Becoming the Solution to Societies Problems
Have you ever had an idea, but felt like it wouldn’t make it very far? Do you want to change something in life, but feel like no one would support you? Are you trying to find a purpose for your people?
These are some of the questions that come up for many Black males in America. How can I put myself in a situation where I can make money and also make a difference? Many African American males don’t usually have the support systems to fulfill these dreams and are stuck in the endless cycle of being a product of their environment.
But that isn’t the case for all youth and men. There are those who look beyond the struggle to try and end them. Those who go through the struggle to reflect, and change the struggle to empower.
They have challenged the struggles that African Americans face and created a business that not only changes their lives but put food on the table, increases safety, and empowers Black citizens.
These are your Chicago close-to-home heroes.
Mark Edmond – Black Bread Co’s
His idea of creating a Black-owned business came one day during a stop at the grocery store. Edmond spent close to an hour looking for bread at Pete’s Fresh Market. He looked up bread manufacturers with his phone and saw that none were owned by an African American.
Edmond looked to change that, with the help of his friends Jamal Lewis and Charles Alexander, by starting a bread-slicing company. Using a live stream via Facebook and Instagram, the Black Bread Co. opened their business on the first of February.
One concern Edmond had with this economy is that he, and many other African Americans, couldn’t find any black-owned companies that make everyday commodities.
“We have to start competing,” said Edmond and his co-founder Lewis “As African Americans, we don’t own or make any of the products that we need for our daily needs.”
Companies like Target, Sam’s Club, and Pete’s Produce reached out to Edmond and his crew about interest in his brand. He’s also signed a contract with Meijer and Mariano’s, who have his bread in all of their stores.
Jivon Murray- Family Never Fails LLC
Murray grew up in Chicago’s Southside, but his outreach spreads all across Chicago. He is the founder of Family Never Fails, which helps provide a sense of “family” to the Black youth in Chicago who feel that they don’t have any.
This idea came to Murray during his time working with the Chicago Park District. He grew up playing basketball day and night, and knows what trials and tribulations come with being an athlete.
With him overcoming those barriers in his youth, he today wants to not only be a great basketball coach, but also a mentor and role model for kids who are going through the same process he once did.
During his six-year run with Family Never Fails, Murray has hosted two different basketball camps in Chicago. His first one was held in Evanston and his newest camp is located in the North Lawndale neighborhood.
The program is for youth between the ages of 13-17 and is open to all who want to work on their game. Local talent and potential are big reasons why he chose North Lawndale to be the placement of his basketball camp.
He has watched students play at local parks and would hate to see that talent go to waste just because the people around them won’t support their dream. He looks forward to not only to encouraging these youths’ dreams, but also to training them to become better versions of themselves.
Rock (Robert Calhoun) – Men Making a Difference (M.M.A.D)
This next entrepreneur is one of the founding fathers of the North Lawndale organization known as Men Making a Difference (M.M.A.D), and has been a light to the community ever since.
Robert Calhoun, known as “Rock” in the community, is one of the few men in M.M.A.D who decided that North Lawndale needed a change, and knew that he could do that by offering positive male role models to youth in the community.
Calhoun has noticed the increase in violence, remembering times when the community was much safer, and wants to bring that peace back.
“We were raised by our parents and other parents of the neighborhood and everybody knew each other. The community has gotten away from that, see we’re trying to bring it back,” he stated.
It was 2008, when he and his friends decided that they needed to do something about the turmoil, become watchdogs in the community, and bring back the sounds of summer.
One of their goals is to provide youth with healthy meals daily, and give them experiences outside of the neighborhood. They’ve delivered on this goal, organizing field trips to zoos and museums, and donating food to food depositories.
Calhoun has also hosted a program, Bridge the Divided, which brings the police department and community members together. Bridge the Divided workshops happen every Saturday morning. During the workshops, six to seven police officers have open conversations with the youth in the hopes of reaching an understanding of each other.
Rock has also been teaming up with others who want to help build North Lawndale back to its former days of harmony. One of the ways he does this is through an annual 1k Man March which has been receiving support from organizations like Boxing Out Negativity, St. Agatha Catholic Church, Y-Men, I Am Able, the Chicago Fire Department, and Pastor Brooks of Harmony Church.
Derek Brown – Boxing Out Negativity
Brown’s story from mischief-maker to youth organization leader could motivate anyone who feels like society gave up on them to persevere. He was one of many youths blessed with talents but with no outlets to use them positively. Before long he began to get involved in gang activity and, at the age of 17, was arrested for drug trafficking.
Since that time he has reflected on his behavior, and now uses his talents for the greater good. In 2009, he started to become an active member of the community. He met with students from William Penn elementary school and gave students free boxing lessons.
This was the beginning of a new, Chicago-wide community: the organization known as Boxing Out Negativity. The program may be focused on boxing, but it has a deeper objective. It’s also about giving youth confidence and empowerment, and ending the cycle of violence in North Lawndale.
For 13 years, he has been there for his boxers and more importantly, for his community. That includes a space for his boxers to train, and putting on community involvement events. Biking Out Negativity, one of the events hosted by Brown, is a community bike ride that promotes unity among members of North Lawndale.
Only the Beginning
But this is only the beginning for Brown, and the other entrepreneurs mentioned. They have set the bar as leaders and role models who dedicate their lives to the fruition of black lives.
Not only have they set the bar, but they’ve created a ladder for those who want change to climb, and that ladder shows anyone that they can change lives too.
Written By Daylontie Jasper
Cranes Chicago Business: Chicago’s African American entrepreneurs are seizing the moment to scale up their businesses—and create a legacy of generational wealth in the process.; by CASSANDRA WEST
Chicago Leader: Basketball Camp to Open in Blessed Sacrament This Fall; by Daylontie Jasper
Chicago Leader: M.M.A.D. Founder Robert Calhoun Contributes to North Lawndale by Daylontie Jasper
Chicago Leader: Boxing Out Negativity Youth Develop Self-Discipline and Confidence; Joseph Nelson
Featured Image by Sharon Farmer sfphotoworks Courtesy of Brookings Institution’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons Licence
Inset Images Courtesy of TNS