I Am My Brother came together because two passionate leaders who shared similar backgrounds saw a gap in community services and resources for Young Men. I met Lela when she booked me to speak at I Am My Sister’s Teen Summit in 2013. After we got to know each other’s story it wasn’t a question on IF we would work together, it was a question of WHEN we would work together. I’ve always thought about working in the non-profit world, so when Lela presented the chance to head the I Am My Brother initiative I jumped at the opportunity.
I have a unique experience that pushes my passion towards advocating for Young Men in our community. When I was 13 years old, an Eighth Grader, I became a Father to my oldest child Lakera. Being a Father at such a young age came with many challenges as you could imagine. However, as I looked back at my experience I noticed that there weren’t many services that helped kids that were going through challenges similar to my own. Lucky for me I had an amazing support system which allowed me to Graduate High School, accept a Football Scholarship to Stony Brook University, Graduate College, and at the age of 26 obtained sole custody of my daughter. To help you understand how rare my situation is, less than 1% of Teen Fathers get their college degree by the age of 30.
Even though I was able to accomplish things that most Young Fathers haven’t, it was a struggle. I’ve never had a group, institution or organization advocate for me. Most of the people who were considered leaders never expressed any interest in my plight. I know that there are many Young Men who are in dire need of advocacy and programing as was I who need someone like me to use my experiences to fill that void.
After 2 years of research, speaking with and listening to Leaders and Youth in our communities, we are ready to establish programs and events with a goal to become an essential part in the development of Male Youth in our communities. As Director, it is my priority that we reach as many Young Men as we can and provide the type of support that I needed when I was at my most vulnerable stage in life.
It has become common among Young and Older Men to refer to each other as Bro., short for Brother without thinking about what it means to refer to someone as such. We want to give new meaning to the term Bro which is Brothers Recognizing Opportunities. We hope that I Am My Brother can provide opportunities for our Young Brothers to be prideful in themselves, their families and communities.