Cortez “Tez” Bryant:
Bishop Omar Jahwar saw something in Cortez Bryant, who before he was 30 was already one of the most successful entertainment moguls in the world. It was something Tez had never seen in himself: that he, too, has a voice. And that he, too, could be the change he wanted to see.
Tez was 35 when this realization hit. He was already one of the most successful entertainment moguls in the country. About 15 years earlier, as a senior in college, Tez became the manager for his middle school friend Dwayne Carter, aka Lil Wayne. The two soon founded the record label that quickly took hip hop by storm: Young Money Entertainment.
It wasn’t long before Tez was running the show for Drake, Nicki Minaj, and a lot of the biggest names in the business. (He’s still at it: Drake just won Billboard’s “Artist of the Decade” award.)
But while Tez loved his position at Young Money, he knew he had a higher purpose. His faith and his belief in people put a calling on his heart.
As someone who grew up with a single mom in a tough part of New Orleans, he always wanted to empower Black and brown kids who face the same challenges he did — the barriers that kept him from having access to a quality public education. He just didn’t know how to get started, much less make a difference.
That’s what brought Tez into the same room as Bishop Omar.
Within minutes of meeting him, Tez was pouring out his heart. He told Bishop how he was among the lucky ones who got into a magnet school. He told him about how that put him on a path to getting a marching band scholarship he got to Jackson State University, a historically Black school. Then Tez told Bishop he wanted to help kids turn their unique gifts for music into thriving careers – the very thing that happened to him.
Bishop immediately called him out: “You need to do that. You need to be out front.”
Cortez Bryant came alive. He had always thought of himself as a worker bee. But Bishop Omar helped him see that he had a bigger role to play—to “go from the sidelines to an active participant of change,” as Bishop said. Ever since, Tez has been using his voice and influence to inspire kids through education.
Tez is building a music business program at his alma mater, Jackson State, so students can match their skills with good careers. He’s building a national K-12 pathway program, with a music and media curriculum, to help countless kids find their own success.
Most impressive, on Juneteenth, 2021, Tez will launch “Assemble,” a groundbreaking online platform featuring world-class virtual lessons taught by prominent Black innovators and leaders from around the world. It provides a content-rich experience for inspirational Black leaders and innovators to inspire young adults. The goal is to encourage students from all walks of life that they, too, can rise and thrive.
Tez is only getting started, with more projects already in development. “Bishop Omar inspired me to realize my voice can make a difference in the lives of others,” he says. “All I want is to empower others to do the same. To heal America, it will take all of us being inspired to speak up and act.”