Young, Black and Talented
The first two adjectives in the title are pretty easy to characterize and need little explanation, but characterizing talented is its own beast. Merriam-Webster defines talented as “having a special ability to do something well; having talent”. With this said, it becomes obvious that a person can’t be talented without first having talent, so what’s talent? Dictionary.com defines talent as having the capacity for achievement or success. Based on these definitions, just about everyone I know has talent and are talented, so what’s separating the haves from the have nots? The problem is that talented is only a portion of the success formula.
Back when I worked in banking, I use to keep a quote above my desk that I first read in an article about comedian Katt Williams which states, “Talent is only half of it, once you realize you have the talent, you must put in the work like you don’t.” In mentoring youth, I often tell them that their success depends on their talents, drive and resources. We all have our own God given talents and it’s up to us to determine how hard we’re going to push ourselves to master them. However resources are different, they’re dependent on external factors such as financial position, established relationships, and acquired knowledge just to name a few.
A friend of mine, James Ford, Jr. a.k.a. Judah the Lyrical Rev., has song called “Rockford Files” where he states, “Tis a little city lost in time, everything here seems twenty years behind, no one every makes it out they just fall in their prime.” These three bars are only partially correct, because James now lives in North Carolina. James is more than a lyricist, he’s a 1998 graduate of Auburn High School, has a Bachelors from Illinois State and a Masters from Rockford College, he’s a Ordained Minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and an Educator, but sadly he’s a Young, Black and Talented Man whose no long a Rockford resident. From my knowledge, there are less than ten black men under 40 in Rockford who have earned Master degrees and are still here. Out of this minute number, most of them work in the Public or Not-for-Profit sectors.
So where am I going with all this? Last week on Friday February 24th RAMM hosted its 31st Annual Scholars Banquet where they awarded 31 scholarships, of which 12 were awarded to Young, Black and Talented Men. What’s to come of these young men and where they’ll settle after their college years? The easy answer is most likely not Rockford. Based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, all individuals have an innate need for feeling that they belong. Here in Rockford Young, Black and Talented Men often feel over look or bypassed by the local powers that be.
I’m a Young, Black and Talented Man from Rockford who still lives in Rockford. I’ve earned a Master’s degree, I’ve served and current serve on local boards and committees, I’ve been included in the Rockford Register Star’s “Get to Know Me” section, I’ve been recognized as one of the city’s “Forty Leaders under Forty”, but I was left wanting last year when I discovered all the people I should know shared no resemblance of me. This sparked my memory of the question I was asked before being promoted to a Commercial Relationship Officer in 2008, “How successful do you think you can be as an African American man in banking in Rockford.” The unbelievable part of this all was that such a question was asked, but the sad part was that I had the same concern in the back of my mind.
Some people criticize RAMM, and claim the organization is elitist. They say that the students recognized by the organization would be able to go to college with or without RAMM’s scholarships. I think these people miss the organization’s intentions. RAMM first sets the bar high so if you do qualify for their scholarship, but don’t make the interview cut; you still qualify for many more available scholarships. The second and more important intention that I see of RAMM is that they award these students in an effort to say we recognize your talents, and believe that with your drive you can come back to Rockford and be a future resource to someone else.
We all know that individuals aspire to be what they see and can relate to. The nationally known and often discussed “Pipeline to Prison” is ever present and disproportionately comprised of young black males. This trend needs to be adverted. Rockford we have and continue to develop the resources necessary to improve our community economically and socially. We must begin to do a better job at recognizing and involving the Young, Black and Talented Men whose foundations were first laid here, or the continued depletion of such diverse resources is going to eventually cripple are city’s ability to complete regionally, nationally and globally.