Written by Tanya Terry
Representing less than 1% of all CPAs in the United States who are Black, Antonio Brown works as a certified public accountant (CPA) in the city of Flint.
Brown never forgot a question that was asked to him when he was a college student. That question inspired his decision to enter a profession many other Blacks have steered clear of.
Brown did very well when, as a finance major at the University of Michigan Flint, when he took an intermediate accounting course with Dr. Cathy Miller.
“She stopped me and said, ‘Hey, have you ever considered becoming a CPA?” Brown explained.
Brown continued on his path as a finance major and graduated.
“About two or three years into my career, I decided, ‘You know what, let me go down the CPA route,” he told the Courier.
Seeing the need for Black CPAs in this area, Brown enrolled in some graduate courses at Walsh College in Troy, Michigan and obtained his course requirements for the CPA exam. This led to what Brown describes as a “very rewarding career.”
“I’m also kind of disheartened that many of our Black boys and girls aren’t matriculating into the CPA profession.”
Brown has committed himself to promoting the CPA industry and profession by speaking at colleges, high schools, career fairs and career days. He also helps families, businesses and other adults understand the importance of financial literacy.
After completing his master’s thesis on the effects of financial literacy on financial behaviors, Brown was alarmed.
“One of the things I found was most Americans don’t have $500 saved in their savings.”
Brown feels strongly that financial literacy promotes overall well-being.
“When people are financially healthy, they’re able to make healthier choices with their diet. They’re able to engage in more social and family activities. Understanding how money works, understanding interest, how bank loans are distributed-all those things are important for anyone to know.”
Brown believes one of the most important things for small businesses to know where they stand from a profitability standpoint.
Brown has been involved in community workshops and panel discussions on financial literacy. He has partnered with a variety of community groups, including Metro Community Development Center, the Genesee Health Coalition, 100K Ideas and Communities First. During these workshops or panel discussions, he talked about individual taxation, business taxation, business entity filings, tax credit, tax updates and/or understanding tax law changes.
Brown found it particularly rewarding to help 25 small businesses, many who had never produced a financial statement, to produce them. He was able to get these businesses an accounting system and much more at no cost to participants through Operation Scale Up with 100K ideas.
Brown was appointed by Governor Whitmer to the Michigan Board of Accountancy in 2021 and is currently serving a five-year term. According to Brown, the advisory board oversees the CPAs that are licensed in the state of Michigan. The board is involved in everything from disciplinary action to influencing policies that affect the accountancy industry.
“I take my role very seriously.”
Brown has been a licensed CPA for over 15 years now. He has over 10 years of executive leadership as a CFO (chief financial officer) and deputy finance director with extensive work from tax accounting and government finance to accounting management and auditing.
Brown stated accounting is needed in all facets of government-including at government-run hospitals- and that there is a great need for more CPAs to get trained in government accounting.
In 2019, with his brothers Luther Brown and Jermaine Brown, Antonio Brown established The John L Group, Incorporated (TJLG), named in honor of their late grandfather, John L. Smedley. Antonio Brown said when his mother and father divorced, Smedley took care of the brothers while their mother was at work and was like another father figure.
Located in downtown Flint, TJLG service areas include construction, finance, and logistics.
The John L Group, Incorporated (TJLG) has grown to having over 600 businesses or individuals using the brothers’ services. They have clients locally, nationally and even a few international clients.
“We count ourselves very fortunate to have been able to be born, raised and educated in the city of Flint-and to be able to have grown our business right here in the city of Flint. We were products of the public education system, and we’re sons of the city. We’ve made a commitment to be here as long as we possibly can.”