dario-stephens_web.jpgMIAMI-DADE — For more than four decades, 100 Black Men of America chapters in the United States, the Caribbean and England have touched the lives of more than 500,000 young people.

 

Locally, the 100 Black Men of South Florida, Inc. has been a staple within the fabric of the South Florida community since 1989. The “100” has a record of making a difference for young men and other youths by providing them with the skills needed to succeed and be competitive.

With a mission to improve the quality of life of all citizens and enhance educational opportunities for African Americans, members of the 100 come from all walks of life. They serve as a force for helping young people overcome cultural and financial obstacles, while highlighting the achievements of African-American youth with emphasis on males.

Thousands of young people are given the support they need to compete in society through the organization’s “Four for the Future Programs” that focus on mentoring, education, health and wellness and economic development. The programs include:

Leadership Academy

With the support of several corporate partners, the organization has successfully linked young black males enrolled in its Leadership Academy to academic, cultural and professional advantages. The “Young Leaders” are involved in historic tours to develop their knowledge of African-American history. They are equipped with financial practices to ensure their personal success. They learn to embrace their leadership responsibility to serve others. Most notably, they are matched with members of the 100 for years of mentoring.

Currently in its 15th year, the academy has mentored more than 1,200 students. The academy has provided specialized programs for improving cognitive skills. Students participate in twice monthly knowledge building sessions at the Overtown Youth Center. The purpose is to develop leadership skills, conflict resolution tactics, self-awareness, self- confidence and personal responsibility. The sessions also include academic tutoring, discussions and presentations from community leaders and career specialists.

Through the years the Young Leaders have extensively traveled the United States, including New Orleans, Las Vegas, Washington, D.C. (the U.S. Capitol), Atlanta, New York City (New York Stock Exchange, the World Trade Center, Broadway and Harlem), Detroit, Orlando and Rosewood, Fla. They also have been certified in CPR, have conducted a mock trial, observed the behind-the-scenes preparation for horse racing and taken camping trips with the Sierra Club.

Many of the students have matriculated through undergraduate and graduate college as well as the armed forces, and received some of the more than $300,000 in scholarships through the 100’s fundraising activities such as the annual Signature Weekend gala.

Youth Development

The Positive Youth Development program is designed to support and encourage students to achieve in school despite the peer pressure to do less than their best. The students not only are praised through awards, some have had their names highlighted on a billboard near their school as an incentive to achieve. This program has reached thousands of youth, male and female, through the middle schools in Miami-Dade County.

Health and Wellness

The 100 also sponsors the upcoming Thanksgiving Food Drive that has fed more than 31,000 families since its inception 21 years ago. A traditional holiday basket that includes a sizable turkey, and other food are provided through Publix, and packaged at the Overtown Youth Center and later distributed by another corporate partner, UPS, to various community-based organizations in Miami Dade and Broward counties.

Not quite a month later, community organizations are given the opportunity to shop at 100 partner Target. Participants, both boys and girls, are given a chance to provide Christmas gifts for family members as well as themselves. Some 4,500 have had a brighter holiday since the organization began this effort at the old Zmart Department store in Liberty City in 1989. Later during the event, Burger King provides education to the participants at their world headquarters in Miami.

The 100 also partners with the local chapter of the Sickle Cell Anemia Foundation for a walk to bring awareness to the problem of sickle cell anemia in the black community, and partners with the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life to address disparities in the invasive nature of cancer.

The 100 Black Men of South Florida’s success is the result of committed volunteers and corporate partners investing their time and resources to support young black males, their families and the larger community.

Photo: COURTESY OF AKEEM BRUNSON, 100 BLACK MEN OF SOUTH FLORIDA

FRUIT OF MANY LABORS: Dario Stephens, a graduate of the 100 Black Men of South Florida's Leadership Academy program, spoke to an audience of 100 members, family, friends and corporate sponsors about his experiences during the organization's recent annual gala.