Blog Entry Education, Narrative Change

Reflections from the My Brothers' Keeper Regional Summit in Long Beach

by Robert W. Simmons III, EdD

I am from a place where being home before the streetlights come on means just that. I am from a place where I hated high school and struggled to make meaning of why I had to be there. I am from a place where 8 Mile Road is more than a movie by Eminem but the dividing line between city and suburbs. I am from a place where my father’s incarceration during my life forced me to deal with my own anger and mental incarceration. Dr. Robert W. Simmons III, CBMA VP of Strategy and Innovation

During the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance (MBKA) Regional Summit in Long Beach, California, I delivered the above words as part of my welcoming remarks at the opening night reception. They are words that reflect my own story of struggle, success and picking myself back up again, and which allow me to appreciate not only where I come from, but who I am today.

Throughout the Summit, I was captivated by the numerous other stories that were elevated by so many boys and young men of color. These stories included one young man’s transition from incarceration to being a returning citizen. Another talked openly about his journey to recovery after struggling with addiction. There was the student who shared his success of graduating from high school with honors; and the emerging leader who spoke about his efforts to uplift families in various communities.

Yet, it was the story of a young, African American man graduating from a Long Beach high school that brought me to tears and to my feet. As this young brother talked about his challenges along the way, I was enthralled by his reflective nature. While he acknowledged the specific context of his neighborhood and the associated challenges of growing up in a space ravaged by crime and poverty, he was equally effusive with praise for his teachers and family. 

His reflections encouraged me to look at the High School Excellence (HSE) Framework that CBMA has constructed as something more than a checklist of things to mark off in ensuring that young Black men complete high school college, career and community-ready. In fact, his story and dreams for the future further underscored why relationship-building continues to be one of the core principals of our HSE work. 

CBMA CEO Shawn Dove always says, “There’s no logic model for love.” There are however, consequences if we fail to reflect deeply on our willingness, as adults, to build relationships with Black men and boys and help them function and navigate in a world that views them as threats all too often. As schools across the country head into the 2017-2018 academic year, CBMA’s High School Excellence Framework is a call to look beyond what’s in front of us. It’s a call for all adults connected to young people to look back on the trials and tribulations of our own journeys, and the impact that positive relationships with teachers, administrators and other caring adults have had on our lives. 

Through self-reflecting, and determining the appropriate actions in our schools and communities, we can truly ensure that High School Excellence for all Black males becomes reality, and that stories like the young brother from Long Beach becomes the norm for Black men and boys, not the exception.

 

 

 

 

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