I’ve known David Miller, the founder and CEO of the Dare to Be King project for a long time.
His brother Peter and I graduated from Walbrook High School in 1983 and David graduated from The Brook, one year later. And he’s been working with and mentoring Black boys and young men pretty much ever since.
“This is all I’ve ever done…I was a school teacher in Baltimore, I taught over at Baltimore City Jail for a number of years teaching life skills and then myself and LaMarr Shields, we both decided to leave the classroom and really join forces to create a movement and a set of initiatives mainly in Baltimore and then across the country, to really position young Black males for success ,” Miller said.
Sean Yoes (Courtesy Photo)
For decades, Miller has positively impacted the lives of countless young people and over those years one of the overarching narratives that has evolved from his work is, `Nobody is coming to save us.’
“I think folks are really waking up and beginning to realize….there are some things that are working that we don’t necessarily always highlight…and while there are some successful models and movements and things that are working, there is just some incredible heavy lifting that we have to do as parents and as caregivers,” Miller said. “And I think folks are starting to realize…that people are just not relying on government and elected officials, because I think that we’ve seen that strategy just is not working,” he added.
Beyond the scope of his own work, Miller highlighted two scenarios, one in Oakland and another in Chicago, which have garnered encouraging results.
In Oakland, through the African-American Male Achievement initiative, the Oakland Unified School District has been able to decrease suspension rates, increase attendance rates and increase graduation rates and literacy rates of Black male students across the board.
“I think we’ve brought into this gloom and doom scenario that nothing is working as it relates to moving the needle as it relates to young Black males, both academically and socially,” Miller said.
“And what the Oakland Unified School District has done, it started under a White superintendent, they decided that in order for us to adequately address the issues that young Black males are having in the district, that we have to create a set of deliberate and intentional interventions to address young Black males, if we want them to graduate, and if we want them to graduate ready for college and a career,” he added.
In Chicago, at the Urban Prep Academies located throughout the city, for the eighth year in a row, 100 percent of the school’s seniors have been admitted to college, have received about $14 million in scholarships and one student was admitted to 39 colleges.
Why can’t Baltimore replicate the success of a city like Chicago, which is facing so many profound challenges with violence and poverty?
“In the city of Baltimore, how do we identify models that are working, whether they are local or national? How do we replicate those models and how do we fund those models,” Miller asked.
Miller and another veteran education advocate, Richard Rowe are working on a report that will be released soon. “We’re looking at who is working with young Black males in Baltimore, what are some of the successes that these organizations have been able to document and what are some of the challenges,” Miller said.
“There are some amazing organizations in Baltimore doing amazing work, like Changa Bell with the Black Male Yoga Initiative . He also has the capacity to scale up…and reach more young Black males, but he isn’t getting any funding,” Miller added.
“We have to ask ourselves…where is the money going? But, the other part of the equation is, I think, we’ve got to come to the table with 51 percent. We’ve got to start funding our own freedom.”
Sean Yoes is a senior contributor for the AFRO and host and executive producer of AFRO First Edition, which airs Monday through Friday 5 p.m.-7 p.m. on WEAA, 88.9.