100 Black Men LB Takes Home Chapter of the Year
By Dianne Anderson
Writing out their frustrations, the youth of the UCLA Black Male Literacy Academy spent the last week pondering the regular prompts of their daily lives.
The continuing pandemic, resulting in sickness or death in their families, and the financial strain are the reality of the times. Invariably, George Floyd and the endless barrage of police shootings across the nation come up.
Dr. Lance Robert, president of the 100 Black Men of Long Beach, said one of their 14-year-olds in the program responded that he was simply not surprised.
For as long as he can remember, it’s a reality steeped in the community psyche, even before the Black Panther Party, which started in response to a police shooting of a Black man in the back. The 100 Black Men also have their beginnings in New York, founded after an excessive force case where they gathered 100 men to say “no more.”
“This is being normalized,” Dr. Robert said. “State violence against Black bodies, Black men and Black women are so common that our children are not even surprised. They’re appalled and hurt by it and fearful, but not surprised.”
Their nonprofit helps the boys emotionally process what they see, and to recognize roadblocks to empowerment. The young men learn how to expect more from society and from themselves.
To get there, “the 100” brings top-tier men to the table as mentors and role models. This past week alone, the boys caught up with one graduate student who is preparing to receive his doctorate from UCLA. They also got to hear from high-ranking Black administrators from Long Beach City College, and Long Beach State University.
“That’s our motto, what they’ll see is what they’ll be,” Dr. Robert, who is also a political science professor at Southwest College. “We stood in front of City Hall and were acknowledged by councilman Al Austin and Vice Mayor Rex Richardson, who both happen to be a part of the 100 Black Men of Long Beach.”
The youth spoke at City Council, smiling because they personally know both Richardson and Austin, who are their mentors. At the City Hall podium, one youth spoke of what it means to have role models that take time with them. It represents new possibilities in contrast to what they see on the street.
Last month, the local 100 BMLB chapter took home the Chapter of the Year award at the 36th Annual Conference in Hollywood, Florida for their successful Saturday Academy. With its model Four for the Future programming, boys 8-18 years learn about health and wellness, education, mentoring and economic empowerment.
The chapter also shows up at events citywide with health and wellness booths, always reaching out to local Black parents. They will have an open booth at the upcoming Long Beach Jazz Festival.
“We have the nurses at our booths, blood pressure checks and passing out health and wellness materials,” he said. “Molina health has partnered with us. They’ve funded most of the stuff that we’ve had and given us the materials we need.”
As chapter president, Robert, a founding member, said it is one of his greatest personal investments of time and energy to keep the program going. For all of their members, he said the program model is something that everyone pushes together for their cause and mission statement.
“That’s our treasure, we give money, we’re all volunteers,” said Dr. Robert. “We have medical doctors and attorneys, we have very high-powered professionals.”
Parents are invited to contact the chapter to get the students involved in the year-round enrichment programs. The kids learn about economic markets, and it gets the youth thinking about what it takes to close the wealth gap. They talk about sophisticated legal arguments and civil rights cases in moot court. They increase their life skill sets.
He invites parents to visit the website, and check out their year-round open enrollment. For now, he said it’s still on Zoom.
“With this [Omicron] BA.5 thing, I’m anticipating after October we’ll be back at Cal State Long Beach University. Even then, the quarantine has changed things. We’ll be doing multiple formats, hybrid in person and online,” he said.
“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. Since the program started, their team of dedicated men never missed a Saturday for their academy mentoring program.
“It never stops. ‘The 100’ has been there every third Saturday for our mentoring program, the children can join us. We’re always open to the Black community to join us,” he said.
To learn more, see https://www.100blackmenlbc.com/