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Celebrating Black Excellence, Part One Recap

Updated March 4, 2021
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This past Thursday, It’s Time partnered with REACH Riverside for the first in a series of live virtual conversations entitled, “Celebrating Black Excellence” in Wilmington, Delaware. The conversation is available to stream on Facebook and YouTube. Logan Herring, CEO of The WRK Group led the discussion with a panel of four other black male leaders who discussed their personal experiences of growing up, living, and working in Wilmington, Delaware.

The Panel

After careful consideration, Logan hand-selected four male leaders from different generations with ties to Wilmington to make up the round table panel. The innovators explored their experiences growing up in the city, along with current and future work to support opportunities for black community members.

  1. Logan Herring- CEO of The Teen WarehouseREACH Riverside & Kingswood Community Center.
  2. Jahmere Hargraves- small business owner, co-founder, and current vice-chair of The Teen Warehouse.
  3. Markevis Gideon- Founder and owner of NERDiT Now & Board of Directors for The Teen Warehouse. 
  4. Ray Rhodes- Executive Director of the Christina Cultural Arts Center & Board Chair for Kingswood Community Center.
  5. Aaron Bass- CEO of East Side Charter School.

Some Memorable Moments:

Being behind the scenes for this event meant I witnessed the camaraderie, love, and mutual respect the panelists had for each other before and during the program. Logan Herring commented at the beginning of the program, “We aren’t just colleagues, peer coworkers, I have strong relationships with all of these men.”

A few moments that resonated with our team and audience included:

On the importance of education:

Logan Herring, CEO of The WRK Group
Logan Herring-Reach
“There is the importance (in education) of having instructors that look like you, from the same neighborhoods, and understand the experiences that they have gone through.”
Markevis Gideon, Founder & Owner of NerdiT Now
Markevis Gideon, Wilmington Delaware
“The last thing on my mind growing up was going to college. A Black teacher of mine, Jeffrey Eptein in a tech workshop came to me and showed me an old computer and said ‘Here, your family doesn’t have a computer, take it home.’ And I took that thing home and did everything but what he thought I was going to do with it. I did nothing but take it apart and put it back together over and over again. That all happened from black excellence; him seeing black excellence in me and sending me back to a black high school (Howard High School) for which I am so forever grateful.”

 

Aaron Bass, CEO of Eastside Charter School
“A study was done on the impact of black male teachers on students of color. What they found was a 30-40% increase in college ‘going rate’ and 20-30% decrease in dropping out. It shows that representation matters, that as someone who has spent his life advocating for black men in the profession it’s going to pay off. It means we have to figure out, ‘How do we encourage young men to get into the profession and actually be Black Excellence?’”

 

On the importance of community:

Logan Herring, CEO of The WRK Group
Logan Herring-Reach
“One common theme is we all had a village and support system around us and we need to get back to that, a whole community where we are responsible for each other and each other’s kids.”
James Ray Rhodes, Executive Director of Christina Cultural Arts Center
“Growing up there was always someone there to push or pull me when I seemed to get off track. A lot of these kids today have aspirations and dreams but they don’t have mentors in their lives because of structural racism and broken homes and things going on in our communities. We need to get a network of mentors and training opportunities to provide to them. I didn’t grow up with a silver spoon; I grew up with a rusty fork. I have mentors and teachers that would call my mother and grandmother and follow up. That’s what we need in these children’s lives today.”
Jahmere Hargraves, Co-founder of The Teen Warehouse
“Most of my friends took the route of getting into gangs growing up. I felt like there wasn’t any room for opportunity or hope for black young boys growing up like me. I felt that way because I wasn’t exposed to different opportunities or perspectives of life. My narrative and my view of the city shifted when I began working in the Warehouse. When I got to be around black people that are thriving and are making a change it completely shifted my whole perspective. I realized that at the end of the day I’m in charge of my narrative and I need to do my best to become the best version of myself.”

On Black Excellence and changing the narrative:

Aaron Bass, CEO of Eastside Charter School
“The key thing is to figure out how to build each other up, so that’s what black excellence means to me.”

 

Jahmere Hargraves, Co-founder of The Teen Warehouse
“For me to be a part of something that’s going to encourage my peers to do better. I had so many friends that took a negative route because they didn’t have these resources. I want to make sure the next generation to come isn’t stuck in a mindset that they can’t get out of because they don’t have access to resources.”
Markevis Gideon, Founder & Owner of NerdiT Now
Markevis Gideon, Wilmington Delaware
“People are throwing darts in the dark, they aren’t thinking about where the bullseye is and take off the blindfolds. Once you realize things are within your reach, focus on POSSIBILITY versus PROBABILITY and I swear to God it’s YOURS.”

 

James Ray Rhodes, Executive Director of Christina Cultural Arts Center
“A lot of our students don’t have a stable home environment or mentors that aren’t motivated strictly by money. I want to change the ‘At Risk’ label on certain students to ‘At Promise’ so we are filling their heads with potential. Once you start influencing students with different language and different examples you change that narrative.”

On moving forward and hope

Jahmere Hargraves, Co-founder of The Teen Warehouse
“The Warehouse gives me hope. Teens that come to The Warehouse can explore their careers and passion and will be well equipped when they go out into the world. The SAT doesn’t benefit people of color because they don’t have access to SAT Prep or the test, and that simply being supplied by The Warehouse is one example of how our education pillar in The Warehouse as a whole is benefiting the community.”
Aaron Bass, CEO of Eastside Charter School
“We need living examples of what wealth is and how that comes from your education. Where I grew up across from a crack house in West Philly, kids were making $100-200 a week. They had nice sneakers but didn’t own the block. They didn’t own real estate but they were willing to die for other’s real estate. When you actually have brothers that are doing this thing and have built that through education and black excellence then that narrative changes. What that does is it shows young people out there that ‘What you are seeing out there, that is not money or wealth.’”

 

Markevis Gideon, Founder & Owner of NerdiT Now
Markevis Gideon, Wilmington Delaware
“We need to close the digital, income and (community) wealth divide. What I’m doing with NERDiT Now is an obvious way to close the digital; donate technology back into communities and train people within the tech divide so they can gain employable skills to help close the income divide. So many of our black and brown community members are working at minimum wage which is ridiculous because we have so much excellence in us. We need to close that income and digital divide to then close the community wealth divide so it becomes an equitable country for people of black and brown skin.”

 

James Ray Rhodes, Executive Director of Christina Cultural Arts Center
“(We need to work at ) Fixing the high rate of incarceration in our black men. When you have a broken family structure that doesn’t have leadership that is needed for our young men today. If we lower the incarceration rate we will lower gun violence and also lower the number of homicides across the country. I’d like to make that a platform that stays at the top of our legislative agendas.”

Get Involved: What does Black Excellence mean to you?”

As a part of this series, It’s Time and REACH Riverside invite YOU to explore the question:  “What does Black Excellence Mean to You?”

Whether it’s artwork, video, spoken word, quotes, photos, case studies, or a crazy science experiment we want to hear how YOU see black excellence – the sky’s the limit!

Post your work on your social media with the tag #ItsTimeToREACHOut, and then tag a friend’s account to pay it forward and encourage them to participate. You can also email your entries to itstimewilmde@tappnetwork.com

The entries will be included in a blog post, social media, and eBook celebrating the series.

Join Us for Part Two!

Join us via Facebook or Youtube Live on Thursday, March 25th at 7pm for Part Two of the series, hosted by COO of the WRK Group Kenyetta McCurdy-Byrd. The second installment will focus on the black female experience of four women in Wilmington, Delaware. Sign up for the event by clicking here!

We hope these candid conversations shed a light on the true experience of black Wilmingtonians and inspire others to see that, together, we can support one another to succeed.

What questions do you have for our female panelists on March 25th? Do you have any questions for our male panel from last month? Comment below!

Continue the It’s Time journey of exploring and celebrating the vibrant city of Wilmington, Delaware by following us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube for more content. Click here to see our other blogs.

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