B.O.L.D member Juwan Z. Bennett tells a group of black boys “there’s greatness in you!”
All of their hands went up at the chance to answer “What is a genius?” The nearly twenty black boys under 13 who were wiggling in their chairs and anticipating hearing from the “boy genius” advertised on their programs, all gave impressive answers, including “a super smart person,” a “really intelligent person,” and my personal favorite: “a person with a bighead and glasses!”
Those descriptions – down to the glasses – described the keynote speaker for the 19th annual Boy’s Power Lunch, organized by Choice Mentoring. It was a special moment for 21 year-old B.O.L.D member Juwan Z. Bennett, who was giving his very first keynote presentation.
Holding his black leather folder from his alma mater, Temple University, Bennett walked up to his makeshift podium to a thunderous applause. Donning a neat red and blue stripped bowtie with coordinated suspenders and socks, the award-winning McNair Scholar made it known in his first few words that despite his perceived greatness and academic celebrity, he has sat in the same seats of the bright-eyed black boys who stared at him in awe.
“He’s very humble and that came across to the children,” says Elder Lorraine Troy, Choice Mentoring’s Founder and Executive Director, who said the one thing she learned today was“people will pay you to think.”
Continuing her praise for Bennett’s decorum as a speaker, Troy stated:
“He gave them something to dream about just by sharing the story of his life. They were focused on his every word; he gave them something to aspire to. They may not all be a genius, but at the same time, being a genius doesn’t mean being the smartest person in the room; it’s about being the most innovative. I am appreciative of our search partner, Techbook Online, who for the last three years have provided us the most inspiring young black male speakers. Choice Mentoring’s signature event for boys, coupled with our relationship withTechbook Online, proves there are many young black men that are doing and accomplishing wonderful things. Sadly, however, the media focuses on the wrong things. Speaking for my community, we would love to see more people like Juwan on the news.”
For Bennett – who as a child in South Philadelphia ducked bullets on his way home – the opportunity to stand as a role model before a group of impressionable black boys and tell them how special they are meant the world to him – considering no one other than his parents and a teacher or two ever told him he was great.
“I didn’t know I had so much greatness in me; nobody told me that,” says Bennett, who wowed the boys when he told them not only does he get paid to think, but colleges compete for him to attend.
“So it’s like a NBA draft?” asked one student.
“Sort of, sure,” remarked Bennett, who’s often referred to as academia’s hottest free agent.
When asked his thoughts on the day, Bennett, who’s aiming to train communities to be research assistants, stated:
“Speaking at the 19th annual Boy’s Power Lunch was the one of the best moments of my life! Not only did I get a chance to connect with black boys, but I was able to share with them how to succeed against all odds, even if those odds were growing up in the rough streets of Philly. With much practice and preparation, you will find that there’s always greatness in you!”
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™