Students going back to school had some awesome cheerleaders to usher them into the new year.
A group of 100 black men gathered outside Martin Luther King Elementary School in Hartford, Connecticut, last week, forming a line to greet kids on their first day of school, A Plus reported. The welcome was organized by Pastor AJ Johnson and attorney DeVaughn Ward and was aimed at not only getting the students pumped for school, but also changing the public’s perception of black men.
“Kids were running out of the bus to smack our hands like they were running down a football field,” Ward told Yahoo Parenting. “It was amazing to see them so fired up to go to school and meet their teachers.”
Johnson told A Plus that black men are often seen in a negative light.
“In an urban community, people say that black men [aren’t] valued or there aren’t enough black men doing something,” Johnson told the outlet.
Influenced by a group of men who held a similar event in Georgia, Johnson and Ward decided to smash those stereotypes and show the children in their own hometown the different types of careers they’re able to delve into, A Plus reported. So, the two men used social media to get volunteers for the welcome and specified that the participants wear their work attire.
“In this school they may not typically see career professionals on a regular basis. So we wanted them to see people who look like them out there supporting them,” Ward told Yahoo Parenting. “Seeing someone in a suit and tie would hopefully encourage them and give them the idea that ‘maybe someday I can do that too.’”
As the men cheered and gave out high-fives, one mother even got emotional.
“[She] was just in tears and said, ‘This is beautiful,'” Johnson told A Plus.
Johnson said he hopes to do more work and inspire change with this group in the future.
“I would like to organize these 100 men for real power in our community,” he told the outlet. “It started with us coming together under the umbrella of the children, but it’s my intent to bring power back to a powerless neighborhood through these men.”