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A son’s salute to a legendary father on his business success

Robert Tyler speaks to the audience during his 25th anniversary gathering

By Dean Hasaan

The city of Miami was established in 1896 through an incorporation meeting in which nearly half of the votes came from Black folk. One of its many historically Black communities, Brownsville (or to Miami natives, “Brown Sub”) is home to a legendary hotel once frequented by the likes of Sam Cooke, Nat King Cole, and Muhammad Ali. It was at the Historic Hampton House, that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered the “I Have A Dream” speech at a CORE meeting, years before the March on Washington.

Let's pause for a moment to illustrate the significance of the location. The Historic Hampton House where the 25th Anniversary took place is a restored jewel in Anmerican History.

The 1960s were also a tumultuous time in Miami with racial inequality and segregation laws were strictly enforced. Muhammad Ali—then still called Cassius Clay was not allowed to spend the night in Miami Beach because of Jim Crow’s segregation laws, he went instead to the Hampton House Motel in Miami’s Brownsville neighborhood, a story later shared on the big screen called, One Night In Miami, directed by Regina King. The Historic Hampton House is where Ali would later celebrate his world championship win with his friend Malcolm X. The Hampton House was the place to see and be seen in, offering the chance to rub shoulders with notable figures including Sammy Davis Jr., Jackie Robinson, Aretha Franklin, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

So it was only appropriate that on this holy ground, on the eve of what would have been Dr. King’s 94th birthday, over bomb food courtesy of ChazNLu’s- we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the founding of IGWT Construction- Black-owned and operated by a general contractor who happens to be my Pops- Robert Lamont Tyler.

Robert Tyler on the big screen from a documentary film about the 25 year journey of IGWT Construction

The gathering was organized by Lesesne Media Group who also produced a documentary on Pops’ work and legacy- attendees got to see a snippet of the powerful film to be released later this year. It was amazing to see a room filled with IGWT team members, contractors, clients, elected officials, clergy, family, and community members acknowledging and honoring the blood, sweat, tears- and I’m adding love- required to build and sustain IGWT for close to three decades.

A mark of great character is measured by the consistency of the quality of experience that people have in their encounters with a person. What struck me as I listened to the stories, praises, jokes, and gratitude that folk shared in relation to my Pops is that I’ve known him for 41 years and can confirm he is, as da jits say, “him”- when nobody is watching, when the hard hat comes off.

I remember when Pops started IGWT. Though we are celebrating 25 years for the company, Pops has been in construction for most of my life; from our first house on 139th street in Opa-Locka to Thacker in Atlanta back to Miami after Hurricane Andrew in 1992. In 1998, he had just left Urban Organization (see the cover of Black Enterprise, March 1995) and with his own money, in an apartment in North Miami Beach, founded In God We Trust Construction- a testament to his deepening faith as a newly ordained minister.

It’s important to note that Urban was one of the top construction firms in the city when he left. His decision was largely rooted in principle and ethics. He could have enjoyed more “success” if not for his moral compass. This to say, the founding of this business was not about money, as there was plenty at Urban. The decision to start IGWT was about building with purpose, values, and community at the center of the business model.

Here I am enjoying a mmoment with famed Miami Artists Adonis Parker. His presence at the event was one of many friends, family and local dignitaries that were there to witness history in the making.

Pop has always leaned in unapologetically on his Black business identity, whether it was cool/comfortable or not. There was no social media to promote the fights he engaged in to ensure a place for Black contractors in multi-million dollar projects. “Re-entry population” wasn’t even a term when Pops was hiring our Brothers and Sisters coming home from behind a wall. I lost count on the number of Grandma/Auntie houses, “Mom & Pop” businesses, that Pop made zero profit on or in some cases took a loss because he was taking care of “family”- which his how he views and treats everybody who works at or does business with IGWT.

Three beautiful generations family legecy is pictured at left; Mother, daughter and grandmother are perfectly captured in this image at left.

We were not just celebrating 25 years of doing business, but 25 years of being upright, solid, selfless, and consistent. 25 years of being accessible and willing to serve. 25 years dedicating babies, presiding over funerals, counseling marriages, and praying over the sick and shut-in. 25 years of lending money, stopping by to “look at something”, and helping to negotiate/mediate/resolve. 25 years of having plenty to brag about but letting the work and ministry speak for itself. 25 years of keeping what we call in Miami, a “clean face”. 25 years without compromising values. Most importantly, as his eldest jit, I can say he was able to accomplish all of this without depriving his family.

So to my Ole Boy, I say salute, congratulations, and all praise to God for celebrating 25 years in business under the IGWT umbrella and many more years of doing and being all of the above. In God We Trust!

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