I walked into a gymnasium of a church in the heart of a seemingly underserved community. I saw 40 to 50 kids in open play just being kids... laughing, running, and playing amongst friends in a safe environment. It was warming to witness. I saw myself mirrored in their faces as a young teenager at the Boys & Girls Club of America. Where I learned the basic principles of fair play and teamwork. It is the place where I received help with my studies and also provided me a safe place to flourish while my parents were at work. As I looked out amongst the kids I was overcome by an ominous feeling. I imagined each one of those kids with a virtual target on their backs. I realized in that moment I was amongst the most vulnerable of all demographics in America... young black urban youth. I saw the innocence in their faces, unaware of the deliberate plot against their futures. There were basketballs bouncing, footballs flying through the air, kids sprinting back and forth. I was just enjoying watching children at play and engaging each other respectfully. One o’clock came and there was a call to order, all the balls stopped bouncing, no more squeaks of sneakers on the gymnasium floor. The older kids began to set up the tables and the younger kids began grabbing the chairs under their direction. In a short few minutes all attention was focused on a deep forceful voice, the very same voice I heard when I walked in. Calling every child by name with intimate details of their lives. Asking about that struggling grade in the class they’ve been working on together, the progress reports given from parents about their performance in school that week. That voice was of the programs Director and CEO, Attorney Vernon Jackson. He starts every meeting with an hour history lesson, one that would certainly not be found in any Duval County course curriculum. Followed by a small group break out tutoring session where each kid gets individual help from mentors and tutors, followed by team building physical activity. The history lesson was the most inspiring part to me. The targeted context was just as informative as it was applicable. In this place of Christian worship and fellowship he taught them the significance of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and his vision for the Nation of Islam. His lesson, however, had nothing to do with religious dogma. He spoke of what it meant to be a self-sufficient community. Discussed the principles of group economics and pooling resources and investments that directly impact your community. He laid out the principles of a black progressive. God, family, education and giving back to your community. He spoke of self identity and pride. Explained the scope of which America chooses to view you versus your TRUE identity and lineage. Mr. Jackson delivered this message in such a way that only another young black male could identify with and understand. Like them, I was enthralled. Watching them receive the unveiling of the deliberate systematic oppression veiled in habits and social morays vicariously gave me tools to use to my own advantage. It's hard to be blind sided when you know what's coming. I was hooked, I knew this was something I needed to be involved with. I wasn't alone in that sentiment. I was joined by many other fathers, mentors, and concerned men of the community all choosing to stand with and for our kids.
We all know the overwhelming statistics showing the plight of young black males in today’s society. We all know the problems facing our youth, its time to start focusing on finding the solution. Attorney Vernon Jackson began drafting his solution more than 3 years ago. He started BPM for his teenage younger brother and his friends. He wanted to give them a banner to fly under and a mantra to live by. Creating that since of belonging, surrounded by positivity and tangible support. He's done just that. BPM has more than 50 active participants in Jacksonville and chapters in 3 cities...... They meet bi-weekly with math tutoring available on Wednesdays at the public library on 103rd in between. His vision is lofty and admirable. It starts with the youth, but BPM is forming a coalition of activists, parents, and students all pushing together in unison to change the climate and dynamics of our communities. It starts from within, he hopes to equip the kids with the knowledge and tools to succeed. So many of our youth will never get that opportunity due to factors beyond their control. It's on us to bring it to them. This is not a passive program that indirectly helps a few kids. It requires more caring and even effort. As of now BPM has been completely self-funded by Mr. Jackson and supported by his church "We're for Jesus," on Main St. That is soon about to change as BPM is growing and proving its value and worth. I share the vision of Mr. Jackson and I'm going to do all I can to support going forward. Not just with money or a portion of the proceeds from the 2nd Annual Derby Affair on May 7th (PLUG!) but with my time, talents, and resources. BPM and The Talented Tenth Enterprises would love your support. Not just in coming to a dope party with other young professionals but joining us in improving our communities by helping our youth. You're needed, we need your time, talents and resources. Let's talk about it at the Derby!