Baltimore Burning. Why? When You Can BMe, like Emanuel Cephas
To the 2013 Black Male Engagement (BMe) Winter Retreat...Emanuel Cephas Jr.
"Huey Newton said Power is the ability to define phenomena and make it act in a desired manner." ~ Bobby Seale
"First and foremost, Thank you BMe. You disguised a revolution as a retreat. Here is my account of this 2013 BMe Winter Retreat"...
One day I woke up and checked my email and it was from BMe, the organization that provided me a Community Impact Grant to help me build Miyagi ("Move If You're a Genius Inside"), a movement-based math education software that will allow children use their body-movement and music to learn to solve equations. BMe said they were providing the 2013 BMe Leadership award winners an all-expense paid trip to Miami in December to attend a BMe retreat. I looked out my Baltimore window and saw snow, but stuffed some shorts in my luggage and said "Let's go!"
I honestly did not know what to expect from the retreat. I have been so engulfed in my work, to unlock the mighty mathematical minds of youth, that I forget to step back and appreciate how valuable my mission is to the community and BMe. This BMe Winter retreat in Miami treated us BMe Leadership Award winners like we were special and showed so much love and appreciation.
Arriving in the Miami airport, there was a woman dressed up and holding a sign saying "BMe Winter Retreat." She was there to welcome us Black Male Leaders from Detroit, Baltimore, and Philly. When I saw her holding the sign, I'm thinking... "Wow this is official." They went out their way to have someone welcome us at the airport and then escort us to a limousine that drove us to the hotel. Did they think we were with the Obama administration? I'm thinking, "I'm just Emmanuel..." (In disbelief of the presidential treatment). Our greeter gave me the first profound conversation to start the weekend.
She told me, "Thank you" and "We need you all down here." I said, "thank YOU. What do you mean?" She had sincerity and belief in her eyes that we can change things. "WE" as in the Black Male Engagement (BMe) Leaders from Detroit, Philly, & Baltimore.
She then plunged into talking to me about how the crime was getting worse in Florida and then went into detail of tragedies that have happened. It was as if she (this woman from London) had given up hope in the police and government and saw us Black Male Leaders of our cities as the "Higher Power" capable of bringing hope, life, and justice to the people. I was overwhelmed by her words! I kept it cool and listened. Asking myself, "Are we really this powerful?" I felt like Spider Man, when he felt burdened by his own power that he did not ask for but remembering what his Uncle Ben told him, "With great power comes great responsibility." My God, she sees us as heroes and I don't want that responsibility to be a superhero but I refuse to let down people who count on me. Now I have to work twice as hard. I thought this was a retreat; I did not expect it to get so damn deep. I didn't even make it to the hotel yet! She told me that, "You are truly special." I really believe she really felt that.
Meeting and bonding with the BMe brothers from the Philly and Detroit was more heartfelt than I anticipated. First of all, seeing these guys that looked like us, and who sweat like us and bleed like us. You put a Baltimore man and a Philly man and a Detroit man in the same neighborhood, you would not tell the difference just by looking at them. You put a group of dedicated, action-oriented, black men in the same room and the sun will rise in the night and bring new life.
The interesting thing is that when I met the other BMe Leaders, I felt like I was meeting celebrities. This is because I had already studied many of their bios and watched their videos. In Baltimore, I'm often grinding many hours alone most of the time. Riding through the city, I wonder who else is going hard. To meet these brothers, I don't feel alone knowing it's other men who stepped up to the plate and dared to struggle for the people. I met more men strong enough to rock with me.
At the jacket ceremony, BMe awarded us with stylish jackets containing a BMe logo on them. To look around and see other men like me wearing the same jackets, and who have taken on a responsibility to improve their cities, I felt overwhelmed with pride. I felt STRONGER. Each city stood together, introduced themselves, and who they dedicated their work to. People were videotaping and snapping pictures in the audience; some cried... Surreal... I accept this responsibility.
It's so many people to mention from this conference. Everything was about us BMe Winners. BMe's Baltimore community manager, Rodney, came up to us and asked us what did we need to take ourselves to the next level. I was speechless. I was preparing to say the same thing to BMe! They want to take care of us so that we can improve our communities.
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