100 Black Men: Inspire Boys to Close the Wealth Gap
By Dianne Anderson
Eleven-year-old Elysian Sanders doesn’t have to think twice about the impact of the 100 Black Men of Long Beach on his personal growth and ethical business prospects.
“The best part of this program is being in the program,” he said. “I think it’s a big part is they encourage us to explore and they also encourage us to do the right thing.”
Sanders joined during the pandemic, and says that although he values his weekend sleep, he’s up and ready on the days they have their meetings, specifically when they hosted special guest Tommy Smith, the 1968 Olympian that threw up the Black power fist.
That and because he was a speaker for the event was enough to get him awake early on a Saturday morning into his closet to dress like a professional.
His inspiration leans to the pragmatic side. He says the “The 100” guest speakers have got him seriously thinking about his expectations in light of the wealth gap. He is now in sixth grade, and has eyes on Harvard or Howard universities.
“The wealth gap, I never knew what that was before. I really want to stay with them because I know they’ll help me out in the future and I’m going to need all the help I can get. I want to be a good wealthy person,” he said.
Dr. Lance Robert said this past year has been an eye-opener for the boys, no matter what their professional field of choice, ethnic studies, or political science.
“They should consider themselves businessmen, knowing how the system works to advance in it,” said Dr. Robert, president of the 100 Black Men of Long Beach Inc. “When we push them how to invest and do these things, it’s not to glorify capitalism but to let them know how it works.”
On Friday, December 17, the 100 BMLB welcomes one of the world’s foremost experts in business, keynote speaker Dr. Julianne Malveaux, a public intellectual who was recently named dean of the new College of Ethnic Studies at California State University Los Angeles.
“Dr. Malveaux is an economist with MIT so we’ll have discussions on ethnic studies and closing the wealth gap,” he said. “But we’re doing it more so to let the community know that African Americans are in positions of excellence in education.”
The event follows with their panel of young men with a dialogue to speak to their experiences and understanding of closing the wealth gap, along with presenting their personal business plans.
The annual welcome mixer and holiday reception will be held at Long Beach City College Pacific Coast Campus, Dyer hall Bldg. QQ.
Attendees are asked to make a financial donation toward a toy, educational book, or scholarship fund. All proceeds go toward keeping education and mentoring programs strong for local young Black males.
Dr. Robert, a political science professor at Southwest College, is one of many professional men in the program devoting early Saturday mornings for regular mentoring sessions for local boys. “The 100” program model is in cities across the nation and has seen thousands of high school graduates go on to graduate universities and pursue professional careers.
This past year, the focus in working with their youth has been on the money, entrepreneurship, various careers and closing the wealth gap strategies. Their boys have explored historic and current concepts of capitalism, including critiques of Marcus Garvey, W.E.B Du Bois.
They have touched on self-reliance and the critique of Booker T. Washington, reflecting on Black radical thought.
“It was pretty heavy. Racial capitalism is capitalism. There is always a racial component, there’s always exploitation that comes based on race, people of color and Black people specifically. We’re showing them how to take advantage of it and not be defeated by it,” he said.
Crystal Akens, Elysian’s mom, said that her son hadn’t known anyone in the group until Zoom, and stayed focused. The program, the role models and mentors have been a great experience. He is inspired.
“I’ve noticed a change,” she said. “I’ve just seen him committed to showing up on an early sat morning participating for two hours with the men and he’s excited, and that’s inspiring for me to know that these men have captivated his attention.”
To make an advance payment, go to www.100blackmenlbc.com