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Rising star Omari Hardwick speaks with “Icon Talks” Co-Founder John Burns about the key to Black success during the “Icon Talks” Empowerment Tour June 30 at the Arena Stage in D.C.

One of the entertainment industry’s hottest rising stars recently said that Blacks need to rid themselves of a poverty mentality and embrace their own individuality to be successful in life.

Omari Hardwick was the guest star of the “Icon Talks” Empowerment Tour June 30 at the Arena Stage in D.C. Hardwick is best known for his current role as James “Ghost” St. Patrick on the popular Starz television network show Power.

He told an audience of 200, in an interview format managed by “Icon Talks” co-founder John Burns, that Blacks have thought processes that justify lacking resources. “Too many Black people have a poverty mentality,” Hardwick said. “We think too much of our limitations and not what we can do. We think if we can just get by instead of prospering.”

The “Icon Talks” is a performance-based platform that gives a platform to celebrated individuals ranging from professional athletes and music moguls to CEOs and political activists.

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Noted actor Omari Hardwick cites poetry at the ICON Talks event on June 30. (Photo by Rob Roberts)

Burns was pleased to have Hardwick as a performer. “We were excited to have a talent of Omari’s caliber to join us for this event,” he said. “His story is incredibly amazing and he will definitely inspect and inspire the audience.”

Hardwick, a native of Atlanta, attended the University of Georgia on a football scholarship and studied acting and poetry, and minored in theater. After graduation, he attempted to play for the San Diego Chargers but was cut from the team.

Hardwick pursued his artistic talents and as a struggling actor, he was homeless and worked odd jobs to make ends meet. He is now a well-known poet and actor who has played in Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls, Spike Lee’s Miracle at St. Anna’s and BET Network’s Being Mary Jane.

Hardwick said Black people need to change their mindset so good things will come their way. “We also think in a mediocre type of way,” he said. “God sends you angels who will help you. These angels will tell you that you are a lot more than this. But these people will tell you not to get too high and mighty.”

Hardwick said anyone that tries to be successful will never be alone. “There is always somebody who cares and you never really know who is watching you,” he said. “You will be surprised at the handouts that you will get. When I talk about handout I’m not talking about a government program but someone who will help you reach your goal.

“Take risks and you will get help from someone you least expect from. My best piece of advice, don’t quit.”

Hardwick used Muhammad Ali as an example of striving for greatness. He found it interesting that while Blacks rooted for Muhammad Ali in the ring, other races were for his opponents, most notably Joe Frazier. “People would go chant to Ali, G-O-A-T and he would respond, I-AM-PRE-TT-Y,” he said.

Hardwick said that like Ali, people who are successful should be true to themselves. “We are in a dark time,” he said. “We are also living in a microwaveable society and people don’t want to be successful just famous. But at the end of the day, everybody wakes up in the morning and just wants to matter.”

The “Icon Talks” honored the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Radio One founder and chairwoman of the board Cathy Hughes. Hughes thanked the Icon Talks leaders for special recognition and said “we need to get Hardwick on TV One.”

“He’s on the wrong channel,” Hughes, who owns TV ONE, said half-jokingly.

Jackson, founder of the Rainbow-Push Coalition and Democratic presidential nomination candidate in 1984 and 1988, noted that “dignity is non-negotiable” and being of service is dignified. “All of us can’t be famous but all of us can be great because of all of us can serve,” he said.