Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Are Black Boys Blackballed?


It's widely accepted that sports is a microcosm of life. I would argue that no sport imitates life quite like baseball. If you stop to think about it, we spend our entire lives in the batter's box swinging at whatever life throws our way. When I first fell in love with baseball over 30 years ago I dreamed I would one day have the on-field talent and toughness of Jackie Robinson and the off-field charisma and consciousness of Martin Luther King Jr. Little did I know my entire life would be shaped by an attempt to right baseball’s biggest wrong, the lack of Black boys.

I dreamed of playing pro baseball while living on Hollywood Road as a child
In case you’re wondering, this blog is NOT meant to shame America's game. Instead, it’s meant to put a fence around decades of challenges faced by deserving Black boys who simply want their chance at bat. Apologies if this comes at you like a brushback pitch but my true aim is to spark a conversation that will bring forth solutions.

For decades older fans, coaches and casual observers have suggested three reasons to explain the sharp decline of Black boys in baseball:


  • Black boys aren't as athletic as they used to be. 
  • Black boys refuse to practice on their own. 
  • Black boys have lost the ability to think critically. 
I’m the first to admit, Black boys need to take responsibility for their own success. However, years of first- hand experience has completely persuaded me that reversing the above “reasons” will not magically level the playing field. In my opinion, the problem exists largely because Black boys face three elusive pitches that they just can’t seem to hit:

First the fast ball — White Is Right! This is the fastest pitch most black boys will ever see. It comes right down the plate in the form of the decision to play for a white coach versus a black coach. Individually this decision appears inconsequential but collectively it adversely affects the Black talent pool. Black boys are inclined to think the grass
is greener on the other side- meaning White coaches provide better instruction, more favor with scouts and a shield from the label that Black boys are lazy and not coachable. As a teenager, I was guilty of deciding that 
White was right. At the time, it was a selfish decision to protect my ego. Fleeing from my fears, I abandoned my community and planted the seeds of my talents in a garden that wasn’t mine. As a result, there was no harvest for the upcoming generation of Black boys. That cycle continues. Instead of thinking legacy, many Black boys are consumed with winning. 

That brings me to the second pitch, the change up— Winning Is Everything! The reduced speed and deceptive delivery of the change up confuses black boys timing. At an age when they should be intensely focused on self-development, they focus on winning games instead. Anxious and afraid they won’t have access to scholarships or major league scouting opportunities, black boys make the fatal mistake of equating wins with self-worth. The relentless pursuit of winning brings on an identity crisis causing them to bankrupt their personal identity in exchange for the identity of their team. Their “win now” obsession becomes the very thing that causes them to lose big later.

Finally, the curve ball. This is the most dangerous pitch of all. Hope Is Enough! Black boys filled with the illusion of hope sit and wait for the world to come to them. For a short time they spin forward through life like the threads of a curve ball but inaction suddenly drops them on a downward path toward their fate.

The true culprit for the decline of black boys in baseball
Photo by Jason Getz
is an all-star pitcher with the name HISTORY stitched on it’s back. History continues to throw elusive pitches past Black boys whose experience and exposure not only cause 
them to strike out in baseball, too often they strike out in life. This blog comes from the heart of a man who bleeds baseball. I’m in search of solutions that will preserve the future of the game I love. If you could wave a magic wand (or bat) what would you do to get more Black boys back into baseball? I invite you to disagree with me.

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Saturday, May 13, 2017

What Keeps Temptation from Eroding Core Values?


Happy Mothers Day to my wife, Kelli Stewart, who challenges me - when necessary - to keep my core values strong!

Monica Pearson (left) along with my wife Kelli and I

Developing and maintaining strong values saved me from myself. The reason that I'm not in jail, or a deadbeat dad is that I made a commitment to learn and adopt good values. I believe that good values need on-going maintenance and require continuous discipline and commitment. It doesn’t take much for our values to erode over time if we aren’t careful. Temptation is all around us. Values will whittle away if you don’t stay vigilant and continue to make good choices.

These are the values that I’ve learned and adopted and that have served me well over the years:

Excellence - fulfilling expectations
Humility - not thinking of yourself less so that you can serve others more
Integrity - doing the right thing even when you can do the wrong thing
Loyalty - doing the right things for the right reasons, even if they're not popular
Stewardship - protector of your values and people
Teamwork - being your best within a group of people that are being their best for a specific purpose

I've never been tempted by drugs – never a dope boy - but I’ve experienced other temptations. There are plenty of opportunities for all of us to make bad choices. They are in an abundance daily.

One of the values I work hard to preserve is my integrity – doing the right thing even when I can do the wrong thing. I’ve found plenty of opportunities to do the wrong thing that given time will erode my integrity, if I let them; and know that it can be broken over time by perpetuating bad habits. For instance, I have a bad habit of browsing my phone while in the presence of my wife and daughters. I know better, but choose to do it anyway. Not only do I miss opportunities to connect with the most important people in my life, but I am also whittling away at one of my core values – integrity – by putting it in conflict each time.

Thankfully, the ladies of my life check my bad habit, and sometimes they do it with words that hurt my heart. They tell me that I care more about my phone than spending time with them. However, I’ll take the hurt because it gets my attention and makes me realize I am making the wrong choices for the goals and commitments I’ve made. Their words are a game changer, and for that I am grateful.

As you can see I am not perfect. Far from it. Like everyone, my values are constantly challenged. When they are, I rely on my family, friends and faith to keep my commitment strong.

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Why is it intimidating to dream?


Before eight year’s old, I'm not sure had a real “dream” of what I wanted to be when I grew up. However, at eight, after having watched Chicago Cubs baseball games with my grandfather in the summers, I knew. With the roaring AC inside, I would go outside to practice what I saw on television with what I had around me; collecting hundreds of rocks as baseballs with targets of large tree limbs and broom sticks used as a bat.

Living in Atlanta, the home of the Civil Rights Movement and being educated in the same public school system, I remember clearly as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used the word “dream” in his famous I Have a Dream speech quoted often to this day. Dr. King had a dream of freedom for all Black Americans, the end of segregation and discrimination. I had a dream of playing for the Chicago Cubs. Why are dreams important and what holds us back from really dreaming about the future, today?

To Share our Dreams or not…

As an eight year old Black boy being raised in the inner city of Atlanta, I openly and unapologetically told people that I wanted to play Major League Baseball for the Chicago Cubs. Many adults wanted a different future for me, an engineer, doctor or lawyer. This created conflict as our expectations were different. Dr. King’s dream of ending discrimination and segregation to set Black Americans truly free also created conflict. He believed so much in his dream, he paid for it with his life. If he hadn’t shared his dream, it would not become a reality and neither would mine.

Why do we hesitate to dream?

Dreams can be big, bigger than we are. They can be intimidating, overwhelming which makes us want to shy away before we even get started. Dreamers encounter naysayers, obstacles and conflict as evidenced by my experience and Dr. King’s. I suggest, any dreamer who dares to dream and implement can expect to encounter the same. Dreams can be costly, expose us and require sacrifice. So why bother?

Dr. King along with Jackie Robinson

I believe dreams are given to us by our creator to bring his heart to those on earth. Our personal experiences are used to create a passion in each of us about how we can make a positive impact on those in our communities. Dreams by design are led by us individually but implemented cooperatively. Dreams are a gift that bring us to live a life of significance.

All of us have the ability to dream; those who can tout significant achievements or those with disadvantageous circumstances. As leaders in our community, how do we foster the dreams of those most in need? How can we be dream enhancers instead of dream stealers for our disadvantaged youth? How can we show them what is possible?

• Dare to dream, because it takes courage
• Recognize that when you dream, you will encounter obstacles
• Enlist others to help you reach your dream, you were not designed to go it alone
• Dream Big – because when you do, big things happen.

I'm great at what I do as a coach and a mentor because it's my calling from God and I am responding to the call. I know it's my calling because of the GREAT EIGHT™.



What is your calling? Ask yourself these GREAT EIGHT™ questions daily for just 30 days to find out.

Remember – significance starts with a dream. Become significant – start dreaming.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” http://bible.com/59/rom.8.28.esv


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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Touching them all – Your plan to hit every base on the road to success


1st Base – We point the finger; we are reactive
2nd Base – We are convicted; we become proactive
3rd Base – We experience success; we become distinctive
Home – We serve others; we become predictive


Over lunch during the 2016-17 winter break, L.E.A.D. Ambassador Austin Evans reflected on his
Austin is at top row between the S and A
experience in December 2016 when noted white supremacist Richard Spencer spoke on the campus of Texas A&M.

My wife, Kelli, who also is the Executive Director at L.E.A.D., and I listened with great interest.

Austin has the privilege of serving as the Off-Campus Senator for Texas A&M, which is a "big time" responsibility as far as I'm concerned. In this position, Austin leads more than 45,000 students of the predominately white institution.

DOES L.E.A.D. and the Atlanta Public Schools system work? You tell me.

Austin said his effort to lead students who were outraged with Spencer's presence on campus was far from easy.

If I were a student there, I would be outraged, too. I would have called for new leadership, too.

That's what I refer to as First Base thinking. At First Base, we point fingers and react negatively to things that are negative.

Today, I'm regarded among many as a servant-leader, a responsibility of which I am humbled. For me, humility isn't thinking less of you, but thinking of more of others. Robert Greenleaf coined the term servant-leader at a time when people didn't know if being a servant and a leader could coexist.

Can a janitor be regarded as a person of significance at a Fortune 100 company like the CEO?

I believe so. Servant-leadership, among many things, is helping people answer these four questions:

1. What is your calling in life?
2. What world problem do you want to solve?
3. What is your earthly talent?
4. What is your spiritual gift?

Helping people answer these questions is a home run for me. When I get out of the bed every morning, I want to hit a home run. Sometimes I fall short and only hit singles.

Second Base

And then there are times when people are being convicted at second base in their life. I hit the ball in a way that allows them to move to third base and experience success based on a specific mission.

Don't be deceived. Not only have I not always been a servant-leader on purpose, I didn't want to be one. I saw people who were serving others as being weak at times. Giving of myself in exchange for money was my paradigm until 2007 when I was convicted.

I listened to myself speak to people in a way that caused me to pause and say, "You know what, C.J., you're selfish and arrogant. But you knew that all ready about yourself. The crime is that you aren't doing anything about it and it will be your downfall."

Looking back on that conversation with myself was a second base moment. The good 
news is that I arrived there after making a stop at first base, where I was pointing fingers and blaming everybody else for my failures.

Second base in our maturation process is where we become convicted by our hostile responses to things that legitimately and illegitimately cause us to get angry. You realize as a principle that anger only hurts you and not the person that caused it.

In fact, our body temperature rises when we are angry (up to 90 percent of our body is water). 
So, basically, we're cooking our organs when we're angry. Realizing this at second base allows us to become proactive to prevent ourselves from being angry more times than not.

Third Base
Success happens at third base when we're getting things done. I began to read a lot of John Maxwell books at third base. These books helped me become a better version of myself. It helped me seek accountability partners. It helped
Austin and I with Georgia Governor Nathan Deal
me to ask myself with boldness, "What do you want to do with your life C.J.? How are you made? What makes you unique?

This transformation doesn't happen in my life without my experiences at first and second base.

I developed a clear mission in life at third base to be significant by serving millions and bringing them into a relationship with Christ, starting with Kelli and our daughters, Mackenzi and Mackenna.

Simply fulfilling this mission was a success for me.

I then established a clear mission for my businesses and success was based on fulfilling it. Failure became feedback and taught me how to make adjustments that led to more success. I became very distinctive among many of my peers. I began to serve as a role model of excellence, which I define as meeting expectations.

What I enjoy the most about being at home plate is the ability to be predictive. Those who I serve need me to often times provide answers to questions they don't even know to ask.

As a philosophy, I seek God daily, so that I can be obedient to His commandments. This is great for me, because now I don't have to exist aimlessly in the world trying to figure out what to do, who to serve and how to serve them.

Baseball is like life in that we don't want to strike out or be stuck on a base. You can't score if you're striking out and stuck. We have to do things and/or have help from others to move around the bases.

The key to winning is to touch home plate a lot.

Your Guide

First Base
1. What are some of the most common things said to you that trigger an attitude of anger?
2. What are some of the most common things done to you that trigger an attitude of anger?
3. How does being angry make you feel?

Second Base
1. How does it feel when you are right?
2. How does it feel when you are wrong?
3. Who are the people that you trust enough to correct you when you are wrong?

Third Base
1. How do you define success?
2. How have you achieved success within the last 48 hours?
3. What do you have to give to the world?

Home
1. Who's your role model and why?
2. Who's following you?
3. What will be said about you when cease to exist on Earth?



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Monday, April 10, 2017

41 Life Events, Experiences and Decisions That Got Me Here


Our past helps to shape who we have become as well as impact who we may become. Our past is made up of personal experiences that we can turn into stories worth sharing.

Today I turn 41. I've enjoyed a blessed life filled with events, experiences and decisions that have shaped me. I want to share them with you so that you can come to know me better. This post lists 41 life events, experiences and decisions that have shaped my life.

If you have not taken the time to reflect on your life experiences, events and decisions that create your personal stories, I recommend that you do. I also recommend that you write your stories down. Commit them to paper and share them so others may learn a little more about you and themselves.

Finally, one thing I’ve confirmed about myself as I carried out this exercise it that I love people. Even though sometimes, I might not act like it, I love all people. I just do. Every day the first thing I do when I
Joseph McCrary by my side with LEAD Ambassadors
wake up is pray. I pray for my family, of course, but I also pray for you and others. Those I’ve met and those I have not. I believe in the power of prayer and ask that as you send up prayers every day, please pray for me as well.

I hope you learn something significant from reading the following. I look forward to hearing your story someday.


  1. Day One: I was born to Willie and Gail Stewart on April 10, 1976 at Grady Memorial Hospital. 
  2. Family: I become a big brotherI became a big brother to Nicole Stewart on February 16, 1979 and again to Erica Stewart on January 16, 1991. 
  3. Faith: When I was eight or so, Reverend James E. Hightower baptized me at Elizabeth Baptist Church (EBC); in my 30s I became a Deacon at First Rephidim Missionary Baptist Church; and, starting in January, 2016 I became, and now serve as, a Deacon EBC. 
  4. Elementary School: I was educated within Atlanta Public Schools - kindergarten through fifth grade and, in first grade, exposed to Herndon Home and, in second grade, flew on an airplane round trip. 
  5. First Fight: During Grove Park summer camp around 8 years of age. 
  6. Middle and High School: I was educated within Fulton County schools - 6th through 12th grade and, during my junior year at Westlake High School, visited Chick-fil-A headquarters as part of the curriculum. 
  7. Attended First Minor League Baseball Game: At 11, I visited Boardwalk and Baseball theme park in Haines City, Florida, and attended my first minor league baseball game as a spectator. 
  8. Youth Baseball: I played youth baseball at Cascade Youth Organization (CYO) and Old National Athletic Association (ONAA)
  9. Childhood Friends: Antwon Smith, Jeff Coleman, Eric Hayes family and Patrick Miller were childhood friends that inspired and encouraged me like no other. 
  10. Acting Out in High School: I was removed from Westlake High School team because of a bad attitude, got into a fight, and in 10th grade was arrested at Shannon Mall on MLK Day. 
  11. Professional Baseball: In 1994, my senior year of high school, I was drafted by the Chicago Cubs, and then in 1996, I was drafted again while attending DeKalb College, and released by Cubs within two years of being signed. 
  12. College: I failed out of Georgia State University in 1995, Dekalb College in 1996, and later, in 2003, attended Kennesaw State University where I maintained a B average. 
  13. Hank Aaron and Jury Duty: I served as a juror with Hank Aaron my rookie year of professional baseball. 
  14. Wedding Day: At 21, I married Kelli who was 19. 
  15. Marriage – The Early Years: Kelli and I moved into our first apartment and, during the off-season of professional baseball, I worked at ASIG fueling airplanes at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. 
  16. New Business after the Cubs: In 1998, I became a professional baseball hitting coach at Sports-A-Rama in Marietta, but quit after our first daughter, Mackenzi was born in May 2001 to start our family for profit Diamond Directors
  17. Daughters and Significant Early Milestones: When I became a father, in May 2001, at the birth of my daughter Mackenzi, and then again in June 2007 at the birth of my second daughter Mackenna, their first days of kindergarten, and the day they gave their life to Christ. 
  18. Special Thanksgiving Day Event: Thanksgiving dinner with Ken Griffey Jr. and his family 
  19. Scouting for the Reds: I became a Cincinnati Reds Scout in 2000. 
  20. Coaching East Cobb Baseball: I coached within the internationally renowned East Cobb Baseball program 2000-2006. 
  21. An Ah Ha Moment: In 2005, I attended the First Annual Birdies and Baseball benefiting Children's Healthcare, and spent several days with Atlanta’s influential men to discover that I was considered an up and coming leader in Atlanta. I learned that I was there because of the leadership and service I had demonstrated up to that point and future leadership potential. 
  22. First House and Community: Kelli and I purchased our first house and two years later I saved a young boy in the neighborhood from a pitbull attack. 
  23. Pro-Football on a Dare: I trained for a year to try out for the Falcons and Georgia Force after a dare from Kelli. 
  24. L.E.A.D. and McCrary: In 2007, our non-profit organization L.E.A.D. (Launch, Expose, Advise, Direct) was born; and a few years later, one of our first L.E.A.D Ambassadors, Joseph McCrary, graduated with honors from Savannah State University, became employed by our L.E.A.D. partner Mizuno and now serves on L.E.A.D.’s Executive Board. 
  25. Diamond Directors Expands: In 2007, we establish Diamond Directors Sports Management Group and represent several Top Round MLB Draft picks that later played in the Major Leagues. 
  26. Milestone for Diamond Directors’ Client Heyward: In 2010, I witnessed Diamond Directors’ training client Jason Heyward hit his MLB Opening Day, and first career, homerun on his first MLB at-bat. 
  27. C.J. Stewart Day in the ATL: Atlanta City Councilman Michael Julian Bond proclaimed November 20, 2010 C.J. Stewart Day. 
  28. Rotary Membership: I accepted Khaatim S. El’s invitation to join Rotary, and became a Rotary member. 
  29. Snowmageddon and Discovering a New Passion: I was stuck on Atlanta’s highways with my daughter Mackenzi during Snowmageddon 2014, downloaded the Audible app and discovered a new passion for game changing books, such as Building Atlanta by Herman Russell, Mental Game of Baseball and Talent Code
  30. Media Events: I was featured in a Georgia's Own Credit Union commercial, a Mizuno Baseball commercial, an Apple commercial with four L.E.A.D. Ambassadors (2.25 mark), debuted on Chrisley Knows Best and appeared in Tanner Tees video with Devon Shaw announcing its partnership with L.E.A.D. 
  31. Significant Outing Experiences: I experienced life in the mountains of Montana for several days with American Explorers, as well as insomnia at a 7-day USA Baseball event after just learning about what was thought to be a bad health report. 
  32. Leadercast Event: I attended my first Leadercast event in 2013. 
  33. Kelli and Significant Milestone: My wife, Kelli, became such an inspiration to me as I witnessed first-hand the grit required of her reach her goal to graduate with honors from Kennesaw State University. 
  34. Financial Education: John White became our family’s financial advisor and introduced me to my discipleship partner Mike Moye. 
  35. Life-Changing Kingdom Man: In 2013, I joined a life-changing church-wide study called Kingdom Man by Tony Evans, and now enjoy The Locker Room at Elizabeth Baptist Church.
  36. Benediction for Donald Green Inauguration: Donald Green, President of Georgia Highlands College, blessed me with the opportunity to give the benediction at his inauguration.
  37. Leadership Atlanta: In 2015, I completed my Leadership Atlanta cohort education where I became empowered to serve as a change agent in Atlanta. 
  38. My Dad’s Bypass Surgery: My dad had successful quadruple bypass surgery and his experience caused me to change my diet and exercise regimen.
  39. My Content Crew: I am blessed to have a great relationship with my "Content Crew" consisting of Mike Pallerino, Goebel Media, Rose Caplan, Brigitte Peck,
    and Dez Thornton...they help me bring my thoughts to you.
  40. My First Book: I was challenged by Gabriel Wallace to write a book Living To L.E.A.D. A Story of Passion, Purpose and Grit and took her up on it. 
  41. “Meeting” My Mom’s Dad: I never had a chance to meet my grandfather, Elester Moss, Sr. However, just recently, on April 5, 2017, while my mom was recovering from surgery, I saw a photo of him for the first time, and discovered how I resemble him. 


Thursday, March 30, 2017

When to Give Up on Black Teenage Males, and Why?


“Life is tough, but it's tougher if you're stupid.” - John Wayne

When you serve as a mentor or coach there may come a time when you have done all you can for a person. No matter how well-intentioned you are, or how able you may be, it is possible that your protégé stops listening to you and stops acting on your advice. The best thing to do at that point is to sever the relationship, and let the person go.

For me, I believe ultimately that God is in control. Aside from that, I can do what I know works to affect change in people but real change happens through personal experiences. I can offer a young man the framework for those experiences but unless he commits to the methodology and follows through I can’t help him change.

As the CEO (Chief Empowerment Officer) of L.E.A.D., I coach and mentor at-risk young Black males to empower them to lead and transform their city of Atlanta. L.E.A.D.’s methodology is framed on the game of baseball. When a young man signs on with L.E.A.D. (Launch, Expose, Advise, Direct) they become a L.E.A.D. Ambassador and with that they make a commitment. In addition to joining L.E.A.D.’s baseball team, an Ambassador must commit to the ABC’S which is an acronym for:

  • Attendance
  • Behavior
  • Curriculum (academic achievement)
  • Service to others
Sounds simple enough, but follow through on the commitment is hard and oftentimes a struggle. If an Ambassador is not willing to commit to the ABC’S to have the experiences necessary to build the character he needs to become a leader in this ever-changing world, then I can’t help him and the relationship ends. That’s the “when”.

Sounds harsh? Here’s the “why”. I know he knows better, but he is just refusing to do better and that makes him stupid. I define stupidity as failing to do better even when you know better.

I understand what it is to be a young Black teenage male and what it is to be stupid. My Mom and Dad raised me in the church and I grew up knowing right from wrong. Even so, I did a lot of stupid things as a teen. In middle school, I skipped school. In
My elementary school days
high school, I stole my dad's truck and in college, I missed over 30% of my classes. I knew better, but failed to do what I knew to be the right thing. I was just plain stupid. A lot of time has gone by since then but I had the experiences of being stupid, and learned from them. I also learned that life is tougher when you're stupid.

Further, I understand commitment, struggle and grit. It is my legacy as a Black man. Through centuries, Black folks persevered despite the horrors and other obstacles they faced. For instance, a Black man looking at a White woman the wrong way led to a lynching. The Black community has also been denied opportunities to get an education. These are just a couple of examples of the terror and injustice endured by our Black community for hundreds of years. Through commitment, struggle and grit we have persisted and overcome much. Things are better today, but there is much left to do, which is why I serve at-risk young Black males in Atlanta through L.E.A.D.

A young Black male will not outgrow stupid if he doesn’t commit to the struggle to attain grit and build character. At L.E.A.D. we provide the
opportunities for the experiences necessary for a young Black male to be the best he can be. We recognize commitment as showing up, being respectful, and taking advantage of opportunities available to better oneself. Doing otherwise shows lack of commitment to L.E.A.D. I will welcome a L.E.A.D. Ambassador back when he is willing to recommit and enter the struggle to build character and learn to lead.


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Why commercialization doesn't help Black communities

Editor's Note: This is the final installment in our two-part series on why commercialization doesn't work for organizations like L.E.A.D.

In the first part of this series, we talked about how important it is to resist the temptation to water down the reality of growing up in Black communities so that our programs will be more palatable to those who may support us. I believe that when we do this, our organization reduces its value to make a profit.

We don’t need consumers. We need role models who can help younger boys learn and be inspired. Consumers come into the Black inner cities to make things easier. Don’t
Khalil Gilstrap is a senior L.E.A.D. Ambassdor
get me wrong. I’m not turning my nose up at helping. Helping is great, as long as we agree on what helping actually means and what success actually looks like.

Helping is not enabling. Helping is empowering. According to Arthur Brooks’ book, Conservative Heart, poor people need three things, in this order:

Values
A little bit of help
A lot of hope

L.E.A.D. (Launch, Expose, Advise, Direct) is founded on the values I lacked, because I know that is why I failed to graduate from college and be successful in the Major Leagues. I associated values with Church, not ballfields and classrooms. I did not apply what I learned in the pews to what I was doing in the batter’s box, and that is where I failed.

It’s not enough for children to only learn values in Church. We have an obligation to teach children values wherever they are – school, after school programs, and sports practice. If we don’t focus on values, we will fail to empower them to succeed.

Sometimes, it’s easier to just come in and offer some help. It makes things better for those in need; it makes the ones helping feel good, but it’s not sustainable. I wish non-profits would learn that there is a more to relationships with inner city Atlanta families than providing a lot of help that forces folks to be dependent on others. We need to empower, not enable. That is what gives people hope.

Hope comes from showing up even when the other person has let you down. Hope comes from knowing that someone else believes in you. Hope comes when you realize that you have as much to teach someone as you have to learn from them. Hope is why L.E.A.D. is committed to being true to itself.

L.E.A.D. is audacious, bold, and cautious. I know that seems in conflict, but it’s not.

Our mission is to empower an at-risk generation to lead and transform their city of Atlanta. Our vision is to lead their City of Atlanta to lead the world. That’s audacious. Just ask some of our board members, who asked if that was realistic. Our very bold answer was YES!

Our standards are clear, our expectations are high, and our accountability is swift. L.E.A.D. is developing Atlanta's future leaders today. We will succeed. We are not scared to say that. We are working
D'Angelo Julio is a senior L.E.A.D. Ambassador
toward the day when the need for L.E.A.D. will cease to exist.

To deliver on this bold agenda, we have to be cautious about what we do and with whom we do it. One of our six core values is stewardship, and that means we will protect our program from those who are looking to help in a way that makes them feel better, but does not empower our boys to make a better life.

Only in being true to ourselves can we help make young Black males true to themselves. There is no higher calling for me, and I am proud to L.E.A.D. the way.


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