Blog Entry Narrative Change, Education

Why I'm Committed To Being My Brothers' and My City's Keeper

by Sheba Rogers

Recently, after attending a My Brother’s Keeper Alliance partner meeting in Washington, D.C. I found myself reflecting more deeply on what it means to be an advocate for Black men and boys, and why this work is so real and personal to me.

It was something about the meeting – or perhaps something about my life and all that I bring with me to this work – that made me reflective. During the course of the meeting I’d gotten two phone calls from the Oakland County Jail, where two of my older brothers are incarcerated. My brothers call weekly to check in on the family, tell me how much they love and miss everyone, and request money for their expenses. At least once a month I take the 45-minute drive to personally deposit money into their accounts, keeping true to my word to always be my brothers’ keeper.

Growing up, my siblings and I were very close and did everything together. I recall our daily hustle to get to school, which was our sacred time where we talked about our lives, our family struggles, our future, and all that we desired to have and be in life – much different than what we witnessed at home and in our community.

Having been raised in a low-income household on the eastside of Detroit, I experienced the repeated incarceration of my mother, which had a profound impact on my eight siblings and me both emotionally and academically. Witnessing our father, who stepped up to gain custody and worked two to three jobs to care for us, changed my life. His experiences as a single-father along with those of my brothers showed me first-hand the strength and resiliency of Black men, as well as the peril and setbacks so many of them face.

Those experiences continue to inspire and drive me to advocate for the lives and futures of our Black men and boys, and remind me why the field of Black Male Achievement is so crucial.

As a proud Detroit native and first-generation college graduate, I am committed to changing the narrative and trajectory of education, achievement and success in my own family, city, and for all Black youth who I believe should be able to thrive and succeed no matter their circumstances. Matriculating through undergraduate and two graduate programs helped to deepen my understanding of the systemic issues and challenges behind what I witnessed growing up and still today. My experiences at Howard University, University of Michigan School of Social Work, and the Harvard Graduate School of Education, alongside my family and community journeys, nurtured the seeds of determination and advocacy instilled since childhood.

Having watched four of my five brothers become disconnected academically and ultimately drop out of high school (two of them later went on to complete their G.E.D.'s) I began asking questions around why and how opportunities, resources, and supports needed to succeed were so limited or non-existent for Black families like mine. This inspired me to seek out every opportunity possible to engage in research, programming, and policy discussions with the hope of expanding needed and culturally relevant opportunities, resources and supports.

Further, being able to do this work in Detroit puts me in a position to give back to my city all that it’s given me, and more.

Since joining the Campaign for Black Male Achievement (CBMA) earlier this year as Promise Of Place Program Manager, I’m now even more directly connected to tackling many of the systemic issues that face Black men like my father, brothers and other men in my life and community.

Given my understanding of the unique challenges facing Detroit’s Black male students, I am excited that CBMA’s High School Excellence work will deeply engage high school males to ensure they are supported on a social and academic level, able to graduate on time, and equipped to succeed in post-secondary programs and in their careers.

Among many things, life has taught me that to whom much is given, much is required. I made a decision to move back to Detroit from Washington, D.C. to join dynamic leaders in the city who are committed to our youth, community, and social justice. I am filled with such honor, inspiration and hope to still be in my community helping move such important work forward, and give thanks for the many heroes and sheroes that have paved the way. 

Related