A Grateful Rumbler

by Rashaad Abdur-Rahman

It is often said that BMA starts at home. I would offer that BMA starts with you.

--Rashaad Abdur-Rahman, 

Director, Mayor’s Office for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods, Louisville, KY

My hours and days following Rumble, Young Man Rumble 9 (#RYMR9) were filled with an immense and nearly overwhelming sense of gratitude. It strikes me that in Louisville – the epicenter of Black Male Achievement (BMA) – we dedicate a tremendous amount of energy to our mission to continuously elevate on national and international stages what makes our city so special.

 The home of Muhammad Ali is, in many ways, hallowed ground when it comes to the rich field of BMA. The truth is we sometimes forget what we have in our own backyards. We can lose sight of the fact that BMA work necessitates our own personal journeys of healing, illumination, and growth. This is what brought me to the deep sense of gratitude that I was experiencing long after the Rumble 9 closing bell was rung. After spending several days in a powerful space with hundreds of incredible people, it was the individual and intimate conversations held between dear brothers that brought me the healing and affirmation I did not know I very much needed. It was the coffee conversations between the Rumble “bouts” and the post-opening bell hot chicken sandwich catch ups that fed parts of me that had been starving.

It is often said that BMA starts at home. I would offer that BMA starts with you. The communal and collective care that Rumble spaces prime us for defies a logic model, but still, it must be scientific. As sure as relativity, healing becomes part of the RYMR equation.

At the beginning of Rumble 9, I shared that "Louisville will fare as the young Black men and boys of our city fare. Meaning, we will never achieve our full potential as a city so long as Black men and boys suffer the brunt of our greatest disparities and inhumanities. I have a tendency to think about problems from a population-level health perspective; however, the revelation for me required more of a micro reflection. The people around me, who love and care for me, are affected and impacted because of whatever it might be that affects and impacts me. Not only did I require these moments of genuine connection and affirmation, but the people around me needed me to get those things so that I can be my best self – ultimately, so that this Black man can achieve and be a better husband, friend, leader, uncle, brother, and mentor.

"The people around Rashaad will fare as Rashaad fares. Not because their lives revolve around me, but because we are connected in ways that are tangible and intangible. We belong to one another."

As I reflect on this experience, it is Ali’s principle of “Respect” that most resonates with me. For Ali, respect meant “esteem for, or a sense of the worth or excellence of, oneself and others.” These feelings of esteem, worth, and excellence in the context of the community of people who make Rumble what it is perfectly characterized this moment for me. There are elements and characteristics of Ali’s other principles that speak to my Rumble experiences – belief, devotion, and a sense of inner-peace.  All of these connect to what Rumble means to me.

There is no doubt in my mind that we are at a precipice for elevating BMA efforts in Louisville further than ever before. The Office for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods (OSHN) remains committed to further defining what it means for Louisville to be the “epicenter” of this work.

I echo the ethos that what got us “here” won’t get us “there.” We have got to evolve, dream bigger, be bolder, and be even more ambitious. Our work now is to build something that will outlive all of us, and OSHN is working to coordinate with Louisville’s hometown heroes on this front. We want a clear policy agenda that defines a blueprint for what local and state legislation can look like to reduce or eliminate harmful outcomes. We want a Black Male Achievement endowment fund that builds real resources to support community-based efforts to love and support Black men and boys. We want more organizations boldly adopting anti-racism frameworks that require integration of practices that address structural violence against Black and brown communities. We want the spirit of Rumble to drive further into the grassroots so that more young Black men and boys know that they matter, that they are the cavalry and know they have the skills to dismantle structures that sustain oppression.

I ended this most recent Rumble in deep gratitude. Grateful for the people in my life, grateful for what I get to do every day (and who I get to do it with), grateful for this city that rumbles, and the timeless legacy that binds us. We have a lot to do this year, but the drumbeat of Rumble beats in my spirit. When I look around at the hometown heroes in my city, I am filled with another of Ali’s principles: Conviction.

Rashaad Abdur-Rahman is the Director of the Mayor's Office for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods in Louisville, KY.  Learn more about his work here