At MBK Rising!, we captured portraits of some inspiring attendees who are building a brighter future for boys and young men of color. Click on their portraits below to learn how they're serving as their brother’s keeper.
Seneca Nation, New York
Giving back is so important to me. I work hard every day for those who came before me and for those who will come after me. We need to be the change we want to see in our own communities, so I strive to be an example of resilience, dedication, and service to younger generations. I want to help them reach their fullest potential to serve our lands, waters, and communities.
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
I am bettering my community for boys and young men of color by providing a sense of fun, unity, and love through the work I do. Whether I’m helping at a community engagement event, or providing services to those in need, or just simply going to a high school to speak with students about their day, I try to incorporate those three things. Fun is necessary because as men of color, we feel as if we can't relax and smile because of the challenges we face. I want to create a safe space for them and help them understand that love is vital because it's the one force that can heal all pain and save lives.
Every day, I try my best to lift up my brothers mentally, economically, physically and spiritually through my organization, Tendea Family. I see the issues and problems so many of my brothers face as my own personal problems. Therefore, I make it my personal duty to create and to be a part of finding solutions for my community. I am my Brother’s Keeper because I have dedicated my life to being a useful servant to my community. I love my people.
I am bettering my community for boys and young men of color by using photography as a medium to highlight the positive moments of black, brown, and other young men of color in Boston. This allows me to strengthen my passion for the arts and capture precious moments so that everyone can see.
New Orleans, Louisiana
I was always taught that "you are the change and the light you wish to see." I encourage boys and young men of color to believe in themselves and to know that they have a purpose. I visit schools to speak, I host empowerment programs, and I do book readings. I am a self-published children's book author and used my profits to provide 1,000 underprivileged children in my city with a copy of my book that teaches them that there is greatness inside of every single one of them. My book features a young black son, a father, Jayce as a King, a superhero, a doctor, a photographer, and more! Representation matters. I show young men of color a better way, and I give them hope of a better life and brighter future!
Growing up, role models were scarce. I faced many challenges without really knowing what was right or wrong. As I grew older, I understood what my role in the community should be. Sitting in a jail cell, I found my true purpose: I want to help people in under-resourced and impoverished communities because I was once overlooked, too. Today, I want to serve as a living testament for kids who grew up like me to show them that anything is possible.
East Lansing, Michigan
My freshman year of high school, I decided to sit during the national anthem at my basketball games. My coach wanted to understand why I made that decision, which led me to write an essay. This essay laid out about the history of housing discrimination and redlining in the area of East Lansing, Michigan. My work ended up getting attention from the Mayor of East Lansing and City Council, and they ended up creating a resolution apologizing for the discriminations based on what I included in my essay. I also asked that the school change some of its curriculum to include history that's simply missing from our text books. I'm proud to say I was able to provide input on what went into the new curriculum, which will be implemented this year. I hope this kind of work will better my community for boys and young men of color for generations to come.
Elliot Kelly Jr.
08_ElliotKellyJrI am bettering my community for young men of color by helping them develop confidence and self-awareness. I coach a sport and my entire coaching philosophy is rooted in the belief that the sky is not the limit, the mind is. I teach young men that as long as they have vision, action and commitment, they can achieve greatness in any endeavor they pursue.
I am bettering my community for boys and young men of color by taking up the torch of mentorship. Through vulnerability, experiences, and opportunities, I hope that my brothers will see that they're not alone on this journey called life and that anything is possible. As long as they can dream it, they can do it. My goal is to create a world for these boys and young men of color where the only barrier to success is their own imagination.
New York, New York
I am bettering my community for boys and young men of color through my nonprofit, the Victor Cruz Foundation. It focuses on developing and supporting S.T.E.M. education programs in underserved communities like the one I grew up in. My goal is to engage and introduce S.T.E.M. careers to young men of color who will be our future engineers, scientists, analysts, medical professionals and more.
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, North Dakota
Being from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe located in North Dakota, I am bettering my community for boys and young men of color by giving tools and opportunities to younger generations who will become the leaders of tomorrow.
Washtenaw County, Michigan is my community, and I am bettering it for the boys and young men of color by providing the support they need, so that they can achieve their goals and recognize their potential. I've extended every opportunity I've gotten to them because I believe that they are worthy and capable of anything that comes their way.
I am bettering my community for boys and young men of color by being a leader and not allowing anyone to stereotype me based on what they might see on television. I learned so much from my time at MBK Rising!, and it has helped me to be more focused on making a real difference. I help other young people when I work at the Boys and Girls Club in my community, and I volunteer at church with the children's ministry, but I want to do more. I know I can make more of an impact by attending our monthly MBK meetings, where I can contribute more by talking about areas we as a group can improve our community, including violence prevention and trying our best to talk through disagreements that may come up.
Santa Clara, California
I am bettering my community for boys and young men of color by being a role model and by directing resources as part of my team’s social justice initiative. I am 22 years old and last spring I graduated from the University of Tennessee with a degree in Communication Studies. Over the summer, I embarked on my career as a professional athlete for the San Francisco 49ers, and I took advantage of the opportunity to show what it means to be a professional at my craft, which includes learning every aspect of the business. I’ve had the honor to serve as a mentor to boys of color through the 49ers PREP clinic—a place that teaches healthy life skills to the youth at our local Boys & Girls Club. My team, from our organization to our players, have chosen a social justice initiative each year and this year we chose the MBK Alliance.
Demarest, New Jersey
Until this question, I never really thought about helping or bettering the lives of boys of color. Thinking about it now, I know there has to be something I can do to help. I can ask if they're okay or if they're being treated unfairly. If I see a boy who is lonely, I could ask to be their friend to be there for them and help them avoid depression. Small things add up, after all.
Spartanburg, South Carolina
All my life I've been around the "Hood," however, I've never been a hood dude! I fit in and get along with everyone, so I use that ability to make differences with all people I encounter. I share my story, good and bad, with my peers to keep them from making the same mistakes I made. Hopefully, it will make a difference along the way. I do the work that I do because I'm genuinely interested in making a difference in my community, with my peers, with myself, wherever my community may be. What keeps me going when things get rough is my family, my community, my school, my mentors, and my church members. They all see something in me and encourage me to step up any way I can.
As a Cities United Roadmap Fellowship Coach, I provide mentorship and support for young people in their fellowship program. This enables our national fellows to gain resources, networking opportunities, and support in their work addressing trauma in communities impacted by violence. Additionally, I believe that partnering with local government and city leads allows young men of color to grow in safe, healthy, and hopeful communities.
I am bettering my community for boys and young men of color by dedicating myself and my time to be an impactful mentor. I spend my time with schools and community-based organizations working with other boys and young men of color. I want to provide guidance, mentorship, and any resources I can to help them reach their fullest potential.
I am bettering my community for boys and young men of color by serving as a youth leader and demonstrating to them that anything is attainable. I want to serve as an inspiration for those who lack youth role models like I did. Growing up, I struggled to associate myself with other kids my age who were similar to me and who had the same goals, but now I make it my mission to be who I wish I was when I was younger.
I am bettering my community for boys and young men of color by gathering the people in our community to plan and create a community garden. The aim is to expose youth to healthy ways to make food and how to come together as one to complete a community project.
Demarest, New Jersey
I'm bettering my community for boys and young men of color by leading by example. I don't let anyone judge who I am especially if they don't know me. I'm proud to be half Filipino and half Liberian, and I know I'm special in my own ways. I'm a little sister, and I am my big brother Dylan's keeper.
I'm bettering my community by making music that helps me heal; my generation will see that and feel an eccentric sense of self-worth and liberation. Today's musice scene is controlled by negative stereotypes, and we are in desperate need of what it means to make positive music. The opportunity to speak to Mr. Obama about this issue has motivated me to keep working to succeed and become what I aspire to be. I want to change the world by being the change I want to see, and music is key to that.
Los Angeles, California
I am a former incarcerated grassroots leader. I try to use my story to change the hearts and minds of elected officials to ensure that they make our communities better and that they know incarcerated people deserve second chances. In the past five years and since coming home, I have been deeply engaged and involved in local and state change.
If you want to stand for something, stand for someone.
Each of these young people has committed to rise as one by giving back to youth in their local community. Join them by volunteering to mentor a young person in your community today.