New 100 Black Men President says Fighting Poverty, Mentoring Youth Critical for Syracuse's Future
The group 100 Black Men of Syracuse is trying to improve the lives of inner city youth by showing them a better future and connecting them with mentors.
The group just elected a new President, Drake Harrison, who wants to continue the focus on young people and increase collaboration with other groups. He worries the value and the future of children can be lost just because of where they live.
“There’s a plethora of talent that goes unnoticed, unrecognized. We have to stop looking at zip codes to determine whether a person is valued or not.”
Fundamentally, he believes the group and its programs can offer something to youth.
“Giving them a platform and foundation for success. Obviously education is important. But I think that beyond English and math and science courses, students and young people need to feel good about who they are. I think a lot of times that’s lost. And I think what we try to do as an organization is to give people a confidence about who they are and that they can achieve anything.”
Harrison notes one of the barriers they often come up against in trying to help youth is commitment.
“We’re dealing with young people who are coming from homes where that environment doesn’t lend itself to the support that they need. We try to put ourselves in the position of the helping hand, we always talk about that external family, and we try to be that external family if you will.”
He explains one program area for 100 Black Men is called Youth Empowerment Programming. Kids learn about history, life skills, art and have a chance to work with mentors. The group offered a robotics program and hopes to expand that this year to also focus on drone technology. They also hope to take a group of young people to the African American Museum in Washington D.C. The organization also gets involved with other groups to make a difference for youth, something Harrison hopes to expand.
But he notes any efforts to help youth with their future have to go hand-in-hand with work to alleviate poverty in Syracuse. If not, the region suffers.
“I think you have to address poverty because if you don’t it’s a downward spiral. This is the way I see it, we have the Camillus’s, the Liverpools, the Skaneateles’s, the DeWitt’s, but … do you think people from outside this region know people don’t know about (those suburbs and villages)? They know Syracuse. So if you allow your urban area to die, then in my opinion you have killed everything around it. So why not address the poverty in this area?”
Harrison is director of the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (C-STEP) at Onondaga Community College.
The group has an event coming up Wednesday; The Morehouse College Glee Club performing at Bethany Baptist Church. Information about the event and the group is at 100blackmenSYR.org .