By Mark F. Gray, Special to the AFRO, email@example.com
In their attempt to expand the vision and opportunities for young African American men, My Brothers Keeper (MBK) took to the links for the first time. MBK’s Prince George’s and Montgomery County chapters joined forces to tee off the inaugural My Brother’s Birdies charity golf tournament at the TPC Avenel Course in Potomac, MD.
The tournament was more than just a fellowship and networking event for avid golfers who took advantage of playing at a PGA tournament caliber course. It was a chance for MBK to promote the success of young men in the MBK network and give them an opportunity to gain a broader perspective on what it takes to become a professional success.
“We want these young people to know the sky’s the limit,” Prince George’s County MBK Executive Director Robert Johnson told the AFRO. “Bringing to them an event like this gives them a chance to look at business leaders as role models to help them reach their aspirations.”
President Barack Obama launched the MBK program in February 2014. Since its inception, the goal has been to address issues facing young men of color and to ensure they are given an opportunity to reach their full potential. In 2015, the MBK Alliance was launched and in 2017 the Alliance became an initiative of the Obama Foundation. As a part of the Obama Foundation, MBK Alliance focuses on building safe and supportive communities for boys and young men of color where through local programs and private sector partnerships.
The Prince George’s County chapter of MBK was established in 2016 and has taken a different approach than the others around the country, Johnson says. Their concept involves connecting local businesses and other non profit organizations to leverage the collaborative resources for creating a pipeline of college students and to establish a network of mentorship programs throughout the county.
MBK in Prince George’s County has developed and cultivated relationships by partnering with organizations such as Jacob’s Ladder, the Concerned Black Clergy and 100 Black Fathers. They have been very aggressive in developing a college to leadership pipeline where the professional businessmen help their younger proteges focusing on mentorship, college readiness, job creation and reducing gang violence.
MBK’s college to career mentorship pipeline creates new mentors through building relationships with current professionals that establishes a generational network of men who give back to the community. Once the mentorship has been established professional business leaders take a college student under their wing for help in developing a professional persona and using teaching strategies to give them a perspective on succeeding in the corporate world.
During their mentorship, college students reach back into the communities also. They become the role models for high school and provide guidance and strategies that prepare them for the academic world beyond graduation. That mentoring starts at places such as SAT leadership academies in Bowie and District heights and enrichment programs at Bowie High School.
“Everyone pays it forward,” Johnson said. “We take a collaborative approach through our mentorship programs to provide as many support networks as possible.”
The golf tournament raised funds to benefit the programs that are being produced by the chapters in Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties. Organizers hoped the event will generate a chance for new relationships to develop.
“We’re using the game of golf to engage new community partners to rally around the critical initiatives and programs,” says Justin Harrison, program director with MBK Golf Classic. “The classic is a vehicle for the next generation of young men to learn and play golf, and provide mentors an opportunity to connect with them.”