Young Black Success Spotlight: Jedidiah Brown

Great men are not born great. They are made great through the adversities and trials they overcome for the sake of others. – JT Waresak

FB_IMG_1448772596917As I was grabbing some breakfast on the go (I’m always working and therefore eating on the go), something on the television in the dining area grabbed my attention. I had already planned to sit by the window, but what I saw on the television was so amazing, I simply sat down right where I was.

It was CNN.

Not only was it CNN, but someone I knew was being interviewed. It was Jedidiah Brown.

I had been trying to get one of my young people from Pathfinders (aka Young Black Success) to interview him – for over a year now. His schedule just didn’t allow for it. But seeing him on CNN reminded me of why I wanted all the young men in my organization to know him.

So I decided right then and there to write about him – myself.

I do not remember exactly how I came in contact with him, but I FB_IMG_1448771470917remember knowing more about him, than he did me, when we met for lunch at Obama’s favorite food establishment in Hyde Park: Valois. I had left local youth work and was well into national youth work, so I was not particularly following what was going on in Chicago specifically. Upon my return, all I heard about was the work of this young guy whose name I couldn’t pronounce. People were shocked that I did not know about him.

I was pretty impressed right from the start of lunch as he had something most people I meet with don’t have: a plan. Without a plan there is no direction. It’s OK if your plan is not rock solid. Life happens and things come up, but having a plan allows you to look back and evaluate any progress you have made and tweak things going forward.

I reached into my pocket and gave him a donation towards his work.

I don’t quote Jessie Jackson often, but the greatest thing I ever heard him say personally was something along the lines of how causes/campaigns/change all need money to be effective. We are quick to march or protest, but when it comes to freely giving of our own money, well…

Without money you can do nothing. NOTHING.

People are very attached to their money, especially these days. One of the greatest gestures you can make to show your support for something or someone, is to give your money towards it. Randomly walk up to someone and give them $10 and watch how happy they are going to  be.

Every time I have seen Jedidiah since, I have made sure to leave a donation to support his work.

After he heard I was working with a mentoring program, he invited me to a session he was invited to speak at for  Steve Harvey’s Mentoring Program. Now he could have chosen to go on his own, after all, the invite was for him – but to share that invitation with me because he knew the connection would benefit the young people I work with showed a great deal of character. Ironically, his assistant who generally travels with him wasn’t able to make it. So I immediately agreed to step in and fill that role. Of course he was against it at first, after all, I am older than he is. I learned a long time ago that it does not make you any less of a man to serve someone else when you are able to and your services are clearly needed.

A few months later I hosted an event at my church for youth in a mentoring program I worked with in the Austin area (Austin Dream Makers). It was a panel comprised of African American young adults who were doing big things in several areas: politics, finance and activism just to name a few. I invited Jedidiah – he invited the rest of the panel. You can tell alot about a person’s future by who how he/she chooses their friends.

I’m pointing out these little things for a reason.

FB_IMG_1448772684406A very touchy topic for most people is politics. People generally judge others by their politics. People expect you to think like they think. Your opinion has to be similar to their opinion. You can easily make an enemy out of some people simply based off your political views.

Here is where my respect for Jedidiah lies. He sets an example I hope all young people in my program follow. It’s the basis for why I am taking the time to write this essay.

Leaders have to make decisions – not for popularity – but simply because they are the right decisions to make. People always ask me why so many young people chose to follow me when I don’t have any titles or positions and my answer is always the same: leadership is the ability to empower and inspire others. Jedidiah is the perfect example of this.

His views and opinions are his, based solely off of what he believes to be right. He doesn’t really care about what everyone else is doing or thinking. He knows that if everyone is thinking and doing the same thing, then that makes everyone average. He has no desire to be average.

When you stand outside of the box, you become outstanding.

So this is my “thank you” to him. My motivational message to the young people we serve and a reminder to myself that trials and tribulations come just to make me strong.

Like Jedidiah.

-F.W.

My Father Is Gone…Moving Forward

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When I originally sat down to write this I started and stopped about four times. My heart is still very much so mending, so how could offer up help to those in this situation. For whatever reason being a part of this group wasn’t something I saw for myself, but who does? It’s not as though anyone asks for it. It’s a card that is dealt to us, the old maid, that hard pill that one has to swallow and all that comes with it. Losing a parent is never easy; having one killed is an altogether different story. It’s not as if families can come together to say final goodbyes and prep for the inevitable. That option is out the window and never to be seen again. Everything felt rushed and as life was going on my head and heart felt like it was stuck in mud trying to come to grips with everything that has transpired. It’s only when Friday turns into Saturday, Saturday to Sunday, and so forth do you realize that getting from day to day is somewhat laborious in the beginning but then you realized you made it and here you are.

My father was killed on the West Side of Chicago in May of this year. That was all of five months ago. Feels longer but hey I’ll take it. I remember getting the news, the calls, texts and Facebook messages that followed. All the news seemed to chip away at the bubble I tried to build for myself in the five minute after finding out, to hide from the truth that I won’t be able to see my father on my next visit home, I wont get the chance to finally ask the questions I longed to ask, I wouldn’t be able to mend our relationship and build it into that perfect father-son relationship I longed to have since I was kid. I cried of course. I got a good cry in before greeting the world and I believe it was the most therapeutic thing I’ve done to get through it. Deep loud sobs that seemed to make my body shiver, then I heard his voice in my head as though he was next to me. “It’s going to be okay. It has no other choice but to be okay.”

I got out of bed and showered and began to think about how everything will be okay. In the dark I let the water fall and cleanse my body in the hopes of cleansing my heart. I got dressed and sat back down because I couldn’t really do much. My body betrayed me I thought. I lay back down and began to surf the web. I received a link to the local news coverage of the situation and even got to see a video of the report. It looked like a scene I had seen all my life in movies and TV shows when something like this happens. Families gathered outside asking questions and demanding answers that aren’t readily available. I heard a familiar voice in the crowd scream in pain and anguish. For a second I forgot what I was watching and realized that this is my family being captured on the screen. That sense of “It’ll never happen to us” was gone, we were living it, it happened. Before the tears fell again I closed my lap top and began to think about my father and the times we spent together.

I went back to my earliest memories of the man I called Pops. There was happiness, sadness, anger, bitterness, and some resentment. Feeling all those things in a short amount of time is enough to make anyone go a little insane. I knew I had to address these emotions to come to a solid ground with how I truly felt about this situation. I was sad, obviously, for losing my father, he is after all half the reason as to why I’m here. I was mad, very mad actually; it wasn’t until I tried to rationalize why and who I was mad at did everything start to make sense to me. I was angry with my father for things that happened throughout my life and not being there and not being here now. I was angry with the

person who decided to play God and took my father’s life. I was angry with myself mostly because I didn’t put forth the effort I knew I could put forth in building our relationship. Again tears fell. After those emotions settled I had to take a step back to make sure that’s how I truly felt. I had to make sure I was being honest and fair to myself, first and foremost. My father’s claim to existence wasn’t being a father, he was a man first. Who was this man? Who was the man I called Pops? He was born and raised in Chicago, December 9th. If one is to read the horoscopes and see what it says about Sagittarius you would have read up on my father, out spoken, sarcastic, blunt, straight forward, and funny. Raised in Cabrini-Green. My Father had an interesting way of looking at the world. One in which I’m still trying to fully understand.

Being born two hours shy of his birthday I kind of figured I would have some sort of insight into his thought processes and to an extent I did. I looked at myself to understand my father. I looked at all my personality traits the good and the bad. I looked at the things that annoyed me about my father and realized that I embody some of these traits. I learned that I wasn’t upset with personality traits but more so the decisions, but understanding his personality I was able to understand some of the decisions that were made. That doesn’t mean I agree with them at all, I merely understand them and ultimately that’s all that can be done. It was at the funeral that I was able to see I didn’t just lose my father, my brothers and sisters did as well. The people he came in contact lost a friend and mentor. His aunts and uncles were missing a nephew, my nieces and nephews lost their grandfather, his partner lost her companion, all varying degrees of blood ties and mental and emotional connections, but all sharing in the pain of this tragedy.

So after all that, how does one get passed it all and move forward? Short answer, you live. I made a promise to myself that I would do exactly what my father wanted me to do. I will live my life. I know that things will never be the same. I won’t be able to call him to bail me out of sticky financial situations, or call to say hi. But I can do what made him proud of me, and that’s being me. Even though we weren’t the closest we had some very real conversations. My parents always instilled in me the importance of following your heart and by doing that they will be happy for me in whatever it is I choose to do. I got to share my joys with my father before leaving Chicago. He got to see me do what I loved most, dance. I channeled my energy into doing that and this passed month I got back on stage for the first time in almost a year. It was the first time in a really long time that I moved with a purpose and in doing so I felt alive. I was no longer afraid of doing things without my pops, I’d been doing it. My father was always in my corner. Now he’s in my corner from a different plane of existence. I move forward with that knowledge. My father is still with me, still with my family. There was once a time when I thought that there was a hole in my heart that could never be filled. There was a void yes, but not the one I originally thought. My father isn’t gone from my heart or my memories, he lives there. His love and his energy live through me as I am his seed. I know I am only missing the physical presence of my father and there are times when a phone call home would make it all the better and like clockwork I get a call from my sister or mother or cousin. I learned to cherish those I have with me presently and honor those who have transitioned. It is a task, and one that is very difficult. I’m still learning, still discovering new things about myself and all of it leads me to a better understanding of the one who was taken.

Pathfinders Facilitating at Illinois Mentoring Partnership Event September 9, 2014

dmcghee1As faith-based mentoring programs continue to grow and thrive, in Illinois and around the country, the Illinois Mentoring Partnership is pleased to offer this specialized workshop to help you strengthen and grow your program. Continental breakfast is provided and registration is required. Below are some of the topics and issues we will cover:

  • Mentor/Mentee Recruitment–How do I engage my congregation in mentoring? Should I engage others outside of my congregation (and religious denomination) and, if so, how should I do that?
  • ScreeningDo I need to screen my church members? How much screening is required?  If I can’t accept a church member due to something that comes up during the screening process, how do I tell them?
  • MonitoringWhat if my church members don’t follow the program guidelines and expectations, once matched? My mentors want to “preach” to the mentees. How do I explain they can’t do that in my program?
  • FundingHow can I find funding for my faith-based mentoring program? Companies don’t always want to fund programs with a religious theme.

This workshop will be facilitated by experienced organizations that have created and maintained strong and effective faith-based youth mentoring programs for several years:

Matt DeMateo, Executive Director, New Life Centers of Chicagoland
Frank Walker, Consultant – Pathfinders

SWAG Bags Come To Austin In Time For School

detailIn the past two months, we have spent an unprecedented amount of time in Chicago’s Austin community. This is not by chance. Our Youth Leadership and Development Director has spent the past few months teaming up with Adam Bates of Bates Consulting, and the Prevention Partnership, going into schools such as Prosser, ASA, Douglas, Christ The King, Banner West to name a few, as well as community based organizations Austin Voice, WestSide Health Authority, 15th District Police CAPS and HSI giving youth 6 hours of evidence based training’s on anti-violence, career development and community development – in a non traditional setting. (a few young men from these locations were later processed and entered into our current intensive mentoring program). This allowed us to see that Austin has more youth at hope than it does at risk.

We then spent the remainder of the summer at Austin (and a few East Garfield Park) church summer camps, bringing our series “Wake Up & Be Awesome” to the youth they served in the community. These churches were able to get award – winning facilitation for $0 – $20. (Some of these youth were processed into our current intensive mentoring program).

As you can see, we have been busy in Austin. More than 450 youth came in contact with some one from our team in the last few months.

This is why we chose Austin as the community to distribute our SWAG BAGS to. We traditionally look at what others are doing and try to do the exact opposite or go above and beyond, with the understanding that you can’t continue to do what you have always done and expect a different outcome. SWAG BAGS are perfect for families with hardships as they get replenished each time a report card is turned in. Basically they get a year’s worth of school supplies! (Regardless of what is on the report card. The purpose of the report card is to help us identify with the parent School_supplies_1what additional needs or services we can help them meet to make sure graduation IS an option).

Youth in our mentoring programs should expect a delivery from their mentors in the next few days. Non Austin residents can also get a bag for someone with a hardship with a donation (we will track that child for a year as well, boy or girl).

Each bag is different. Mentors try their best to select items from the school supply list of their mentee. Non program participants can also send in a list. We will do our best to select items needed.

All 200 SWAG Bags were made possible by donations. We want to say thank you to the following for helping a young person who’s family is facing a financial hardship: Luther Syas, Rena Robinson, Great True Vine Baptist Church, Reba James, Jeff Green, Tyiesha Walker, Annie Tillery, Rashaunda White, Tim Morris, Jennifer Polk, Tikisha Williams, Edward Binion, JaJuan Walker, Keneisha Hughes, Malikah Robinson, Tanice Walker, Tiffani Walker, James Walker, Prevention Partnership, Juan Castile and all our anonymous donors. (This list is as of  August 29, 2014)

To order a SWAG BAG for someone not in one of our programs, and facing a financial hardship, please use the form below. Please note: we are giving out bags year round, please be patient. Bags for non-members of our programs are distributed after members receive theirs.

Introducing Our Fall Series: “Make The Right Choice”

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This summer we brought “Wake Up & Be Awesome” to over 200 young people between the ages of 10 and 21 from Chicago, Atlanta, South Carolina, Orlando and Alabama. With school starting back we are proud to introduce our new fall series “Make The Right Choice”.

Whether you believe it or not, everything up to this point in your life that has or has not happened to you is, because of the choices you have made. Every aspect or our life, when examined a little closer, can be traced back to a series of choices we have made.

Just like all of our award winning programming for black youth, we make learning the ultimate experience. We have a unique and effective way of working with young people that inspires them and has them looking forward to the next session – as opposed to some who may dread going to school every day.

The pillars of this series are:

  1. Habits Are Powerful
  2. Character: Take Responsibility For Your Actions
  3. Control The Atmosphere: Anger Management and More
  4. Baggage Claim: Let Go of the Past, Check Your Bags At The Door

“Make The Right Choice” is a 8 hour session that can be done in several segments that can be determined by your schedule. As always, we never turn any group down due to lack of funds, so make your reservations to book us now!

For more information, email fwalkerjr@me.com

You can still order any of our previous sessions, as well as, our other mentoring and tutoring services year round.

Annual Family & Friends Fundraising Challenge

family-and-friendsThe 8 members who make up the Pathfinders organization participated in the annual Family and Friends Fundraising Challenge. Each person had to come up with a unique way to raise up to $2,500 each to support the work of the organization for the remainder of the fiscal year. Most of the organizations we serve are not able to afford the full costs of our services. In fact, some of our work is done at locations who do not have the ability to pay at all.

Although the challenge ended on August 1, 2014, we are always open to donations, gift cards, tickets to events, clothing to distribute and more!

Below is a list of the top 3 fundraisers:

  1. Justin Hall, Midwest Region ($2,013)
  2. Samuel Smith, East Region ($1, 921)
  3. Frank Walker, Midwest Region ($1,430)