Blog Entry Capacity Building

BMA First-Person: Reflections from the 2017 BBCLF Retreat in Greensboro

In June, CBMA convened the first gathering of Building Beloved Community Leadership Fellowship (BBCLF) recipients at a three-day leadership institute in Greensboro, North Carolina. Hosted in partnership with the Center for Creative Leadership and the Beloved Community Center, the retreat was an opportunity for the 24 fellows to bond and build camaraderie with one another, and to learn valuable leadership tools and techniques to advance their BMA work. For more insight into the gathering, read these reflections shared by some of the Fellows below. 


Brandyn Bailey -- Louisville, KY

I told God and myself that I would be completely open to whatever plans that the Building Beloved Fellowship Leadership opportunity had for me. After all, they thought enough of me to grant me this grand assignment out of hundreds of people across the country. Wednesday and Thursday were filled with the perspiration of professionals thriving, yet, hell bent on striving for the next level of achievement. Wednesday we vented. Thursday, we realized were just as powerful as the Earth’s vents, volcanos. We realized we have the power to erupt and erase anything that is no longer useful while giving new life to dead situations. Beloved situations. Beloved situations in our cities. 

Thursday we met with authentic Civil Rights activists. People who really were in pictures and videos from the 60’s and 70’s. People who sang the freedom songs when vinyl and AM radio ruled the world of audio. I wondered how big my great-grandmother was smiling from Heaven. We went to the Beloved Community Center where Mr. and Mrs. Rev. Nelson Johnson (Mother Joyce), Mr. Lewis Brandon, Ms. Cherelle, and Mr. Wes brought out a spiritual aspect of our leadership development. We had healing. Spiritual healing. The kind that makes your bosom lighter than it was the day and hour before you realized you would be healed. 


We learned that we have hope to always keep pushing forward and our ancestors are with us every step of the way.

We learned that no one can stop or derail us. We learned that frustration is inevitable, but, it is also inevitable that we’ll always have each other… Our new Beloved Family. 

Lenzy Crawford -- Milwaukee, WI

When I got to Greensboro and met some of the individuals in my cohort, I felt comfortable. All, very different, passionate, intelligent, focused...I felt as though I was supposed to be there, if not for anything else, to see and meet these amazing people. I was truly humbling to meet such amazing professionals and I spent a lot of time listening and observing. Aside from meeting the people, discussing and analyzing the 360 feedback was an emotional experience.


I had to deal with and think about myself in a way that I never had before.

Prior to me leaving for Greensboro, I often heard my daughter singing or humming a familiar tune. I can hear it now, "I'm starting with the man in the mirror..." Her words reverberated in my mind as I sat across from a stranger who guided me through an analysis of my leadership based on various levels of feedback. Again, I left that phase of the trip humbled with a clearer perspective and a more purposeful plan to grow as a leader.

On my flight back to Milwaukee, I thought a lot about what I'd experienced in this foreign place that felt like home. I also thought about how I wasn't supposed to be there...it was actually meant for me to be there! That experience is definitely the highlight of my professional experience and one of the most memorable experiences in my life!

Jareem Gunter -- Oakland, CA

The first day of the fellowship we entered a beautiful Google-like campus called Center for Creative Leadership(CCL). For the next day and a half we learned all about ourselves. Much of my life is about pouring into others so I truly appreciated having individuals pour into me. For me CCL was all about becoming the best version of myself.

CCL taught about us about being a great leader, the struggles we encounter and provided us with solutions to enhance our leadership skills. Before arriving my old boss, some of my current contract holders, peers and old employees filled out an hour long survey about my leadership skills. CCL set me up with a great coach to go over the surveys my community completed. They all looked at it like a job interview and gave me positive feedback. 


All and all the week was life changing, and the network I built is exactly what I was striving for. To enlarge my territory, to expand my network, to reach what I thought was unreachable!

You can't run a company without the proper help. Our job is to surround ourselves with greatness so we can achieve greatness. I have a chance to do that because of The Campaign for Black Male Achievement and I appreciate that.

Deonte Hollowell -- Louisville, KY

The BBCLF experience taught me so much about my leadership style. I'm glad to have linked up with people of high achievement who serve our black men and boys through various means around the country. The fellows are all so down to earth, but when it was time to work, we were able to focus as a unit. The Center for Creative Leadership gave us time to work on personal and professional development while we learned the essence of the Black struggle in Greensboro at the Beloved Community Center. Both experiences were necessary and enriching. 

 

The CBMA staff was terrific and everyone fed us so well!

Being assigned an individual coach to work hand in hand with me was humbling. I look forward to working with the fellows on projects of interest in the future and I expect us to continue to hold each other accountable for the goals that we set during our workshops. Most importantly, I am excited about what the Louisville cohort can do locally to challenge the patterns of violence the are invading our city. I am so thankful for the opportunity!

Michelle Hemenway-Pullen -- Louisville, KY

I have written words upon words multiple times in my head as I have listened to the voices of my new friends and colleagues over four days. We spent mornings and afternoons on a bus which carried us to unexpected destinations. We sat in leadership training space and space for revolution and beloved community. I listened.


I met colleagues from Louisville in the airport. In my own city, knowing many of the same people but not connected. I could see so many pathways among the three of us.

We shared a cab with a driver who challenged us to guess his country of origin based upon his descriptions and clues. This set us on a quest as a team to make that discovery before arriving at the hotel!  Though we did not make the correct guess, I felt great comfort in their presence and will never forget the gift of that drive!

Ahmad Washington -- Louisville, KY


After having two weeks to reflect on the retreat, I recognize that it would have been virtually impossible for the organizers to communicate what the Beloved Community Fellowship experience would encompasses because the opportunity, quite literally, eclipsed my most ambitious expectations.  The workshops facilitated at The Center for Creative Leadership provided detailed insights about my leadership style, and I received applicable feedback on how to strategically confront areas of needed improvement.  Renowned facilitators and accomplished professional coaches were accessible and willing to answer all of my questions. Our time at the Beloved Community Center in the heart of Greensboro felt familiar; it reminded me of Black spaces from my childhood where Black people congregated to rejuvenate, to embrace and love one another while simultaneously doing the laborious work of doggedly fighting racism and other forms of oppression and exploitation.  

I have attended retreats and professional developments seminars before, but none of those experiences resonated with me like the encounters at the retreat.

I’m grateful to have heard such moving narratives and personal anecdotes from dynamic leaders and visionary thinkers from across the country. The rapport seemed to flourish immediately, and it felt so organic. People felt comfortable being vulnerable in ways that don’t often happen in standard professional development seminars.  I genuinely care for these people, like I’ve known them for years. Part of this connection, undoubtedly, is a shared commitment to the elimination of institutional injustice and the ushering in of what Dr. King envisioned as an attainable Beloved Community.  I’m forever indebted to CBMA for the opportunity to find an extended family in this Beloved Community cohort.

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This month, the Campaign for Black Male Achievement officially announced the appointment of Dr. Robert Simmons as Vice President of Strategy & Innovation. Dr. Simmons comes with a diverse experience of curriculum development, cultivating community partnerships and