Baltimore has a reputation throughout the nation for a lot of positive and negative things. At the Commoner, I interview community activists, friends, entrepreneurs, and artists to highlight some of the best and brightest aspects of my city. During this issue, I will be interviewing Lorr Tone (Antonio), a 21-year-old rising social entrepreneur, author, and real estate mogul.
Dawaun: How are you today? Tell us about you, who are you?
Antonio: I’m fine, sir. My name is Antonio, but everyone knows me as Lorr Tone. I am 21 years old and I was born and raised in East Baltimore. I grew up on the east side of town, and I am a young entrepreneur and real estate investor. I am also about to publish my first e-book titled The Flip Project. A book teaching kids in urban neighborhoods how to get rich and not die trying.
Dawaun: It can be very rough growing up in our city. I was wondering if you could tell everyone a bit about your background in East Baltimore?
Antonio: I learned after years of disinvestment to invest in myself because young people from East Baltimore have to outthink a lot of situations. My book talks about that.
Dawaun: You mentioned being a community activist. Could you tell me about your passion for helping the community?
Antonio: I wouldn’t consider it a passion. I don’t label myself or what I do as activism because I’m doing what any stand-up guy does. There has been a misconception about youth in Baltimore. We are not all bad and I know this personally. Most of us want more out of life. The difference between me and other youth still active on the street corners or disengaged with school or the workplace is a 10-second decision.
Dawaun: So what attracted you to real estate?
Antonio: In my book, I talk about being a high school dropout. I spent a lot of my childhood running the streets of East Baltimore. My friends and I would spend most of our time in vacant houses. Baltimore has over 17,000 unoccupied vacant houses. There are blocks and blocks of vacant houses, which brings down the value of the neighborhood. We used the vacant houses for a number of things. Everything from dice games, to skipping school, and having house parties. You could say being a real estate entrepreneur has been part of my life for a long time. I was about 19 years old when I went from hanging in vacant houses to selling them.
Dawaun: Who are your biggest influences?
Antonio: My mother planted the seeds of who I would become when I was young. She made sure I always had a little hustle. As a kid, I would do everything from watching a dope hole to sweeping up hair in the barbershop. When I was about 15 years old, I started selling weed and shooting dice to make my money. I was making some money, and I’d help my mom pay bills. She saw me buy things like tennis shoes and other things, and she said “why don’t you start investing in real estate?”
I didn’t have a lot of knowledge of the game at the time, so I thought you had to have a lot of money to buy houses. When I was 18 years old, I had a part-time job and my manager would tell me “if you want to win you have to study winners.” I met my first millionaire at work one day, and he told me about how he made his fortune. Most of it was through real estate. I inquired so much about what he does that he gave me his card to keep in contact with him.
I was about to be grown and things on the street started getting worse, so I knew I had to elevate my mind and my pockets.
Dawaun: What made you want to do what you do?
Antonio: In my book, I talk about how I just placed an emphasis on what all stand-up men should do. I began to get into real estate and dealing with vacant houses, and I came to understand what made things the way they were. I gained knowledge about the real estate game, and I decided to help my friends and others how to get that knowledge. I realized it was important to do that because Black people in America are not taught about these issues.
Dawaun: Being that you are as young as you are, where did you find that sense of self that you have?
Antonio: As I mentioned, my upbringing and environment gave me self-assurance. Growing up could be pretty rough, so I had to make the best out of my experiences. I went through being around drugs, but a lot of the older people in the game helped elevate my thinking. It was those experiences that prepared me for life, not a textbook. These experiences gave me a sense of fearlessness. I understand now that I’m special because I was brought through a lot of bad situations. I have always been respected for being a thinker and a leader since I was a young person. That’s something I take extreme pride in.
Dawaun: Well brother, it’s been an honor and a pleasure talking to you. Thank you for your time.
Follow @lorr_tone on Instagram for updates on The Flip Project.