Are Black Men the Hidden Geniuses Building Our Community?

Reprinted from Huffington Post, June 20, 2017

Starting on Father’s Day, BMe Community recognized 29 inspired black men as Community Geniuses and award each $10,000 for programs they’re leading to “build more caring and prosperous communities” in Akron, Miami, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

“Our movements need men like these,” says political commentator Van Jones. “They’re the ones the community trusts and listens to because they’re the ones who are always there helping – regardless of whether we acknowledge them or not.”

BMe Community Geniuses come from all walks of life including Mayor Oliver Gilbert, 45, of Miami Gardens; former STOMP percussionist Elec Simons, 35, of Akron, OH; Safi Juice owner and founder Rasheed Sharif, 31, of Pittsburgh; Psychologist Dr. James George, 38, of Philadelphia and neighborhood leader James Mungin, 27, of Miami.

The honorees all have just two things in common. One, they’ve sworn their lives to helping others. Two, they succeed in places where others cannot.

“BMe is different,” says it’s founder, Trabian Shorters. “We build on the assets of the black community. When you add up the impact of our Community Geniuses, no matter what race or gender you are, you’ll want to celebrate and build the future with us.”

That celebration and building begin with BMe Community Genius Awards shows taking place in Miami (June 21st), Akron (June 29th), and Pittsburgh (June 30th).

BMe Community is the same network that made waves last fall by depositing $1-million into black-owned OneUnited Bank. The previous year they published New York Times bestseller “REACH: 40 Black Men Speak on Living Leading and Succeeding.”

Since 2013, BMe’s 194 Community Geniuses have helped more than 2-million families acquire health, wealth, education, safety, justice and housing opportunities. BMe Community offers additional networks and opportunities for people of any race or gender.

BMe Community Genius is the largest fellowship in the country for black men social entrepreneurs; and is backed by leading foundations including the John S. & James L. Knight Foundation, William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trusts, The Campaign for Black Male Achievement and The Heinz Endowments.

2017 BMe Community Genius Honorees:

Philly

· Ameen Akbar, 39, is the Director of Student Life at YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School (YPCS). Akbar will use his award to help up to 250 Youth Build participants.

· Vincent Cobb, 30, is the CEO of The Fellowship. He has created the largest gathering of Black Male Techers in Philadelphia. Vincent will use his award to do a city-wide educator awards show with state, local, and national partners to strategically leverage support for Black educators.

· George James, 38, is the CEO of George Talks LLC. George will use his award to create a men’s mental health-related nonprofit and develop additional programming to help over 250 Black men.

Miami

· Mario Bailey, 36, is the Senior Government Relations Consultant of Becker and Poilakoff and founder of Mary’s Kids. Mario will use his award to create a web platform to coach students on how to navigate college.

· Malik Benjamin, 39, is the managing director of Institute of Collaborative Innovation, LLC and the founder of Creative Mornings Miami. Malik will use his award to continue to interweave powerful networks in Miami.

· Chad Cherry, 37, is the owner and CEO of Refresh Live Café Inc. Chad will use his award to expand and support mentoring programs.

· Damian Daley, 36, is founding partner of Wilson Daley, PLLC and Vice Chair of the Board of Director of Catalyst Miami. He will use his award to provide academic intervention and mentoring to students in the Overtown/Liberty City area.

· Oliver Gilbert, 44, is the Mayor of Miami Gardens. Mayor Gilbert will use his award to purchase computers for college-bound seniors.

· Sir Charles Hill, 31, is the Managing Director of Echo Tech Vision Foundation. Sir Charles will use his award to strengthen support of the financial literacy program within Miami-Dade County.

· James Mungin, 27, is the Technical Director of the African-Heritage Cultural Arts Center. James will use his award to strengthen his media production apprenticeship program called All Like Minds, Inc.

· Dawyen Sekajipo, 31, is the president and CEO of Sekajipo for the People Productions, LLC. Dawyen will use his award to produce a documentary and compilation album featuring youth, local artists and activists who come together in the studio to discuss issues facing the youth of Miami.

· Kevin Smith, 33, is the Director of Smith Capital Investments and a member of the Millennial Investment Group which works with OneUnited Bank to purchase and upgrade housing for more sustainable communities. Kevin will use his award to help sponsor at least 100 students from Florida Memorial University who are interested in career opportunities in commercial real estate.

· Rev. Joaquin Willis, 67, is the Pastor of the Church of the Open Door. Rev. Willis will use his award to invest in his 2017 Leadership Development Summer Camp that will include a new and expanded focus on teen entrepreneurship and year- round employment.

Pittsburgh

· Julius Boatwright, 34, is the founder of an incredible new approach to community mental health called Steel Smiling. Julius will use his award to fund mental health support for Black families and children.

· Paradise Gray, 52, is the teaching artist for 1Hood Media which trains young people to master media in all is forms. Paradise will use his award to create jobs and invest in media skills development training.

· Christian Hughes, 25, is founder of Drafting Dreams which teaches principles of architecture to K-12 students. Christian will use his award to further that work and to expand opportunities for real-estate ownership in Pittsburgh.

· Marcus Jeter, 34, is the President and CEO of Resus Technologies. Marcus will use his award to complete iOS software that will help create jobs.

· Quincy Jones, 39, is the President of the Beltzhoover Neighborhood Council. Quincy will use his award to invest in workforce development.

· Majestic Lane, 40, is the Deputy Chief of Neighborhood Empowerment for the Office of Mayor William Peduto. Majestic will use his award to invest in entrepreneurship programs.

· Godfrey McCray is the President and CEO of Youth for a Brighter Community. Godfrey will use his award to increase financial literacy, business development, community development, and self-sufficiency for young leaders.

· Sharif Rasheed, 30, is the owner of SAFI Juice a cold-pressed beverage company committed to health and wellness. Sharif will use his award to make his healthy products available to charitable groups and causes at affordable prices.

· Dr. John Wallace, 52, is the senior pastor at Bible Center Church—The Oasis Project. Dr. Wallace will use his award to train people on “How to rebuild communities from the inside out.”

· Robert Wilson, 40, is the CEO of Rob Wilson TV, a financial advice web station. Robert will use his award to launch a film and book which highlights amazing but untold stories of success in the black community.

· Lance Woods, 31, is a member of the Real Estate & Lending and Corporate & Business Law Groups. He will use his award to fund the “Uhuru Law Project” which represents individuals seeking gainful employment or housing, through criminal record expungement.

Akron

· Public Relations expert Fred Barrett, 45, is president and founder of Social Good TV (SGTV) and will use his award to provide increased coverage of people and organizations who work for the public good.

· Eric Fletcher, 33, is the president and founder of The Young Black Professional Coalition which focuses on the personal, professional and social development of future leaders. Eric will use his award to work with local black businesses to train and employ high school students.

· Rev. Eugene Norris, 49, is the CEO of Fame Fathers. He creates fatherhood initiatives to combat infant mortality rates in Ohio. Eugene will use this award to provide 200 fathers “Precious Cargo” training.

· Kwame Scruggs, 49, is the founder and director of Alchemy which teaches powerful award-winning life and leadership skills to black boys. He will use his award to fund a variety of in-school groups and a summer camp for about 90 youth.

· Elec Simon, 35, is a prolific musician and actor who toured for over a decade with the Off-Broadway show STOMP. Elec will use his award combat bullying and to supply young people with musical instruments.

BMe Community is an award-winning social enterprise dedicated to “building more caring and prosperous communities inspired by black men.” It operates the #1 fellowship in America for black men social entrepreneurs, brands hundreds of community events, and produces award-winning solutions-oriented content.

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