My Brother's Keeper

MBK Summit 2019

Careers students attend MBK Summit 2019

Students receive inspiring message at day-long event

 “GOOD! BETTER! BEST!”

A group of more than 1,000 students from school districts throughout Westchester County and beyond heartily repeated the motto of the My Brother’s Keeper organization as a day-long workshop wrapped up on December 16. It had been a day of inspiration and motivation for the young men who gathered at the Westchester County Center as part of the MBK Youth Leadership Summit 2019.

This was the second year the event was held, hosted by the Lower Hudson Valley MBK Alliance. Among those in attendance were students from the Southern Westchester BOCES Center for Career Services in Valhalla who were selected by their teachers.

The young men were invited to participate because the center is planning to create an MBK chapter on campus, Garrett Jennings, work-based learning coordinator said.

“It’s important for youth to have resources,” he said. “I wanted to make sure our students are connected to those in the region.”

Southern Westchester BOCES District Superintendent Harold Coles offered his support of the day by also attending the event. He said he has been working with several superintendents in the region to support the work the local MBK chapter has been doing and to help students get involved in the organization.

“We work to try to guide students to dream and be better,” Dr. Coles said. “I think the purpose of MBK is all students have an opportunity to learn and follow their dreams. This becomes another option for students who may not even have thought about their future. Our job is to support the students in following their dreams.”

My Brother’s Keeper was begun in 2014 by President Barack Obama as a way to close opportunity gaps for young men of color and to help them reach their full potential. Locally, the Lower Hudson Valley My Brother’s Keeper involves a contingent of local government, schools and non-profit organizations. 

Attendees at the summit were treated to powerful messages from several speakers who shared their stories of overcoming obstacles in their earlier life. In addition, participants participated in two break-out sessions, each covering an important topic. Topics in these smaller group sessions included Building Relationships, Elements of Manhood, Male Ego/Self-Esteem, Mental Wellness, the Scholar Athlete, Social-Emotional Well-being, Social Injustice and Time Management. There was even some time for an impromptu dance-off among attendees who helped get the crowd on their feet.

Keynote speaker Bishop David G. Evans is the epitome of the motto he adopted: “It’s not where you start, it’s how you finish.”

It was a theme woven through his life story, which he shared with those in attendance. He grew up in a broken home with an abusive alcoholic father. His mother left the situation with their children, and the family ended up in the Fairground Projects in Philadelphia.

Despite what might have been a less than ideal beginning, Bishop Evans said there was no question he was going to go to college.

“It was in our house that nothing was impossible,” he said, adding his single-parent mother worked three jobs to put herself through college, eventually earning a doctoral degree in education.

A turning point for him was when someone asked him not what he wanted to be when he grew up, but rather, “what problem do you want to solve with your life?” It was a question he posed to those gathered at the summit.

“It asks you to look into your own heart to see the passion for your own uniqueness,” he said. “It’s a question that causes you to look where you haven’t looked before.”

It took the bishop time to determine what his passion was, eventually adopting an important tenet that would serve him well —don’t ever ask someone to give up something they can’t replace.

Bishop Evans would go on to earn degrees in economics and business from Lincoln University. After a career in the corporate world, he later would become a minister and was ordained by the Bethany Association in 1989. As he repeatedly said during his address, “It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.”

Another speaker exemplified that exact thought. Jim Bostic explained he is another example of a man who came from less than ideal conditions and through hard work was able to follow his dreams. As an infant Dr. Bostic was given up for adoption. His birth certificate did not even note a father’s name. He was raised by his adoptive family in Yonkers.

Bullied as a child for being short and overweight, Dr. Bostic suffered the loss of sight in one eye after bullies hit him in the face with a chunk of ice. Initially the experience left him shying away from interacting with others. It was basketball, however, that got him out of his house. He was a decent player, but short. That is until one summer he grew almost a foot in the matter of months resulting in a significant advantage on the basketball court. He became a high school All-American and an inductee into the Westchester Sports Hall of Fame. He attended New Mexico University, earning a scholarship for basketball, again becoming a collegiate All-American. He was drafted by the Kansas City Kings and would play for the Detroit Pistons, never telling anyone he was blind in one eye. He had learned long ago to compensate for the loss of vision.

His NBA career was short, he said, but he was fortunate in that as a young man he had made his education a priority.

“I made sure my academics were equal to my athletics,” he said. 

He would go on to become a teacher and high school basketball coach at New Rochelle High School, and he coached at the college level too. Today he serves as chairman of the Lower Hudson Valley MBK Alliance.

“Don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t do,” was his final message to those gathered. “No human being can measure what is in your heart. You cannot live anyone else’s dream but your own.”

“It’s nice to learn stuff from empowered black men,” Maurice Banton, a senior at New Rochelle High School and a Careers Center sound production student said. “I’ve learned about living my life to my full capacity.”

“I found it very inspiring,” agreed Layden Vanderberg, another senior from New Rochelle High School and a pre-engineering Careers student at SWBOCES. He was especially intrigued by the concept Bishop Evans had alluded to about not giving up a personal desire to someone who could not give it back.

“It was pretty enlightening,” said Marell Rivera, also a senior at New Rochelle High School and pre-engineering student of the day. “I discovered things I had not put much thought into.”

As the summit came to a close, the last thing participants did was to engage in a loud chant of  “MBK! ALL THE WAY!”