Before I coined the term “invisible capital,” I used the term “digital capital” to represent more or less the same thing, but relegated to the inequality of opportunity I perceived in the online world.
Since the 2004 presidential election, I have spoken publicly and consistently about how individuals’ “digital capital” in the political blogosphere has been virtually invisible and why we needed to bring these advantages to light in order to understand how they have influenced the experiences, mobility, and participation of different groups of citizens of the Internet—aka “netizens.”
The more I explored this idea with friends and colleagues, the more I realized that what I was talking about transcended social media or participatory journalism, and that these hidden assets were essentially forms of what I would later call “invisible capital.”
It is in that spirit of transparency, accountability, and sharing that I would like to first acknowledge the abundant invisible capital that I was born with and have acquired over the first forty years of my life. Indeed, if it were not for this wealth of invisible capital, I assure you, this book would not have have been written nor published.
Of course, without the bulldog tenacity and single-mindedness of Johanna Vondeling, I would not have been encouraged to submit a book proposal to Berrett-Koehler in the first place. For her patience, foresight, and advocacy, I am truly grateful.
I would also like to thank Tanya Bridges for her wise legal counsel, and Simone White for introducing me to this young star.
Without the intellect, passion, and analytical gifts of my good friend and colleague, Roberto Lovato, I suspect what once was just a title of a single chapter would not have become the title of the book itself, as well as its central theme and what I anticipate will be the platform for a broader array of integrated endeavors.
There are also various organizations and institutions that I am thankful for being part of, including St. Ignatius College Prep, the LEAD Program in Business, Yale University, the Yale Black Alumni Network, the inaugural class of the Runners Club Entrepreneurial Program, the historic Sharp Street Memorial United Methodist Church’s nonprofit Mt. Auburn Cemetery Corporation, the Baltimore Afro-American Newspaper Company, the Afro-Netizen community, German Marshall Fund of the U.S., The Media Consortium, the Progressive Communicators Network, ImprovEdge, Bread and Roses Community Fund, the Applied Research Center, the Poynter Institute, Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, the Media Action Grassroots Network, Digital Justice Campaign, the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia, Action Mill, and the Ninth Ward Democratic Committee of Philadelphia, which serves much of the wonderful community of Mt. Airy, of which I have grown so fond.
As a new member of the Berrrett-Koehler community of authors and other stakeholders, I have been in very good company and am appreciative of the yeoman’s efforts of Steve Piersanti, Jeevan Sivasubramaniam, Rick Wilson, Dianne Platner, and Mike Crowley, to name a few. Also, I am indebted to the editorial wizardry of Jo Ellen Green Kaiser and Steven Hiatt, and to the creative talents of Ian Shimkoviak, who designed a simply fabulous book cover, as well as to my dear friend and designer extraordinaire, Erin Shigaki.
I would also like to recognize the people who took the time and effort to substantively review, critique, and at times challenge elements of my manuscript: Mal Warwick, Cheryl Dorsey, Jay Rao, Shauna Shames, Aura Bogado, David Korten, Jeff Scheuer, Lew Daly, Julie Kimmel, Marilyn Lambert, and James “Scootie” Bruce.
My short, but highly productive time as a member of the Princeton community has been that much more rewarding because of the support of Joan Girgus, Valerie Smith, Chris Paxson, Mark Watson, Paul Frymer, Leslie Gerwin, Steven “Zik” Adams, Deborah Kaple, Mary Beth Bellando, Rita Alpaugh, Paul DiMaggio, and the entire business office staff of the Woodrow Wilson School.
To my many muses: Elijah Anderson, Freager S. Williams, Donna Aiken, Michael Hayes, Darrell Williams, Karen Murphy, Audrey Petty, Karilyn Crockett, Eric Rigaud, Lorrin Thomas, Al Tillery, Gerry L. Davis, Safir Ahmed, John H. Morris Jr., William Brown, and the late great Okokon Okon III.
For a passionate and inveterate networker, few things are harder for me than devising a short list of people who have touched me in one way or another. However, no such list could be complete without mentioning the following names: Michael Ashley, Aspen Baker, Adi Bemak, Eva Blanco, James and Barbara Bowman, Chris Bradie, Christabel Nsiah Buadi, Patricia Casasola, Jennifer Cordero, LaFern Cusack, Byron Davis, Gerry and Anna Davis, Saundra Dougherty, Michael Eric Dyson, Kety Esquivel, Myrna Everett, Isaac Ewell, Phyllis Finch, Bill Generett, Nicholas Gowen, Vance Guidry, James Harris, Jerome Harris, Jean Harvey, Van Jones, Anthony Joseph, David Kairys, Paulette Kamenecka, Adam Karr, Bo Kemp, Phil LaMarr, Monique Long, Antje Mattheus, Tonie Mingo, Ako Mitchell, Tram Nguyen, Raimundo Nonato Moreira, Rob Okun, Dionne Otey, Todd Perry, Stacie Purdie, Kira Reed, Julieanna Richardson, Anike Robinson, Dee Robinson, Steven Rogers, Borracha Santana, Liz Scott, Rinku Sen, Shannon Shepherd, Rolf Skyberg, Linda Stout, Lorrin Thomas, Nate Thompson, Kevin Valentine, Scott Walker, and Linda Yudin.
Also: Muhammad Abdullah, Linda Baldwin, Al Barstow, Porter Bayne, Hilary Beard, Rich Benjamin, Julie Bergman Sender, Jessica Clark, Lark Corbeil, Gerald T. Davis, Brad deGraf, Sonya Donaldson, John Eldred, Allison Fine, Laura Flanders, Robert Fleming, Garlin Gilchrist II, Susan Gleason, Robert Graff, Edward Gray, Van Hampton, Harold Haskins, Robert Holmes, Ina Howard-Parker, Ron Howell, Nike Irvin, lynne d johnson, Linda Jue, Steve Katz, Esther Kaplan, Thomas Lebens, Gail Leondar-Wright, Walter Lomax and family, Jim Lowry, Stephen Magowan, Nicco Mele, Toni Mingo, Shireen Mitchell, Chris Moore, Alex Moss, Ackneil Muldrow, Kevin Myles, Mark Pinsky, Kim Pearson, Chuck Pennacchio, Paul Porter, Dwight Raiford, Ric Ramsey, Andrew Rasiej, Ana Reyes, Kristina Rizga, Roy Roberts, Steven Rogers, James Rucker, Liza Sabater, Simran Sethi, Diane Shamis, Micah Sifry, Michael Strautmanis, Makani Themba-Nixon, Joe Torres, Kittie Watson, Shawn Williams, Jessica Valenti, Tracy van Slyke, David Whettstone, Maya Wiley, and Deanna Zandt.
I am so fortunate to have elders in my life to whom I owe so much and hold in such high regard, including my cousins Rufus Robinson Jr. and Carol Matthew, as well as the following heroes of mine who are nearing or far past 100 years of age: my great-uncle, Louis “Mike” Rabb and my great-aunt Sister Constance Murphy.
I am also truly thankful for the constant encouragement of my favorite radical epidemiologist Steve Whitman, the wonderful Perrys of Alabama, my aunt and uncles, cousins and extended family and the extended Duff clan who took me into their home as a young entrepreneur-in-training nearly twenty years ago.
There is also a fierce contingent of unofficial godmothers who have emboldened me since childhood with their unconditional love, wisdom, and sometimes a good, old-fashioned kick in the pants. They include Myra Frost, Joan Small, Billie Wright Adams, Beverly Hamilton Robinson, Lyndia Gray, Jetta Jones, and Arla Hightower, as well as other nurturers, including Lynn Small, Carolyn Armenta Davis, Maxine Leftwich, and Saundra Dougherty.
On the home front, no acknowledgments could be complete without honoring my late father, Dr. Maurice F. Rabb, Jr., a world-renowned eye surgeon, teacher, and innovative scientific researcher. He was quite possibly the most humble and gentle man I’ve ever known. You are sorely missed.
To my older brother, Maurice III, who was my business partner for many years, I can only say that as awe-inspiring as you are an inventor and computer scientist, your creativity is only surpassed by your integrity, decency, and lovingness as a father.
To my fabulous mother, Madeline Murphy Rabb, who remains a bold entrepreneurial artist—or perhaps an artistic entrepreneur— and who has built an ingenious art advisory firm that continues to inspire me. She is the person who taught me the importance of self confidence, persistence, ingenuity, assertiveness, and old-school salesmanship. She is also the person who drilled into my head that fear of success is unacceptable, and that failure is both unavoidable and invaluable.
I have also been buoyed throughout my life by my late grandparents—most especially my maternal grandmother and grandfather, who were two of my greatest mentors. Madeline Wheeler Murphy was a journalist, community organizer, and Baltimore political icon. She was the person who encouraged me to write early and often— and to write to be understood, not to impress. She taught me about the power of language, community, and social justice—and how everything is political, “even when you flush the toilet!”
My grandfather, Judge William H. Murphy Sr., was a man obsessed with business, the law, and community wealth-building. His obsessions have greatly influenced my circuitous path to this point. I will always remember his admonition to me: “Don’t tell me what you’re gonna do, show me what you did!”
To my sons, Freeman Diallo and Issa, who fill my life with such joy, pride, and meaning, and who have become extraordinary little publicists, promoting my book with characteristic glee and enthusiasm.
My kindred spirit and co-parent, Imani Perry, who has inspired and supported me in so many invaluable ways over the last eleven years. Lastly, I thank my ancestors—not just the entrepreneurs among them, but the ones who lived the African proverb, “I am because we are, therefore, we are because I am.” This book and the change it may spark are in homage to you.