like water to him, a necessity, and shared a story about missing a flight from Paris. “I was on a business trip and was stuck in Paris on an Easter Sunday,” he said. “I was not going to miss going to church on Easter and found a church in Paris, where although I couldn’t understand what was going on, I felt better simply because I was in church.”
Along with faith, which often has you operating in an “uncomfortable space,” Carr says you need a vision. “I didn’t want to go to college, but God placed people in my life that helped me. Sometimes, you have to have a vision beyond that of what you can see.”
He admits that he looks at his success in the vein of how he can use it to help others. “I try to make whatever I am doing good for a greater number of people and not just myself.”
Carr’s final advice, especially to Black men, was that image is important. Someone is judging you all the time, he said. However, even in hard times, you have to persevere and be rooted in faith. “There is light at the end of the tunnel, and God sometimes wants you to learn some things along the way. I have learned that it wasn’t about me, but what I can do for others.”
While listening to the exchange, congregant Louis T. Sanders says that he learned much and his faith was strengthened. “I had this great experience today with Louis Carr. Prior to this morning, I had never heard of him, but I am so glad I was present in the service to see and hear him,” Sanders said. “The timing for this morning couldn’t have been more perfect. I walked into a greeting that said ‘Black men win,’ a rendition of James Brown’s, “Gonna Have a Funky Good Time” and finally this awesome interview with Mr. Carr. I was moved, inspired and once again reassured that God gives you what you need, in perfect timing.”
Sanders says that Carr shared tips that are not typically shared among professionals, but more importantly Sanders noted the faith message. “He affirmed the importance of service and the power of making everything you do about something greater than yourself.”