The influence of our elders goes well beyond our DNA—it is deeply rooted in us everyday. We adopt small but significant cues from their behaviors and subconsciously starting from an infancy, we take on certain characteristics that are tied around our own personalities.
In many cultural traditions, the role of the male was not just the head of their family but as a collective, the men of the village formed a kinship or brotherhood that created a bond to guide the next generation of leaders.
The 100 Black Men of Chicago has carried on this philosophy since they formed their Chicago chapter in 1994. Created in 1964, New York was the initial home of 100 Black Men, Inc. where a group of concerned African-American professional men joined forces to layout the blueprint to mentor young people. Since then, the various groups decided to form one collective under the 100 Black Men of America, Inc. in 1986 where today there are 116 chapters and 25,000 members serving 125,000 youth participants.
Last weekend, the 100 Black Men of Chicago celebrated the 19th Benefit and Awards Gala ‘Inspired Generosity’ awarding thousands of dollars in scholarships to college bound students. The annual black-tie affair is considered one of the organization’s marquee events recognizing key public officials and executives for their philanthropic achievements in the community.
This year’s honorees included retired Macy’s VP of Government and Public Affairs, Ralph V. Hughes and City of Chicago Treasurer—Kurt Summers.
The President of the 100 BMC, Carl Tutt has been a long-time member of the chapter as well as the 100 Black Men of America. He is excited about the direction and growth they are achieving to reach more members. But, he believes there is still much more work to do when addressing the economic and educational crisis that plagues the Black communities throughout the Chicagoland region.
“We should be working from the time; a child is born in making sure that literacy is in place so they can be up to speed with their reading skills. This also includes the outrageous percentage of African-American males between age 18-24 that are not in school and out of work,” said Tutt.
“You look at this as two different stories but they are actually the same story. The fact that we did not deal with the literacy issue for our young Black males early on, this is where we are now with the 18-24 year olds. You see the signs in between that now. When young men come to school without a backpack—that is the sign there is a literacy issue. They have realized the reason behind this habit is that often times, students don’t bring a backpack because they can’t read in many cases. Because they can’t read, they don’t see a need to bring a backpack,” Tutt said.
The organization’s goal is to target the ones in their effort or else he feels they are going to be lost.
He adds, “They are going to be part of a statistic that we don’t want to expand any further—the correctional system or the prison system.”
One of the ways they are moving forward in their outreach is participating in President Barack Obama’s ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ initiative. A program that addresses the need for men from various backgrounds to connect with younger males that need the support on all levels specifically from low-economic environments.
“My Brother’s Keeper initiative is important because we need funding to do these things if we want to get it corrected. When you’re taking brothers off the streets, and putting them in a positive environment where they can see positive image on society—you just change the landscape of the whole city from an economic standpoint,” he said. “You put brothers back in a home to support their children where they couldn’t before. Providing housing which would increase the real estate for the city. You look at reducing crime which would decrease insurance premiums and medical expenses—it’s a domino effect of positive change.”
With so much going on, 100 BMC continues to push forward with their various fundraising efforts to provide more support for students and parents. From the annual black-tie gala in May, the white networking party in early August, one of the largest college scholarship fairs in October inviting 200 colleges and universities and the year-end calendar of events wrapping up with the annual holiday toy drive on in December.
The 100 BMC is considered one of the stronger mentoring programs in the city with both original founding members and younger members bringing a fresh approach to their outreach program. New members are invited by a current one with the commitment that community service is the number one priority.
Tutt is the CEO of Integrated Green Technologies, an energy efficiency and waste water management firm he formed in 2009. A former executive for McDonalds for 25 years, he’s never looked back. As a husband, father and grandfather, it allows him to adjust his schedule in spending more time with his family and focusing on the duties as the chapter’s President.
“The reason why in I’m in the 100 BMC. I have young men that were growing up under my tutelage and I wanted to have some assistance as well. There is no book on how to raise a child and there is certainly no book on how to raise a Black male child. You have to have support around you. I don’t care who you are or how good you think you are—you cannot go through this world by yourself,” He explains why 100 BMC is more than just a mentoring program—it’s a brotherhood.
“We try to put you in a position where you have other brothers that have gone through similar experiences that you can talk to, share your ideas, talk about your successes, your challenges, failures and be able to move forward to help your kids as well as others around you.”
To give more young people an opportunity to participate in the program beyond the Chicago area, they have extended their reach out to the Western and Southwest Suburbs including partnering with the Quad County Urban League in Aurora, Illinois.
For more information on 100 BMC, visit: http://www.100BMC.org