Brian Banks is a highly sought-after community educator, author, law school graduate, and former Michigan State Representative. But despite his tremendous career, he has experienced an equally tremendous degree of hardship along the way, from a dysfunctional childhood, to an adolescence marred by fraud charges, to corrupt political forces ousting him from office. In this episode of Open Mike, Banks discusses his personal struggles in depth and reflects on ways they’ve endowed him with the talent and tenacity to continuously create his own success.

Show Notes

[00:35] Brian Banks’s intro and bio taken from his book, It Had 2 Happen.

[01:35] Hi, Brian, thank you for being on Open Mike!

[2:28] Our governor instituted some new reform in the no-fault arena, for no reason. What do you think about the no-fault changes that are currently going into effect?

[04:50] Why do you think she gave a gift to the Republicans and insurance companies without thinking about her Michigan constituents? Do you have any insight on that?

[08:13] You have a fascinating story and you’re very open about your story… You’re very open about the criminal activity you unfortunately got involved in, and you took responsibility. So, let’s dig into this — you grew up in Detroit, you went to Denby High School, and you dropped out your senior year. Give us a brief version about how that happened.

[10:15] Due to a troubled home life, Brian started skipping class for weeks on end, after transferring to a different school. He eventually got a job, started hanging out with the wrong people, and started committing credit card and check fraud.

[12:43] Eventually, Brian was charged on seventeen counts of fraud.

[14:31] Eventually, he was sentenced to a year probation with the first six months on a tether, in lieu of jail… the tether was impeding his ability to land a job, so Brian successfully wrote, filed, and argued a motion to remove the tether. The next day, he obtained his GED and enrolled in Wayne State University, with aspirations of becoming an attorney.

[18:03] What year did you get into law school?

[18:28] Did you take the bar exam?

[18:44] For those who don’t know, Michigan lawyers have to go through a process called “character and fitness” where they’re vetted to ensure they’re up to state standards to practice law. Because of Brian’s history, they would not let him be a licensed attorney in the state.

[20:31] When someone experiences poverty, it’s a domino effect. Pair that with a felony conviction, it’s incredibly hard to obtain gainful employment.

[21:36] When are you giving it another shot?

[22:17] You go through the process, they pass you, and then you have to take the bar exam again?

[22:59] Let’s talk about your time in the Michigan state legislature… can you tell us why you decided to run for Congress, here in Michigan?

[26:09] During Brian’s first term, he had 100% attendance and a 100% voting record. Because of his experiences, he was compelled to make sure his constituents’ voices were represented at the capitol. The first community event he held was for ex-offenders, to help get their records expunged.

[27:03] In 2014, Brian was re-elected with more votes than in his 2012 run. He was also elected by his colleagues as chairman of the Detroit Black Caucus.

[27:13] Let’s talk about that — a very powerful Democratic caucus. What was that like, walking in as chairman after all that you went through?

[28:36] As chairman, Brian was essentially the most powerful African American in the state legislature. He started making enemies because he started taking some unpopular positions.

[29:03] What do you think were your most unpopular decisions in 2015, leading up to your 2016 experience?

[31:38] You’re thwarting a powerful Detroit mayor and have an upcoming election for your third term… as this is happening, people are running against you… there are rumors that people within your own party are putting others up against you… and one day, you’re sitting at home, and get a knock on your door from a couple FBI agents. Take us through that story.

[32:37] Do you believe the mayor put someone up against you?

[34:11] Brian was accused by the then Republican Attorney General of improperly paying back a 2010 loan, so he hired an attorney to represent him. His attorney convinced him to plead guilty, after a long, drawn-out process.

[34:55] Brian was ultimately able to get the felony charges dropped, but he had to resign from office. It was clear that the entire process was political, and other colleagues wanted him out of the way.

[35:48] While many wrote Brian off, he started a successful consulting agency and still conducts educational, community outreach events. He realized he doesn’t need a title to serve.

[36:43] Do you think you’re going to run again for a third term?

[38:46] If you want to learn more about Brian’s life in detail, check out his book, It Had 2 Happen!

[39:05] Thank you to Brian Banks for coming on Open Mike!

[40:52] If you think someone would enjoy this episode, pass it along, subscribe, like. And tell us who you’d like to be on Open Mike! We will bring them to you. Thank you for watching and listening!

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