I do this for one reason – because changing the story of the black community and its place in America is the most important thing I can do.
I didn’t grow up rich, but I was a fortunate kid. Both of my parents were around. They were both loving and heavily involved in my education. My social development, on the other hand, came from the OK Program. It was there I learned how to relate to people and the value of community. I also got to see what the program could do. My first day of junior high school, the campus was patrolled by sheriff deputies and there was a shooting right after I got off the bus. It was a time when black boys were dropping out of school, going to jail, and worse yet, were being victims of senseless homicides. Over time, however, things changed. On my last day of high school, I graduated with more than 50 young black men and the only police present were the OK officers who supported us by attending our graduation ceremony. During my six-year journey, the OK Program had helped transform our entire neighborhood.
When I graduated from the OK Program, I promised Donald Northcross, the Program’s founder, that I would come back and help him once I “made it.” It took me almost 20 years, but I eventually did. I worked my way through college, got into a rewarding career, and eventually started and then sold my company. My family’s future was secure. It was now time for me to make good on my promise and work with the OK Program to bring the transformation that I saw happen in my community to the rest of America.
It is unconscionable that in our society one specific group, black males, goes undereducated, underemployed, and have higher incarceration rates than any other group. I have watched many politicians and community leaders give moving speeches on the importance of lifting up the black community, but sadly, its reality has not changed. I choose to make a difference by supporting and dedicating my efforts to the one thing that I know makes a difference and influences change – the OK Program.
It works because it is the only program that utilizes and leverages mentoring, authority institutions like the police and schools, families, and the faith-based community to achieve one goal – empowering black men and boys to transform their communities. All of these groups must change their perceptions and beliefs about each other. That starts with interaction and understanding which lay at the core of the OK Program. And when those beliefs change, the whole community changes with it. I have seen it before and I am supporting the program now so I have the blessing of seeing it over and over and over again for the rest of my life.
OK Program Graduate - 1997