Rich Paul and Mayor Justin Bibb have a public conversation at Metro
By Christina Easter
On October 11, Rich Paul returned to Cleveland and sat down with Mayor Justin Bibb for a conversation at Cuyahoga Community College’s Metro campus. The two met with the media and answered questions about growing up in Cleveland, being a role model to young Black men, and Paul’s new book Lucky Me. Then Paul answered questions asked by Bibb before a packed auditorium which included Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Darius Garland and center Tristian Thompson.
Paul said that while he did not imagine himself being where he is now when he was 16 years old, he also didn’t do things that would prevent him from being where he is. “That’s part of why I chose the cover for the book because at that age, it was a fork in the road,” Paul said. “I was just trying to survive. I came from a community where we were just trying to get home and I am not that far removed from that so I try not to ever get complacent.”
Some important lessons Paul learned growing up in Cleveland is that it’s a grind and everything is earned. “Everyday that I get up and go to work, I understand that I have a long way to go and I have to continue to earn it,” Paul said. “I don’t celebrate and there is no sigh of relief.”
Paul said he comes back to the community he grew up in because it’s his roots. “My father’s store was my Clark Atlanta University and Glenville was my assembly line,” Paul said. “So, I can’t thank my dad enough, my siblings, and my community because I am a product of Cleveland. I can go anywhere across the city and feel like people embrace me which is one reason I started Klutch Sports here.”
For Paul, it’s about being a great example and blazing a trail that allows the next person coming up behind him to be perceived differently and not be judged by something they did in their past.
“Hopefully, kids understand that you don’t have to finish where you start,” Paul said. “If you look at my start and all the things that took place during my life, I had every excuse not to go forward and instead of making excuses, I turned what seemed to be detriments to positive weapons. This allowed me to reposition myself and has gotten me where I am today.”
Bibb said when talking to young men about being successful he stresses the importance of staying focused on school despite hardships that may come up.
“When I was in high school and had a 2.4 gpa, my mom told me I wasn’t going to be the next LeBron James and that I had to figure out what my path was going to be,” Bibb said. “I ended up getting involved in politics and worked on my first campaign while a junior and got a scholarship to go to American University and that’s when I knew I could really make something of myself.
I think our stories give young men hope that promise is possible, opportunity is possible, and their dreams are possible because you have someone like me being the first, Black youngest mayor in our city and that’s hope to them.”
Paul said he was being a little sarcastic with the title of the book considering where he came from. “I was lucky to have a community of people who did care,” Paul said. “We need to exemplify more of that with our youth because we’re losing them before they can get any clarity on what is possible in life.”
Paul wrote his book with the intent that it be educational and impactful. “When you read the book it’s hard to put down,” he said. “The pictures being painted, the stories being told, and the rules to each chapter is a curriculum for youth to use along the way.”
Paul says his book is basically a love letter to Cleveland and a true give back to the youth of Cleveland, no matter what side they grew up on. “It is important to me to continue to be that example for them and to give hope. Although I don’t live in Cleveland now, I carry Cleveland with me everywhere I go.”