Benjamin Evans is the managing director of BMe Community, which seeks to tell the stories of everyday black men who are making positive changes in their city.
In the wake of a series of deaths of unarmed black men in confrontations with police officers, American’s view of race relations is as grim as it has been in 20 years. Racial disparity is particularly notable in policing, with stories of high-profile killings of blacks by police officers going viral year after year. These stories divide our nation, with some believing the slain got what he deserved and the other believing black men and boys are being targeted. Now, more than ever, we need to come together to dispel the narratives that pit one community against the other and instead uplift stories of communities working to build a better America.
If you believe that America wants a more authentic narrative on race, communities and our future then BMe Community is the movement for you. BMe is all about recognizing black men’s everyday contributions to the wellbeing of society and building America’s future based on positive values that we all share. In the distorted dialogue about race we forget that we all value good schools, safe streets, a strong economy, and a healthy environment.
Many of the men in our network have been recognized and celebrated for the uplifting work they do in their community. Called BMe Leaders, they come from all walks of life and are often unheralded leaders. They include men like Dr. Eddie Connor, who at the age of 15 overcame stage-four Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and now leads Boys 2 Books, a Detroit-based initiative that has taught more than 2,000 boys to read through interactive group learning.
They include men like Shaka Senghor, who spent 19 years in prison for second-degree murder but went on to become an MIT Media Lab Director’s Fellow and Kellogg Fellow. He gave a TED Talk that has been viewed millions of times, has bee recognized by Oprah, and has written six books, including his memoir, “Writing My Wrongs.”
And I can’t leave out Leon Ford, the unarmed 19-year-old who was pulled over by a Pittsburgh police officer who mistook him for someone else and wrongfully shot him five times, leaving him paralyzed. Today Leon speaks to youth groups about how to survive encounters with the police and also campaigns for police reform, including better training of officers and punishment for misconduct.
BMe is a national network of inspired black men like these, authentic leaders who work every day to inspire and empower others in an array of fields and backgrounds.
This month we’ve launched our Call for Stories Campaign for the $10,000 BMe Leader Award, which can be used to support the charitable work of the awardee. And thanks to our many partners, including the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, we are “breaking ground” in South Florida. We are seeking black men in South Florida who work in a variety of fields, but we are especially seeking black men that create real economic opportunities, develop asset-based resources in their communities, or are entrepreneurs that create social capital throughout their city. Editor’s note: BMe has since chosen its first class of Miami leaders. Learn more about these admirable men here.
Narratives and political framing that pit one community against another, or blame one specific community or religious group for all our problems, is old and outdated. People who are still wed to these old frames keep losing readers and viewers, elections, and community engagement because the American people are ready for a new story.
BMe stands on four ideologies. We 1) value all members of the human family, 2) recognize black men as assets to communities, commerce, and country, 3) reject narratives that denigrate people, and 4) work together in asset-oriented ways to build more caring and prosperous communities.
To date we have given the BMe Leader Award to 142 black men who lead efforts in educating children, creating economic opportunity, fighting for human rights and so much more for more than 400,000 people a year.
I know South Florida has thousands of stories of black men who work every day to build their community. BMe asks that the community give us names and share why they appreciate them. Black men can also directly apply here. Applications close March 31.
Your View is a recurring series of opinion pieces from members of The New Tropic community. To share your ideas, goals, and work about Miami with the community in a Your View piece, please submit it to [email protected]