ROCKINGHAM — Young African-American men who seek higher education outside Richmond County often settle in larger areas and do not return, said Tavares Bostic, founder of Brothers Leaning on Another Creating Kings.
BLACK, a group for African-American males ages 12-18 in Richmond County, will have a meet-and-greet from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday at Leath Memorial Library in Rockingham. One college-bound student will receive a $500 scholarship.
“This whole BLACK movement is pretty much to create a positive narrative for the African-American males here in our community,” Bostic said. “I graduated Richmond Senior in 2003, got a degree in social work at Carolina A&T and then got my masters at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania.”
‘VALUES THROUGH MENTORING’
Bostic never imagined he would find himself starting a grassroots movement of instilling four sacred values in other African-American young men from his home community — a place where that demographic seemed divided between those who won football scholarships and escaped to college or the NFL, and “everybody else.”
“My hope, BLACK’s hope, is to instill values through mentoring,” Bostic said. “And there are four pieces to this. No. 1 is learning and practicing the qualities that earn one the title of manhood.”
Bostic explained there’s more to laying a claim on the title of manhood than attaining a certain age. To be a man carries innate responsibilities that can be learned and practiced in education, relationships and life in general.
“Second is the importance of education,” he said. “For me, that has served me well. I have been very blessed in going to A&T and Pitt. It’s one thing to pursue education for the opportunity to get jobs and more money, but none of that matters if you can’t pull someone with you. This is grassroots, down-to-the-earth social work is what it is.”
Getting educated African-American young men to return to the community requires personal involvement and an incentive that goes beyond material ambition. Bostic hopes that they will continue the tradition by doing the same for another person, so that ultimately change would follow.
“No. 3 is these men need to understand systems,” Bostic said. “The school system, the legal system, the employment system. All of these systems work in a way that, unless you know what actions result in positive outcomes, can be discouraging for young African-American males. They can create a destructive cycle that just repeats and repeats. Learning to navigate these systems can bring about change.”
LEAVING A LEGACY
The fourth value involves something more complicated, Bostic explained.
“No. 4 is leaving a legacy,” he said. “For me, this is probably one of the most important things. Because for me to be able to say ‘I’ve been to college, I have a license, I practice therapy’ is fine. But anyone can do those things. They can attend class and turn in their homework and pass their tests, but those are just accolades, they don’t mean anything in themselves.
“I grew up in the same schools as everyone else here. I know a lot of young men grew up influenced by the thug life mentality, so what is the difference in someone like me and those who don’t move on past it?”
Bostic said in forming BLACK, he consulted with older mentors as well as younger men as he studied the complexities of the question.
“For me, that narrative of attaining the title of manhood, knowing the importance of education, understanding systems and leaving a legacy all come into play when a young man reaches that crossroads and decides which way he wants to go,” Bostic said. “At the end of that road, I’ll be there waiting. And next time, he will be there waiting for the next.”
Bostic stressed that the meet-and-greet is a free event. He doesn’t want to give anyone the impression he intends to raise funds.
“The $500 scholarship is from my personal bank account,” Bostic said. “The radio spots to get this thing out on the air is from my money. When I think of what is going to come of this investment, it’s going to be worth it. Whether it comes back in the form of money, or in the form of 10 or 12 other men who go off to make something of themselves and come back to make a difference and share those values with the community.”
Bostic acknowledged the role of social media in giving people a false sense of alliance with this or that cause.
“It has to be more than Facebook statuses. It has to be more than those ridiculous memes,” Bostic said. “But when I look to see what people are actually doing, as far as making systemic changes, what are people actually doing? I want to be to answer that question by saying I started a movement called BLACK.”
YOU CAN BE ‘BLACK’
Bostic challenges African-American men who leave the community for success elsewhere to come back and help someone else up. And as to who the older ones he’s looked up to might pass the torch on to, Bostic said the clock doesn’t stop.
“I don’t have time to wait for someone to pass me his torch,” he said. “I’m going to light my own.”
Additionally, Bostic invites people of all races to become involved in the movement and said that just because young African-American men are the intended demographic, it doesn’t mean others are to feel excluded and he welcomes all ideas.
“What I don’t want is for people to be confused by the name of the group to the point they feel excluded,” Bostic said. “I don’t care if you’re black, white, blue, orange or purple. If you have a skill you feel could be helpful to this movement and the community, you’re BLACK.”
Bostic said his intention when he set off for college was to stay as gone from here as many others do once they’ve gained an education.
“It’s easy to say that in Rockingham theres’ nothing to do, nothing anyone can do,” he said. “For me, BLACK is a mandate for coming back. And being a Christian man, I think, ‘God you could have given me this position anywhere in America, but to bring me to the place I said I would never come back to?’ I can only say that is divine intervention.”
BUILDING A BRIDGE
Bostic said doing what he’s planned puts him in an awkward position, but he believes if enough people get together and fix themselves on a common goal, an important and often unspoken gap can be filled.
“Because the young black males here do not speak like me or act like me, the other black people might consider me an ‘Uncle Tom,’” Bostic said. “While the white people just see another black man, but not a difference between me and other black men. So I’m in this in-between area. There is ignorance, but if other men come out and other people come out — this is, wow, it’s literally building a bridge. We can get this thing done.”
Bostic, a Marston native, is a licensed clinical social worker associate with a master’s degree in social work and certification in mental health. He will be fully certified for private practice in March.
For more information on the group, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 585-967-8396.
Reach reporter Melonie McLaurin at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @meloniemclaurin.