Two Atlanta restaurateurs team up to provide life insurance for Black men

Derrick Hayes and Pinky Cole attend an event at Big Dave's Cheesesteaks in downtown Atlanta where the two Atlanta restauranteurs team up to provide life insurance for Black men. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION
Caption
Derrick Hayes and Pinky Cole attend an event at Big Dave's Cheesesteaks in downtown Atlanta where the two Atlanta restauranteurs team up to provide life insurance for Black men. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Phil Skinner

Credit: Phil Skinner

Two of Atlanta’s prominent restauranteurs have again come together to help the city’s Black community, this time by giving life insurance to Black men who are at a disadvantage.

The offer by Pinky Cole of Slutty Vegan ATL and Derrick Hayes of Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks also includes financial guidance, mental health therapy services and yoga classes for those struggling.

Working through their philanthropic foundations, the two business owners created Square 1: The Liife Experience. The campaign aims to prevent death and improve mental health outcomes among Black men. Its initial goal is to give away life insurance policies to 25,000 Black men by 2023.

“Statistically, we really see the need when it comes to Black men being protected in our communities, and it is my vision and my goal to make sure that the Black man is protected,” Cole said.

As a group, Black men have the lowest life expectancy and the highest death rate from specific causes compared to both men and women of other racial and ethnic groups, Cole notes.

They also suffer disproportionally from poor health and high crime than other racial groups.

Those eligible for a free policy must be between the ages of 15-45, earn less than $30,000 annually, and not use tobacco.

John Saunders watches as Tierra Hall (left) and Johnny Jones sign up for life insurance during an event at Big Dave's Cheesesteaks in downtown Atlanta. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION
Caption
John Saunders watches as Tierra Hall (left) and Johnny Jones sign up for life insurance during an event at Big Dave's Cheesesteaks in downtown Atlanta. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Phil Skinner

Credit: Phil Skinner

Already this summer, several hundred walkup registrations have been taken at Slutty Vegan Edgewood and Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks downtown. More signup events are coming, but men can register for life insurance online through a form by clicking on The Liife Experience on this page.

Crew members who work at Slutty Vegan and Big Dave’s, both men and women, can access the program, too.

“There is no fine print to this. We don’t own the policies. They get to choose their own beneficiaries,” Cole said.

Each policy costs between $160 and $180 for the initial year. After that, each holder will be responsible for keeping it current. Additional funds could be available to help.

“We’re excited about it because we’re also teaching them about financial literacy, about how these policies can benefit you and your family if something happens to you. We’re showing them what it means to build generational wealth in their household,” Cole said.

Cole and Hayes, long-time friends, joined resources in June 2020 in response to the fatal shooting in Atlanta of Rashard Brooks.

They surprised Brooks’ Widow, Tomika Miller, with life insurance policies for her family, a new car, and scholarships to Clark Atlanta University for Brooks’ four children through a partnership with the university. Hayes is a Clark alumnus.

Cole and Hayes wanted to do something similar for Atlanta’s Black community to support Black men and change their narrative. They were bothered by Black men dying in the hands of police protection and Black-on-Black crime.

The Square 1 initiative wants to shift the narrative about Black men in today’s divisive climate.

“It’s time to show the Black man some Black love,” said Lae Cole, Program Director of The Pinky Cole Foundation. “Instead of taking their lives, we are putting life back into the Black man with this initiative. Our goal is to reach the Black man, advance the Black man, and build and protect the Black man, without delay.”

While growing up in West Philly, Hayes, president and CEO of Dave’s Cheesesteaks said he saw people put together fish fries and create GoFundMe pages to pay for their loved one’s funerals.

“I vowed to change that narrative with this program,” Hayes said. “Now, I’m able to provide resources and benefits such as life insurance policies and mental health programs. I am sure we will bridge the wealth gap and strengthen the Black community with this campaign.”

The life insurance and mental health offering in Atlanta is just the start. Cole wants to add more cities and take it nationally.

“The long-term goal is that all minorities have life insurance, and all people have life insurance. So we’re starting where the need is most, with the Black man. And we’re helping to restore that Black family,” Cole said.

“We are not politicians, obviously, but we do have the platform and the resources to be able to help our community. Philanthropy is at the core of who we are.”

HOW TO GET INVOLVED WITH SQUARE 1: THE LIIFE EXPERIENCE

The Pinky Cole Foundation and The David & Derrick Hayes Foundation are spearheading Square 1: The Liife Experience.

Supporting partners are Kaleidoscope Therapy for Black Families Fund and Seviin Yoga.

Corporate sponsors can reach out directly to Mia.ferguson@thepinkycolefoundation.org and Stacey.Lee@thepinkycolefoundation.org.

Personal donations can be made on The Pinky Cole Foundation website here.

Big Dave's Cheesesteaks hosted an event in downtown Atlanta where two Atlanta restauranteurs team up to provide life insurance for Black men. 
PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.
Caption
Big Dave's Cheesesteaks hosted an event in downtown Atlanta where two Atlanta restauranteurs team up to provide life insurance for Black men. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

Credit: Phil Skinner

Credit: Phil Skinner