I got a call from my friend, and fellow Walbrook Warrior, David Miller a couple of weeks ago. Miller has been educating and mentoring Black children, mainly Baltimore Black boys, for all of his adult life.
Miller, a proud West Baltimorean, has been doing vital work in our community for decades. But, he is so talented and passionate about his work he has literally traveled the globe fulfilling his mission of helping to heal our boys. He’s the type of cat that if he asks me to do something, I’m going to do my best to make it happen.
So, when he asked me to speak to the Seeds of Promise at the Renaissance Academy in Druid Heights I didn’t hesitate.
Sean Yoes (Courtesy Photo)
I’ve written about Renaissance on a few occasions in this column. In one of my more recent columns about the school, I wrote about the owner of the Baltimore Ravens, Steve Bisciotti’s, decision to invest $1.5 million into the decrepit school, that was in danger of being closed by Baltimore City Public Schools (BCPS).
The high school, located near the epicenter of the uprising of April 2015, has been hit hard by violence, just like the community in which it sits; four young men have been killed who attended the school since 2015. According to Nikkia Rowe, Renaissance’s principal, Bisciotti told members of his inner circle, `This school can’t close.’ That was the genesis of the Ravens investment. But, out of the violence, the Seeds of Promise was also born.
Seeds of Promise is a male mentoring program at Renaissance, which provides academic case management, 24/7 social and emotional support, life skills modeling and development. The group began in January 2015, initially funded with $100,000 from Renaissance’s budget.
The Seeds are six Black men dedicated to hundreds of young men at Renaissance, some of them facing challenges most of us can’t imagine. They are: Dave Montgomery, Marcus Taylor, Corey Witherspoon, Antwon Cooper, Daijeon Powell and Shawn Nelson. What they do is engage on a ground level, face to face, with some of the most challenging, and in many ways, exceptional young Black men in the city.
Real talk, many of the male students at Renaissance symbolize the type of young Black men that spark a visceral fear in the hearts of many of Baltimore’s residents. The Seeds do the work 99 percent of Baltimore residents won’t do or can’t do, they meet these young men on their level. They are committed to their survival and success, when so many others have abandoned them.
“When they say they provide 24/7 support, they ain’t lying,” said Miller. “These brothers go pick these boys up on Saturdays and Sundays.”
The Seeds specifically wanted to talk to me about the media. They realize that along with the $1.5 million investment by the Ravens comes an increased scrutiny and they want to be prepared. Those brothers are brilliant and conscious; they have it together and they understand their mission.
Recently, the Seeds along with Miller and 17 male students from Renaissance stepped beyond the confines of West Baltimore for an indoor rock climbing adventure at the Earth Trek in Timonium, Md. “Getting those brothers out of the ‘hood…it was amazing to see,” Miller said.
Each of the six mentors is responsible for about 20-25 of the Renaissance students. And all of the Seeds of Promise mentors come from the community surrounding Renaissance; they were born and raised there and their authentic, positive influence on the male students at the school is essential.
“We have to make sure they have stable employment,” said Miller. “The key is to keep these brothers together.”