By: Jamar Hebert, Chapter President, 100 Black Men of Greater Florida GNV, Inc.
February is here and it’s once again time to commemorate Black History Month – a time when we pay tribute to the contributions of African-American citizens and pay tribute to heroes who took a stand to right wrongs throughout our history, from slavery to segregation.
The month of February gives us an opportunity to honor the contributions of exemplary citizens and leaders who have shaped our country from the days of the Revolutionary War through the abolitionist movements to the Civil Rights marches of the 1960s – all the way to today. It is also a time for ourselves to fully attain Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of a day when no person is judged on anything but the content of their character.
But while this is a fitting time to reflect, it’s also a time for action – a time for asking what more we can do as citizens to create a More Perfect Union and do our part to model understanding, justice, and equality.
Issues like racism and discrimination can quickly become divisive. When the majority of our engagement with these topics is on social media, it’s often not long before the conversation devolves into division and political score-settling.
For me personally, I have found the best and most productive use of my time and focus is to pour those resources into tangible programs in my local community. Rather than seeing Black History Month as something that happens in a book or in a distant past, we can choose to see it as something we can actively take a part in today.
I have the privilege of leading 100 Black Men of Greater Florida Gainesville, which I co-founded with a group of local and regional leaders across the Gainesville and Ocala area – one branch of a national network with a long proud history of providing mentoring and other guidance to young African-American men.
The first 100 Black Men of America chapter was founded in 1963 by a small group of visionary businessmen and industry leaders in New York City, including baseball icon Jackie Robinson and future New York City Mayor David Dinkins.
It was a very different America then.
But the same driving impulse was there, as successful entrepreneurs and community leaders came together to make an impact in the lives of African-American youth and their communities, laying the groundwork for what ultimately became the national non-profit federation former in 1986 that we can recognize today.
In the years since, the organization has grown to more than 106 chapters, including ours in 2019, backed by more than 10,000 African-American men selflessly giving their time, energy, and focus to strengthening the educational, economic, and social status of the next generation. As a national organization, more than 125,000 youth are reached each year by our range of training, mentoring, and development initiatives.
- Our mission can be summed up in our motto – “What they see, is what they’ll be.”
- We focus our efforts on a wide variety of initiatives, tackling pressing challenges in areas like mentoring, education, health and wellness, economic empowerment, and civic engagement.
- It is a joy to contribute to an organization that highlights for our young people the full range of opportunities they can aspire to; for example, we are very proud of a minority-led program focused on career opportunities in aviation. Far too often, our young people limit the scope of their ambitions and dreams simply because they have never been shown that they can aspire to achieve anything they set their minds to accomplish.
This mission has always been personal to me, back to the spring of 1996 when I found myself accompanying an educational software CEO to a sales pitch as part of a mentoring program. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I was simply told to be on my very best behavior. I can still remember pulling up to the gates of the meeting venue and seeing some of the most prestigious African-American men in the community – attorneys, doctors, politicians, community leaders, educators. I began to see new possibilities, and new avenues that could be open to me that I had never considered.
I know firsthand how important it is for our young people to have role models as an active presence in their life, showing them the full range of possibilities open to them. That’s why I’m so grateful to all who partner with our organization today.
Since our re-establishment in 2019, we have helped forge a consistent presence in areas of schools and community – with resources and an established track record in neighborhoods across the country to achieve our common goal of lifting up our youth and empowering them to make the most of their talents.
I’m grateful that Cox Communications has been a strong supporter of our work with 100 Black Men, including providing me the opportunity to present on our work and recruit support from colleagues across the organization.
- Their full support and backing is just one tangible demonstration of Cox’s long-standing commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and building a workplace that can fully draw on the talents of a diverse workforce.
- Cox has excellent programs in place to encourage and enable our professionals to volunteer, including giving employees two days each year to volunteer while still receiving pay. I highly encourage you to take part in this program if you have not done so already, and I am happy to connect you with outreach opportunities through 100 Black Men.
Please feel welcome to contact me or write to firstname.lastname@example.org; we are happy to provide you with information on donating, partnering, or volunteering with the organization. We are all surely pressed on time with professional and personal commitments, and we aim to make it as easy and pain-free as possible to get involved.
However you choose to commemorate Black History Month, we can all be proud to contribute to a workplace that is committed to tapping into the talents of each and every individual.
For more Black History Month features, visit yurview.com/BlackHistoryMonth.