Emerging from the streets of Philadelphia is a league of Men who are challenging the status quo and providing direction for those bamboozled by personalities undeservingly assigned as leaders.
Driven by the belief that leadership is a lifestyle not a position, I make a conscious effort to refer to most politicians as elected officials and restrain from assigning the highly regarding noun to describe even the most famous of personalities and activists, who’ll remain nameless, but they know who they are.
A star-studded roster of so-called leaders who lead nowhere have seemingly captivated generations of people and have provided them a false sense of hope, while assuring that anyone who desires to carry the torch of leadership will have to pry it from their blood-stained hands after death.
Yesterday’s personalities have become today’s example of when black power gets shut off but is hijacked from a neighbor’s electricity. So far removed from the community, the “Good Reverend Dr’s” couldn’t hear gunshots through a 5000 watt amplifier. It seems as though these media whores only come out of hibernation and into the community when someone is being called a n***er or when police officers have reached their weekly quota of slaughtered unarmed black youth.
As a journalist and activist involved in multiple causes, I attend numerous protest—large and small—and during so I often hear people say stuff like “Man this F***ed up, where is ______?” I usually stare at them with the “whodunit face” and then realized the poor soul speaking to me is caught up on the name and not the action, hypnotized by legacy and blinded to legitimacy.
Proudly carrying the title of a “BMe Leader,” within my growing network of 3000+ inspired black men, I see individuals who not only deserve to be called leaders, they deserve so much more than this world could offer. Having to make do, however, with the material prizes that the mortal life can offer, these strong men only aspire for greatness and wealth so that they can build communities, not exploit them, like the unmentioned.
2013 “BMe Leader” Rashuan Williams, 19, CEO/Founder of Phresh Philly, leads a groups of energetic high-schoolers every week in interactive research and develop session, aiming to develop innovative project-based learning models that engage youth and grade schoolers alike in activities that promote sustainability and social entrepernuership. When asked what local or national politician inspires you to lead, the popular teen DJ responded, “none.”
With no political aspirations—at least not at the moment—the self-described actionist often says “activism in the 21st century has become one big conversation.” Williams, who co-facilitates weekly HYPE J™ meetings out of OIC of America’s national headquarters, embodies the energy of its founder, Reverend Leon Sullivan, and says right now he’s focused on “building institutions and saving the world.”
Isaiah Thomas, 30, CEO of Mature Cradle, Inc, is the youngest democratic City Council candidate in Philadelphia’s history. A finalist in this year’s BMe grant-making cycle, Thomas is one of the hardest working men in the nation’s fifth largest city, being nicknamed “Mr. No Days Off” by his close friends. Planning to campaign again in 2015, the b-balling Philly Roots Fellow has become heavily involved in the high-profile case of Tomayo McDuffy, even co-sponsoring a high-school basketball tournament to raise money for the Tomayo McDuffy Legal Fund. Currently working on a book about leadership, risk and courage, Thomas says “he lives to lead.”
In March of 2012, I co-organized a large-scale gathering that attracted hundreds of outraged Americans. Held in Philly’s infamous Love Park, Keon Gerow, 31, Pastor, Catalyst for Change Ministries, opened up the Trayvon Martin Brotherly Love Vigil with a soul-stirring word of prayer. Less than two weeks after the event, Pastor Gerow called me with an invitation to speak at a town hall he was hosting, it was called “Trayvon Martin: Movement or Moment.” While Gerow saw the death of the unarmed Florida teen as unfortunate, he said this is opportunity to leverage the increase of civic engagement into real-time movement building. A year later, the day the after the Zimmerman verdict was read, Gerow joined me and other activists for another vigil in the park, where he again opened up with prayer. This time the invitation to speak at a town hall took just days, as Gerow once again showed his commitment to leverage moments of heightened activism into momentum for the movement.
In the most recent example of brotherhood and warm hospitality, Gerow opened the doors of his church to Techbook Online Corporation, as the organization presented its first citywide town hall entitled the “Power of Perception.” Inspired by the case of Tomayo McDuffy—who was present at the event—Gerow co-moderated a discussion on framed around the question “how can communities engage culture to transform perception; hold media accountable for depictions that reinforce negative associations; and reset the vision of race for this and future generations? Williams and Thomas both served on the panel, along with award-winning McNair scholar Juwan Z. Bennett and Reverend Duane Wilkins, Youth Director, Philadelphia Black Clergy and Vicinity.
In Philadelphia, a city drenched in corruption, smothered in greed and laced with criminals in high places, it’s refreshing and somewhat a relief to find good men not only deserving of the title of leader, but so much more than this world could offer.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & Drumming for JUSTICE!™
Photo: C. Norris – ©2013/From L to R: Award-Winning McNair Scholar Juwan Z. Bennett, Award-Winning Social Entrepreneur Rashuan Williams, Philly Roots Fellow Isaiah Thomas, Racial Unity USA Founder Asa Khalif, Rev. Duane Wilkins, Youth Director, Philadelphia Black Clergy & Vicinity, during the “Power of Perception” city-wide town hall, convened by Techbook Online Corporation® and hosted by Catalyst for Change Ministries.