Organizational effectiveness is often the key component to an organization’s success. The Black Men and Boys (BMB) Leadership Academy demonstrated “effectiveness.” The experience was indeed awesome as multigenerational Black men and youth met for six weeks.
The participants were highly motivated and committed to any and all changes that needed to be made in their lives. These men demonstrated personal and professional excellence. They came from all social stratifications, yet were willing to set aside their societal identities to become “one family” for the six weeks that the academy met.
I know success when I see it. As a professor and an organizational psychologist, I can say that this leadership academy supported both the pedagogic and non-pedagogic (there is no direct antonym for pedagogy) environment that fostered learning across all social stratifications. I call that “success” when learning can take place “across generations” simultaneously. We observed this during each weekly meeting at the BMB Leadership Academy.
In the academy, we intentionally incorporated four outcome components: 1) involve and engage the participants in discussion, 2) help the participants develop a strong awareness of their own “sense of self” (motivation grows from this), 3) encourage the participants to share their own stories and 4) assist the participants in building relationships.
We are pleased to announce that we graduated 23 participants from the Academy on June 9. From the beginning, we established certain requirements that our participants had to meet in order to graduate. Participants had to become involved in Building Healthy Community (BHC) meetings, serve on one of six BMB committees and develop a community project, in addition to maintaining good attendance at the academy sessions.
We had a diverse group of African-American males who came to us from community college and parochial school systems; were aspiring or established private business owners; were single or married men, fathers and professionals, as well as those still sorting out their career options; were foster youth, young adults and mature males. We accommodated men and boys from all socioeconomic levels. There was no “hierarchy” because we were all interested in being one family during each weekly meeting. We averaged about 25 participants for the six weeks that we convened at Fresno’s African American Museum―a location that proved to be appropriate for this initiative.
Our various guest presenters were equally diverse in their representation. Fresno City Council Member Oliver Baines, Dr. Keith Foster, Dr. Lee Farley, Charles Francis, Joe Covington, Michael Lefall, Landon Green, Daren Miller, Tate Hill, Dr. Kehinde Solwazi, Dr. T. Hasan Johnson, Rev. Floyd Harris, Richard Stone, Dr. Don Cheek, Rick Gaston, Dr. Robert Watts and Keith Kelley all participated at different times to lend their insights and expertise.
Women presenters were also invited to the academy because we are a people who believe in balance, and no society is great without its women and men working together. Also presenting were Dr. Karen Crozier, Dr. Francine Oputa and Colette Nwonye.
Our presenters all engaged in Q&A, which was most valuable to our participants. The academy participants were like sponges, soaking up information, taking notes and gathering business cards.
The last day of the Academy was special for us. During our Empowerment Day, we had 47 certificates for participants who had attended one or more sessions of the Academy. For that day, we also invited facilitators to set up real-life scenarios and invited our participants to problem solve. We had individuals like Miller, Lefall, Green and Covington help facilitate the scenarios.
Monica Blanco from the BHC joined us and shared information on an upcoming grant opportunity and forthcoming BHC meetings (as well as her special homemade cupcakes―mmm, so good). Several of the males are applying for the grant.
Our participants will also go through the “Incubator in a Box” training. This upcoming training will help academy participants develop their own business plans and other useful tools. The $100 registration fee will be underwritten by the Fresno West Coalition for Economic Development (FWCED) for all academy participants.
As the BMB Leadership Academy coordinator/consultant, I brought to this project my own professional organizational development psychology skills, which give me the ability to recognize and assess change and increased productivity. I can tell you unequivocally that our participants’ lives have been inspired for personal change as a direct result of these weekly presentations, discussions and establishment of personal goals.
This leadership academy can be credited with producing an incubator of future African-American male leaders. They are ready to be mentored and put to work in the community. If your organization would like to partner with the BMB Leadership Academy, contact the FWCED’s Keith Kelley, who is currently working to launch “Cohort (2)” of the academy. This academy is distinctive in that it is the only one of its type in Fresno. We are currently seeking funding to develop the second phase of the academy and hire permanent staffing.
According to Karton Brown (King Tut Mosis), who attended the academy and was recently elected vice president of Fresno City College’s Associated Student Government, “It was a very powerful and spiritually impactful experience. The workshop medley was very much in sync with us. Becoming strong, independent entities make us the new infrastructure of our communities.
“Our newly emerging leaders are in the making. [Leaders] like Bro Lee Majors, myself and others took this academy very seriously for providing us the opportunity to understand how to serve our west-side community. We are compassionate individuals and willing to orchestrate change within the communities’ right where we reside. We are ready to be invited to serve our community.”
Bro Majors explained the importance of setting aside our differences and taking care of the children. Brown stated, “Even with minor differences in the room, we were able to show respect and love to our fellow brothers, and respect is what we are lacking in our community. As a young brother, I myself could feel the power radiating from the group as a whole. I loved just about everything about the academy. We found our common purpose and it seems we are all ready to take it to the next level.”
A big shout-out to all who made this academy a huge success. For information on the BMB Leadership Academy, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or Keith Kelley at 559-485-1273.