(Alex Peay, 25, is founder and president of Rising Sons. Credit: Cherri Gregg)
by Cherri Gregg
Philadelphia (CBS) – The John S. And James L. Knight Foundation started the Black Male Engagement Initiative two years ago. And now thousands of African American men are coming forward to tell their stories of success. BMe provides a platform for men to connect and engage with one another online and through networking events.
“Regardless of what you’re seeing, there are Black men out there doing good things,” says Alex Peay. “There are Black men out there making a difference, they are doing their part. There’s just so much negative media out there, you just don’t see these men on a regular basis.”
Peay, 25, is founder and president of Rising Sons, a group that works with men age 18 to 28 to help theme gain work skills through civil engagement. He received a BMe grant last year after submitting a videotape telling the story about his life and his work.
“One of my friends- Will Douglas-calls himself ‘Project X,’” says Peay. “He’s 20 years old. I’ve known him since high school and he got involved in gang violence after graduation. Out of no where he was on my porch saying he needed a place to stay.”
Peay says the friend watched Rising Sons in action and soon got motivated.
“Now he’s in Pierce College studying African-American studies,” says Peay. “He’s a devout Christian now, he’s a poet now.”
Through BMe thousands of men in Philadelphia, Detroit and Baltimore are connecting with one another and changing the dialogue about black men, says Donna Frisby-Greenwood of the John S. And James L. Knight Foundation.
“What people are saying is wow, you are changing the narrative of what we’re used to seeing,” she says. “We’re used to seeing Black men are incarcerated or Black men are dropping out of school. And now you are giving us Black men who are business ownershttp://images.intellitxt.com/ast/adTypes/icon1.png, Black men who are non-profit leaders, coaches, community leaders, mentors- that’s not what we are used to seeing.”
Men like Steven Scott Bradley (Photo; Below). He’s president of Bradley & Bradley Insurance Company in Old City. He’s a father. He’s also President of the African American Chamber of Commerce, involved in several non-profits and active in his church.
“I’m the youngest out of seven. And I’m a first generation college graduate,” says Bradley. “I always wanted to work in corporate America. But I always had a passion for my community and for being a positive role model.”
Bradley says he got involved with BMe to show there are many ways black men find success.
“I’m not athletic, didn’t play college basketball or football, but I have attributes that we as black men have in common,” he says. “You don’t always have to be in music or in entertainment to be successful.”
Bradley applied for a 2013 grant earlier this month.
Frisby-Greenwood says the new initiative not only helps the men spread good will in the community, but it also connects them to each other and to resources.
“When the men come to our networking events, they are glad to meet other men who are positive like them,” she says. “It’s really cool to be able to connect men who don’t know each other across sectors.”
For more info on BMe or to hear their stories, go tobmecommunity.org.