IGREW UP in the Arkansas River Delta where the soil is rich, but the people are poor. My hometown of Pine Bluff was ranked the worst place to live in America--two years in a row. Still, I earned an MBA in finance from Howard University and a law degree from Georgetown, but a funny thing happened on my way to Wall Street--my governor ran for president and I ended up working for the White House. Ultimately, I blew the whistle on $40,000,000 of waste, fraud, and abuse during the Clinton Administration. I became a Federal whistleblower, and that changed my life forever.
The two most impactful people on my life were my mother, Jacquelyn McCray, and godfather, Neil Blakely. Mom gave me a sense of order and integrity; "Blake" taught me about power and society.
Pretty and petite, my mother was a meticulous woman; she earned her Ph.D. in Housing Development and worked on a Southern Bank Board with Hillary Clinton. She was the dean of the School of Agriculture at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, a USDA Land Grant University, and she developed the Regulatory Science Program, which became nationally recognized as a USDA Center of Excellence.
Inside his gruff exterior, Blake possessed an affable heart. He was a boisterous man, both irreverent and profane--he believed in direct action and community action organizations. Blake attended Clark University in Atlanta and earned a Masters Degree in Sociology. He was a neighborhood activist and community organizer who studied under Saul Alinsky and Malcolm X.
My hometown was dirt poor but I grew up middle class; both my parents were educators and they valued order and integrity. As a result I became a very rules-based, oriented person who wanted to use my education in the realm of corporate finance.
However, when Gov. Bill Clinton ran for president--and won--I got an opportunity to use my education working not on Wall Street, but instead on a White House Economic Development Initiative called the Federal Empowerment Zones Program, which was designed to revitalize poor, underserved communities across the U.S.
I had landed my dream job. I had the opportunity to travel across the country rebuilding impoverished communities--just like my hometown. However, it never dawned on me that this opportunity would be so fleeting... fast-forward to the $40,000,000 fraud.
I never will forget the angst I felt when I was ordered to remove all of the scores from the EZ/EC grant applications before we sent them up to for...