Students socialize during a break in one of the Brotherhood Crusade’s motivational speeches. (Troy Tieuel)
When black men gather, assumptions are always made; most of them turn out to be incorrect. The Brotherhood Crusade has teamed up with JP Morgan Chase Bank to move past those false assumptions and forge a new independent reality based on success and positive choices.
“Men of color don’t study,” said George Weaver, as he spoke sternly to 40 high school sophomores. “Men of color don’t dress appropriately.” Each student brought their personal style to play as they listened. Some preppy with bowties and sweater vests, others sported a laid back tie and slacks looks. Bald heads, high top fades and even a set of neat dreads could be seen. “Men of color don’t know how to talk,” Weaver went on pacing the room, describing his words with gestures from his hands. Standing in a room like that, a person can’t help but make assumptions about what each person’s personality, but hearing the students speak, those negative ideas were erased and replaced with a more positive concept.
The students sat alert and erect in chairs arranged in a ‘U’ shape with Weaver standing in the center, a projector illuminating a screen behind him. Multi-colored ties hung from the student’s necks. The color of those ties varied as the tone of their skins. Weaver’s own tie hanging as the flagship of a grand fleet would display their nation’s banner. “Men of color are able to excel beyond measure, when they are given the confidence to succeed.”
He stood still for a moment as his words sunk deep within the gathered youth’s minds and their eyes glimmered with realization, one by one gaining an understanding, sitting more upright, fidgeting less and a confident look crossing their brows.
That confidence is the key to them becoming successful in life and George Weaver understands that very well. Weaver is the Program Director for the Brotherhood Crusade and its newest partnership with JP Morgan Chase bank has allowed these 40 high school students to gather at the firm’s downtown offices to participate in the ‘Fellowship Initiative in L.A.’
The ‘Fellowship Initiative in L.A.’ is a five year academic and social program where the youth will receive academic tutoring, professional development and one-on-one mentoring from JP Morgan Chase’s highly qualified group of volunteer senior bankers and area academic experts. The youth, who range in nationality from African American, Hispanic and Pacific Islander, will meet three Saturdays a month dressed professionally in shirt and tie.
This past January 10 marked the Initiative’s first official meeting and the students, after a meal, academic tutoring and an eye-opening motivational speech by Weaver, met their mentors for the first time.
Ramone Rachell, a student from Morningside High school in Inglewood, looked forward to meeting his mentor. Rachell, who has aspirations of playing professional sports, is being paired up with an former professional athlete.
“I really don’t have a father figure in my life,” said Rachell, “so, I am looking for [my mentor] to guide me and show me all the things that a male, black man is supposed to do. I’m just hoping that we will be able to connect.”
The future looks bright for these youth who are sacrificing a big part of their social and recreational lives to come out and be a part of this Initiative.
Malcolm Johnson, Rachell’s mentor, spent four years playing in the NFL before returning to school, getting his M.B.A. and becoming a Senior Vice-President at J.P. Morgan Chase Bank. Johnson hopes to be a positive part of his mentee’s life.
“The reason I’m here is because I believe in these young men,” said Johnson. “As a bank, we have made a tremendous commitment to their academic futures and I want to be a part of that.”
The Fellowship Initiative is about more than just helping students with homework and eventually get into college and a job, it’s about guiding the paths of those in need and providing something that they would otherwise be without.
George Weaver speaks to a gathered youth and simultaneously shows them that it is up to them to make their paths in life. (Troy Tieuel)
“I’m married with three kids of my own,” said Johnson about his plans for bonding with his mentee, “and I have already told the three of them that my mentee is going to become our fourth child. So everything from attending my mentees basketball games to, hopefully, attending graduation ceremonies, plays and having him do the same with my kids. I really want to indoctrinate him into what it means to be a Johnson, what it means to be successful, and to what his role and responsibility is to the community.”
Expect big things from these 40 students over the next few years as they grow under the guidance of their mentors. JP Morgan Chase has other initiative programs like this one in New York and another in Chicago.
“It’s not just the roll of the public school system,” said Dalila Wilson-Scott, President of the JP Morgan Chase Foundation, “Corporations can make a dent in huge social issues.”
For more information on JP Morgan Chase’s Fellowship Initiative, go to http://www.jpmorganchase.com/corporate/Corporate-Responsibility/the-fellowship-initiative.htm