By Verbal Adam, The Sacramento Observer
This story is co-published with The Sacramento Observer, a newspaper with more than 58 years of bringing public service journalism to the Capital City.
Dozens of local Black men in positions of leadership answered the call of the 100 Black Men organization Saturday to attend its 33rd annual youth and parents conference at John H. Still High School in South Sacramento.
The organization was founded in 1963 by a group of Black professionals who wanted to improve the quality of life and economic opportunities of Black youth by fostering better education and employment.
The organization’s mottos “Real men giving real time” and “What they see is what they’ll be” describe the organization’s goals of providing positive role models and leaders to guide the next generation of African Americans and other youth.
Its membership consists predominantly of African American professionals, businessmen, civic leaders, administrators and educators. Former New York Mayor David Dinkins and Jackie Robinson were among the first to join.
“I do believe there is a school-to-prison pipeline,” said Sacramento County Sheriff Jim Cooper, the first Black man elected to the position. “We’ve got to make sure we stop that, and 100 Black Men of Sacramento doing this is huge in my book. It’s really educating these kids and giving them opportunities. They really need that.”
As an example, Cooper noted the disproportionate number of “Black and brown folks who never graduated high school” who populate jails and prisons. “Education is key … and really brings positive influences to these kids,” he said. “And you never know what point in their lives where someone touches them. That’ll change their lives dramatically. So hopefully today we reach out to them and do that. I’m excited to be here and excited to be part of that.”
McClatchy High graduate Chinua Rhodes, the first Black president of the Sacramento City Unified School District Board of Education, also is living local history. “I think that students of color, communities that have been historically disadvantaged, we don’t lack self-confidence, often we lack self-efficacy,” he said. “And so when I walk into spaces and I’m part of the community in this way, it’s my opportunity to show our younger generations that they, too, can be in these positions of leadership and they, too, can impact their community. They’re the leaders of the future. So I try my best to be directly connected to the communities that I came from.
Rhodes, a husband and father of five, added, “I’m African American. I love our side of the city. I love the city of Sacramento. We will try to produce the cyclical effect of students being empowered knowing that we want them to come back to their communities and empower the next generation. It’s beautiful to have so many people out, from elected officials and community leaders to neighborhood folks, artists and activists, all in one space to say that you are the future and we’re here for you now.”
The FBI’s Sacramento field office, Sacramento Job Corps, Broadway Sacramento, New York Life, Capital College and Career Academy, Sacramento Public Library, St. HOPE and the American Red Cross were on hand to demonstrate their commitment to the futures of Sacramento’s Black youth.
“It takes a village to raise a child” is a phrase that originates from an African proverb and conveys the message that it takes many people to provide a safe, healthy environment for children, where children are given the security they need to develop and flourish, and to be able to realize their hopes and dreams. For the Black community of Sacramento the future looks bright.
To participate or learn more about 100 Black Men of Sacramento call 916-287-7012 email firstname.lastname@example.org