Boyce Watkins via Facebook

Hey, man, we didn’t do an explainer last week, but I really need to talk to you about this Boyce Watkins thing that is bubbling on woke Twitter.

Sure! Earlier this week, a video of a screenshot of what seems to be an online conference call began circumnavigating the inboxes of the woke black internet. The video shows two men having a conversation about Boyce Watkins, Ph.D., and his ...

Wait, bruh. Who the hell is Boyce Watkins?

Watkins is the less charismatic Umar Johnson of black financial independence and wealth. His Black Business School is a virtual version of Umar Johnson’s Kente Cloth Hogwarts for Black Boy Magic, except, of course, that Watkins’ really exists. While Watkins’ educational products seem to be the equivalent of freshman-level community college business-theory courses with a little Creflo Dollar sprinkled in, remember, the BBS is 100 percent black. (Remember this point. It is important.)

If I were still using the term “Hotep” as a pejorative—which I am not—I would call Watkins a level 3, low-ranking Ankhologist, perfect for easing black people who are not particularly educated or experienced in Watkins’ area of kente-clothians. He is a perfect conduit conning people into becoming practitioners of entry-level dashikinomics. Plus, Watkins’ school is 100 percent black, meaning that you don’t have to worry about any Caucasian shenanigans creeping into play.

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OK, now back to the video.

So the videos show Charles Wu bragging about JARVIS and the Digital Underground and how ...

Slow down! Who is Charles Wu? Is Jarvis one of the lesser-known members of the Wu-Tang Clan? And what does Shock G and Humpty have to do with any of this?

Sorry. It’s just that there’s a lot to cover.

The Digital Underground, or “the D.U.,” as it is called, is not a reference to the ’90s rap group. It is a course in Watkins’ Black Business School.

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For $2,999 (or the low price of $499 per month), instead of reading Wikipedia and doing a couple of Google searches, you can have Watkins teach you everything he knows about altcoin, blockchain and bitcoin (which, coincidentally, seems to not be much. But for those who don’t know anything, it seems like a lot. After all, his name has “Dr.” right in it!) Plus, you can trust Watkins. He’s leading black people toward their “Financial Juneteenth” (his actual term). He’s a solid dude.

Oh, did I mention the school was 100 percent black?

And what about Jarvis? Didn’t he have a barbershop on 23rd Avenue?

No, JARVIS is the key to the Black Business School’s Digital Underground. The best thing about your $3,000 investment is that you get this analytic software called Just Another Really Very Intelligent System (JARVIS) that tells you which cryptocurrencies to buy, when to purchase, when to sell, and is touted as an “artificial intelligence algorithm.” JARVIS was reportedly created by a mysterious genius named “Mr. I.” whose identity cannot be revealed, but I’m sure he’s black, because, again, the Black Business School is 100 percent black.

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Watkins has used the Digital Underground to introduce altcoin investment to tens of thousands of black people who heard about the cryptocurrency explosion and guide them to financial freedom.

I mean, I like the song they made with Tupac, but Humpty’s always made me a little skeptical. And everyone loves Method Man and Raekwon da Chef. How did Watkins get them involved?

Again, bruh, this has nothing to do with Digital Underground the rap group or the Wu-Tang Clan.

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In the latter part of 2017, Watkins began contacting already established online groups about a financial cryptocurrency product. The Root spoke with several members of a Facebook group of approximately 30,000 black crypto investors, blockchain developers and altcoin researchers. According to multiple members of this consortium, each of whom spoke separately to us, Watkins introduced the group to Charles Wu, Mark Moss and the mysterious Mr. I.

Over the course of three days, Wu pitched this incredible financial/cryptocurrency product to the members. After the third day, Watkins’ pitchmen had convinced hundreds of members to invest:

  • $179 per month for access to the JARVIS software
  • $299 per month for access to JARVIS, plus access to the super-secret initial coin offering for a new cryptocurrency, or
  • $2,499 for a lifetime access to Digital Underground that included all of the above.

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Again, it is important to know that the people targeted by Watkins were part of an all-black group, and his reputation as a financial expert dedicated to black financial independence gained him trust among the thousands of followers.

OK. So what’s up with the video? Is anyone doing the Humpty Hump in it?

Again, this has nothing to do with that Digital Underground. Please stop bringing it up.

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The videos show Charles Wu explaining how he uses Boyce Watkins to suck the life and money out of the black community. As the conversation unfolds, Wu explains how he is in the business of selling “a movement or a change” that he sells as a “religion.” He shares how Watkins, the “main character,” sells the “main pitch” where Watkins explains how he grew up poor, and reveals that it is a “practice and planned effort to get to a critical close point,” recounting how excited he was to see Watkins tear up. Wu admits that Watkins’ emotional moment was somewhat manufactured, but it made the orders roll in beyond his expectations.

Wait? So Boyce Watkins is basically a shill for ...

It looks like Watkins is selling a version of Wu’s generic bullshit repackaged as the Digital Underground. Not only is it not 100 percent back, but it isn’t even 100 percent Watkins! But I must reveal something to you.

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Apparently, this was par for the course for Charles Wu. Two different members who heard Wu’s pitch recounted how they were turned off by Wu’s telling his potential black customers that they should “thank God” that he was sharing the Digital Underground with black people. Wu has a history of using race and culture to sell product, which we will get to in a second.

Damn! So what did people say?

Well, I can show you some of the social media reactions:

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Well, what did Watkins have to say about it?

To his credit, Boyce Watkins didn’t let it fester or avoid the issue. He did a two-hour Facebook Live the very next day titled, “Dr. Boyce Watkins Address [sic] the “Charles Wu Controversy.” 

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And what did he say?

He did not address the Charles Wu controversy. He let it fester. At the beginning, he sidestepped a few direct questions by saying that he was not responsible for Charles Wu’s words. Then he defended himself by doing what I call a “full Umar.” He cussed people out, explained how everyone was out to get him, called out a woman who criticized him for having a white girlfriend and—most importantly—asked people what they were doing for the black community, as if that were relevant to the questions he was being asked.

But does that mean Boyce Watkins is a con artist or a charlatan?

Here’s the thing: I don’t know.

Because of how libel laws work, I can only say three things are true:

  1. Boyce Watkins sells a product that directly targets black people that is hugely overvalued and overpriced. We found similar packages on the internet with the same kind of info for much less. Even more damning, Mark Moss, who sold the Black Business School to Watkins’ black followers, sells a nearly identical lifetime membership package to the nonblack, generic Block United University for $1,000 cheaper.
  2. Neither the Black Business School, JARVIS nor the Digital Underground was created exclusively for or by black people. Much of the course material can be found elsewhere on the internet at cheaper rates.
  3. Charles Wu has made a career of repackaging generic products, marking them up and reselling them to the black community. If you’d like insight into how this works, you should read his detailed summary of how he resold a generic face cream from Amazon.com to black women as Prescribd, a cure for acne “for skin with melanin.”

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That’s what he wants you to believe. But if Watkins is not a con man, then what is he?

There are thousands of people who make a career out of this particular brand of charismatic grifting. Some of them are life coaches. Some of them are pastors. Some of them are “financial experts.” The problem with Boyce Watkins, however, is that he lied. He misled his faithful to believe that they were buying a product for, by and about black wealth, and it turns out that he was selling medicine to black people that turned out to be Kool-Aid.

If Watkins is able to command that price based on the cult of personality he has developed with his followers, then it is up to individuals to determine whether they consider it a scam or a simple case of a consumer paying $20 for an artisanal, grass-fed Kobe beef burger and getting a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder. If his adherents are willing to pay that price, then is it a con? He might not be a con man.

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Maybe Boyce Watkins is simply a racist.

Bruh! He’s black! I think that’s going too far.

OK, let’s imagine you met a white guy named ... umm ... let’s find a really white name. OK, I think I know one. Let’s say you met a guy named “Boyce.”

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And white Boyce targeted black people by using their insecurities, fears and weaknesses to enrich himself. Let’s say he went to a black neighborhood and told black people he could help them with a plan based on “building generational wealth and leaving a legacy for your community.” Knowing that black communities often have large disparities in wealth and income, what if white Boyce not only sold you something that was created by the people who contributed to your oppression, but also hid that fact from you?

What if Watkins’ hugely overpriced product eventually left the people he was targeting worse off and further away from financial freedom than when he met them? And what if he did this nefarious thing to black people? Only black people. What would you call white Boyce?

A racist.

Yep. And none of this is to say that Boyce Watkins hasn’t helped anyone. There are probably people who have invested money in Watkins’ products and benefited from them. Maybe those people would have been successful anyway. Maybe those people could have gotten the same results because they had the time, money and dedication to their goal.

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I doubt Watkins is at home cackling evilly in his YouTube chair (which is one of the questions I would have asked Watkins had he answered The Root’s email, Facebook message, tweet or media request).

So why does this bother you so much?

Here’s why. A few years ago, I mistakenly bought some bitcoin. Because you can’t exactly return it to Walmart, what was $38 in bitcoin is now worth a few thousand dollars. I could produce the documentation from that purchase and convince people that I am a financial guru, but the truth is, you could have shit on a cryptocurrency in 2015 and made money by now. Because of the explosion in the price of crypto, there are people who will now be convinced that Boyce Watkins is a financial genius.

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But what if the next group of hucksters for whom Watkins serves as a mouthpiece has more nefarious goals? What if the people who trust Watkins because of his “pro-black” stance end up broke? What if there is no super genius behind the artificial technology and Charles Wu is the mysterious Mr. I (as some have already speculated)?

What if no one ever steps in front of the parade of vampires sucking blood and money out of black communities? What if no one stops this poison from spreading? What if ...

Wait. You’re still thinking about the rap group, aren’t you?

No, I’m following you all the way. I mean ... the nose is obviously fake! Are you sure he’s not with the rap group?

But I must reveal something to you. I’ve wasted your time. This explainer has been a ruse. I could have shown you one video that shows how Wu is using Watkins, explicitly laying out how there is no intent to educate anyone. It’s all a trick. They reveal their intentions in one fell swoop.

Wow. This is unbelievable. This all shows...

Please don’t do this.

That Boyce Watkins’ Wu-Tang Clan ain’t nothing to fuck with, because ...

I’m begging you.

Cash rules everything around them?

Dollar, dollar bill, y’all.