Being a Black Man From My Perspective

When I was a young boy, I often asked my parents, “why are you so hard on me and expect so much of me?” They told me that the world would not be kind to me. To be honest with you, I didn’t really know what he was talking about, but I nodded my head anyway.

I grew up playing basketball, but I always knew I wasn’t destined to go to the NBA so I used education as a tool for success. I had never heard anything positive about being an African American male from society. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  is the reason why I’m a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

I wanted to dispel the myth that African American men are uneducated, lazy and don’t take care of their families. I’m neither of what I just described. Is there pressure being a black male? The answer is yes! I feel it every day. I have to work harder than everyone else.  I always have to prove myself and I have to carry myself accordingly. One question I ask all the time is, why do I have to do these things because I’m a black male? It feels like I can never relax for a second. Why is it that people don’t trust black males? They automatically assume the worst from us and don’t let us make a mistake; it’s the end of the world. I love being a black man and all that comes with it. I know who I am, but society judges me differently. Why can’t I wear a hoodie? Why can’t I wear a certain hairstyle? Why am I judged so harshly? Why are the rules different for me? Why do I get pulled over by the police? Why can’t people see me for who I am and not “just” a black man?

I understand it and deal with it accordingly, but what about my young Verb students?  How are they handling it? Are they comfortable in their own skin? Why do teachers teach down to black men?

I would say, I have been very successful throughout my journey. I feel like when I win, we all win, but reality tells me that isn’t the case. As black men our success’ and failures divide us as men. The work environment can feel like a street environment because your success can be another man’s misery, so you have to watch your back? What happened to I win, we all win?

These circumstances make you surround yourself with only like-minded individuals but that again forces us to separate ourselves from each other. In my mind, when President Barack Obama won, I won!  I thought the success of Barack Obama would get people to see me in a different light. I guess I was wrong. I’m not giving up the fight because being a black male is awesome thing to be and I wouldn’t have it in any other way.

The belief in God gets me through my tough days as well as my good days. He knows what my calling Is. I want to thank my parents for preparing me for this world and teaching me to love myself and who I am. For that I am so comfortable in my skin. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as an Alpha I’m carrying out the legacy you started and I promise I won’t let you down. To all of my Fraternity brothers, you guys make it cool to be Black & Educated. Mary Innanculli you gave me my first leadership position at Seton Academy. Brother Tim King founder of Urban Prep Academy you let me shine so bright and let me do my thing from a leadership standpoint. I am so well prepared. Father Privett & Dr. Odom you guys believe in me so much that words cannot express how I feel. I appreciate the both of you because you have let me loose to do positive things and mentor our young men.

 

A Dream Too Big

I just completed reading a phenomenal book by alumnus and Rhode Scholar, Caylin Moore, “A Dream Too Big.” I knew a lot about Caylin, his mother, and his brother. Yet, not as much as I thought or in such detail. Typical to the area, Caylin has seen more than someone his age should see. Atypical, he never stopped dreaming…perhaps too big, many of us thought.

When I knew him as a high school student, Caylin was a bit cocky. Yet, that never bothered me too much because brothers need that intense belief in themselves, as once they leave the halls of Verbum Dei, their very presence at colleges and universities across the nation will be questioned, challenged, doubted before they even utter a word, join a study group, or turn in a paper.

What is remarkable about the book is it shows Caylin has transformed his cockiness into even more faith in himself and his god; belief in giving back to the community; and, ultimately, a firm and steady humbleness that’s difficult to articulate.

Further, Caylin devotes an entire chapter to Verbum Dei and what the school meant to his past, current, and future successes all built on a dream too big. Admittedly so, reading the book made me even more proud to spend time at this A-Dream-Too-Big institution.

So, I encourage you to go out and buy this book and learn why, through the eyes of a remarkable young man, Verbum Dei is a very special place.

Caylin on GMA: https://youtu.be/RYL4FtBzkWY

We will be having at least two book signings—stay tuned!

A New Dei

In the last book of the Bible, God says, “Behold, I make all things new” (Rv. 21,15).  This echoes an earlier assertion of God urging the people not to “dwell on days gone by” because God is doing “a new thing” (Is. 43,19).  Both of these passage came to mind when I looked back on the first weeks of Verb’s 2019-2010 school year and realized how accurately “new” captures so much of Verbum Dei today.

In late August, Verb received a large batch of new students, a sizeable cohort of new faculty, and several new Jesuits. Verb is not pining over “days gone by,” but enthusiastically welcoming new people, new programs and new possibilities.  Over 100 freshman have settled into campus life and some of them are participating in a new course designed to equip them with keyboard skills, excel mastery and basic web competence—all skills that our corporate partners highly value and have long desired in prospective employees.

Six new faculty members—3 from LMU’s credential program—will be teaching math, science, writing, and Spanish.  We warmly embrace new faculty, not simply because they fill teaching positions, but because they also bring new energy, different perspectives and fresh ideas.  Among our new staff members is Melanie Guerrero, who will be the face and voice of the front office.  Jesuit Bro. Frederico Gianelli is also new to Verb Dei, where he serves as director of faith formation programs and working with campus ministry.  Another new Jesuit at Verbum Dei is Fr. Roger De la Rosa, who comes from the Provincial Office in Portland to teach physics and chemistry.  Verb hit a new Jesuit high with four among its faculty/staff.   Brittany Bradley, formerly of is our new College.  Verb enthusiastically welcomed Brittany Bradley as its new Director of College Counselling.  Ms. Bradley hit the ground running with an engaging presentation to faculty on the college selection and application process.

Those of us who were part of the crowd at the opening of the football season on Friday, August 23 at Pius-Mathias’ new field saw new coach Marquis Bowling’s energized Verb squad in their new uniforms turn in a stellar team performance to defeat  Firebaugh 34-16.  Aug. 31, 1pm at Pius Mathias is your opportunity to see Verb’s football team in action against St Monica’s.

This year we introduced a new curriculum for Freshman that includes two English courses, one devoted exclusively to writing skills and the other to literature and reading.  We are confident that this intensive language arts focus will better prepare students for college, where writing is critically important for success.  The Principal, Dr. Odom, has introduced a new administrative team structure to provide strong support for teachers and a data-based approach to learning that will  chart the progress of each student in verbal and quantitative areas as well as identify areas where students need additional instruction. Verb is putting all the pieces in place to make sure it lives up to its new vision of being “most successful at preparing young men of color to graduate from college and lead Spirit-filled lives of purpose and meaning.”

“New” occurs at least 20 times in the above reflection.  It may be overused but it certainly gives you a sense of how much has changed here and how enthusiastically and confidently Verb embraces a future rich with promise for its  students, their families and the communities  they will ultimately serve.