A Queensbridge Houses native plans to reach out to disadvantaged youth with marketing.
Leonard Adams, 28, said he grew up on the basketball courts at the nation’s largest public housing complex. His grandmother, Nina Adams, who volunteered with the tenant association for decades, raised him and had a strict in-before-sundown rule.
“It was nonstop violence,” Adams said.
Growing up, he was no stranger to drugs and gun violence. Adams often saw crack vials on the courts and his uncle was shot while he lived at Queensbridge Houses.
When he was 16, he moved to Hollis to live with his single mom. He studied and went on to college, eventually graduating from Howard University School of Law in Washington, D.C., and then went on to receive a professional degree in marketing from New York University. He worked as a corporate lawyer and for politicians such as state Sen. Mike Gianaris (D-Astoria).
Many of the young people that surrounded him thought and continue to think that the only way out of the houses was through illegal activities, Adams said. Luckily he said his grandmother shaped his values and pushed him to study and aim higher. He hopes his nonprofit can inspire disadvantaged youth in the same way.
“I want to breath life into the environment,” he said.
His nonprofit, “It’s Halftime Inc.,” will tour high schools with NBA basketball players and entertainers and video clips of both trying to motivate students to think beyond a life of crime.
His first lecture is scheduled for late March in New Jersey. The star lecturer has not been scheduled, but he’s confident that through his connections from when he worked with a sports agent, and his personal contact with athletes such as Royal Ivey and Ron Artest, he will be able to book a public figure teens will look up to.
“The problems are deep-rooted; not the police, not a neighborhood rally nor a town hall will fix the problems within our disadvantaged communities,” Adams said. He added that growing up, if his mother told him to dress a certain way, or act a certain way he might not listen, but that same message from someone like Jay-Z would have made him take notice.
Adams submitted a patent on June 21 that goes hand in hand with “It’s Halftime Inc.” It’s a step-by-step marketing formula, which Adams said he can’t divulge, for young entertainers and athletes to follow to pair their names with more than a brand, but with their life experience.
People like Jay-Z and Niki Minaj are a couple stars that publicize their lives in the projects and how they got out. But Adams says this is somewhat by accident or an exception. His formula will show entertainers and athletes who aren’t in that top tier of fame how to publicize where they came from.
“Where we come from, we live to make it,” is Adams’ slogan. He hopes by showing young stars and little-known public figures how to attach their name to their background, they will have marketing power past when they stop making jumpshots.
So not only will this address the “athlete going broke” cycle that happens repeatedly but the ads will hopefully inspire children as well.