When Toby Glenn was homeless in Brooklyn from age eight to seventh grade, sometimes the only thing that gave him comfort was a book.
“Homelessness can be tough,” Glenn understates. “You’re sitting around looking for housing, not necessarily focusing on your education, and you can fall behind. But I was always able to travel through books. Prose was amazing for me. I could go to other countries and go back in time, and to outer space and meet my heroes. It was just amazing.”
He took special comfort in Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man” because he felt he was in a similar situation as the main character. People deliberately ignored him and his family wherever they went. “We would be sitting in a welfare hotel or sitting in a train station, and we were invisible. Nobody would see us. I related really well to that book and I read it over and over.”
Glenn says education is one of the things that helped lift him out of homelessness. After his family’s living situation stabilized, Glenn began an eclectic career as a rapper, then rapper manager, then sports agent. He is now a business consultant and is coming to Princeton with Kairos, a motivational seminar that will raise money for his nonprofit group, the Book Bank Foundation. The group provides books and literature to underprivileged children, and also combats abuse, hunger and homelessness more broadly.
The Kairos event will take place Sunday, February 26, from noon to 6 p.m. at the Nassau Inn in Princeton. It will be hosted by Glenn and Kairos co-founder and Olympic coach Ed Tseng. Speakers include Bob Ryland, the first black pro tennis player; Rick Down, a former New York Yankees hitting coach; Samyr Laine, Olympic triple jumper; Chhavi Verg, Miss New Jersey 2017; Michael Gallardo; an Army veteran, amputee, and adaptive athlete; Brian McNamee, a former New York City police officer and Major League Baseball strength and conditioning coach; Rayna DuBose, a basketball star and motivational speaker; Jennie Murphy, a legally blind athlete; and Cory Bradburn, social media manager for Golf Digest. Tickets start at $25. Visit www.edtseng.com/kairosmovement, call 609-558-1077, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Glenn grew up in New York, where his mother worked for the state retirement board. His father died at a young age, and the family went to live with Glenn’s grandmother. When his mother suffered a nervous breakdown, the family was out on the streets, always looking for a place to stay between friends, relatives, and social agencies. Glenn says he and his brothers and sisters are all doing well now, but that the years of homelessness made an indelible mark on him.
In high school in the late 1970s Glenn took up rapping during the formative years of hip-hop. As “Sweety G,” he performed alongside some of the founders of rap. One of his songs, “The Place to Be,” was recorded in 1981 and can be found on YouTube.
But Glenn was not destined to become a famous rapper. Instead, he became a manager, and was part of LL Cool J’s management team in addition to representing other rappers. He later switched from music to sports, representing NFL players like Asante Samuel, helping the cornerback sign a $60 million deal with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Glenn’s latest career shift was to become a speaker, author, and consultant. His latest work is a children’s book called “Lil’ G Faces the Brooklyn Bully,” in which a boy deals with homelessness and bullying.
Throughout Glenn’s career, he has forged his own path rather than working his way up through other organizations. He has some general advice for other would-be entrepreneurs. “Find your passion,” he says. “If you’re going to work a job, treat your job as though it is a business. Save 20 to 30 percent of your earnings. Do the same things that great business minds do: Warren Buffet, Jay-Z, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg: make a budget, respect the budget, and save money. Realize what investments are good. Hire team players. Have an exit plan if things are not moving your way. Partner with other people. We can’t do it by ourselves.”
The Kairos seminar was created when Glenn met with Tseng and the two speakers decided to host an event together. They plan to take Kairos all over the country, with Princeton being the first stop. “Kairos” is a Greek word meaning an opportune moment.
“Kairos is the moment when you are prepared to take all of your perspectives, all of your teachings, and all of your potential, and you tap into them together with your mind, body, and spirit,” Glenn says. “I’m excited about it, and I think it’s a great place for everybody to sharpen up their skills.”