Monday, December 4, 2017

Servant Leadership - Georgia's Own, A Credit Union That Cares

Do you assess a company’s mission and value statements before doing business with them, and then reassess on an ongoing basis? We do. We have to. My wife, Kelli and I, co-founded L.E.A.D., Inc. in 2007, and this year we celebrate 10 years of empowering Atlanta’s at risk inner city youth to become leaders. How have we managed to keep going, and have great success?

We found the best way is through servant leadership. I wrote a blog post on L.E.A.D.’s Servant Leadership Role in Atlanta in March 2016. We also found that surrounding ourselves with like-minded people, and partnering with other organizations and businesses whose values align with ours, is key.

Georgia’s Own Credit Union has been a L.E.A.D. partner almost from the very beginning, and over the years has consistently shown us who they are. Through their dedication and commitment to L.E.A.D. they’ve worked to raise money at their Annual Golf Challenge to benefit L.E.A.D. In 2010, L.E.A.D. received $28,000 from the golf challenge. Yesterday Georgia’s Own CEO, Dave Preter, handed L.E.A.D. a check for $100,000 - for the fourth year in a row - from its 9th Annual Golf Challenge. We call that "hitting it out of the Park" for there is no measure of our gratitude.

David Preter the CEO of Georgia's Own Credit Union is dedicated to the success of Georgia, especially our youth. He is passionate about fulfilling Georgia’s Own servant leadership role in Georgia, and that passion reverberates throughout the company. Our experience is that the entire Georgia's Own staff shows commitment to serving others. When two organizations collaborate from the same mindset they set a higher tone, which was all too apparent during the recent golf challenge.

L.E.A.D. Ambassadors had the opportunity to caddy for the golfers at the tournament and interact with them on the golf course. We all know how valuable that is. Mountains get moved through conversations on the golf course. Following are the thoughts of two L.E.A.D. Ambassadors who participated this year:

L.E.A.D. Ambassador Antonio Catchings: I am a senior at North Atlanta High School, and also a L.E.A.D. Ambassador. My experience with the golf tournament this year was great. I had a chance to meet new people and play golf, I've never played golf before. Golf is a quite interesting sport, it's very different from baseball. The group I was caddying for actually explained the game to me and was showing me the different shot names. It's a game of patience and accuracy, and it's also kind of soothing. I am just thankful for the opportunity, because not many teenagers get the chance to experience this terrific event. It helped me open up more which could help me in the future. A message to the folks at Georgia’s Own who put on the tournament: I love that you guys fed us and had a ceremony for us, for the donation. Thanks again for everything and I wish the best to all of you guys.

Antonio Catchings receiving the ball at 2nd base
L.E.A.D. Ambassadors Bryce Johnson: Being able to participate in the Georgia’s Own Golf Tournament was a great experience. Being able to make connections with so many people was the best part about the tournament. When you make connections It opens up new opportunities. Some of us got internship opportunities (like my teammate Je’Mario Almond). Others got advice for their future jobs. Some may have gotten advice for their new business that they wanted to make.

Another amazing thing that happened was that me and my fellow Maynard Jackson scholars met our Spanish teacher’s boyfriend. What a small world!

I was an Ambassador last year when we had about 20 Ambassadors and this year we had about 35 at the tournament which was really good. We all caddied the golfers and learned a little something about golf. My dad plays golf and so did I when I was little so I already had a feel for what was going on. When we started out It was freezing cold and plus the wind was making It even worse. But as the day went on it got warmer. We all got a chance to hit a ball on the 12th hole and we also took pictures. Then after we were finished playing we went inside for the lunch and the food was delicious. Then they had the auction and then they granted us the check. We are so thankful for the 100,000 dollar check. It’s because of people like this LEAD can do what they do. We thank everyone who participated and helped this event be a success. The experience was one of a kind and we are looking forward to next year.

Bryce Johnson
If you are looking for a new banking partner, and care about corporate culture and its level of commitment to the community, I recommend looking seriously at Georgia’s Own Credit Union.


Thursday, November 9, 2017

Enabling vs. Empowering

I was born and raised in the inner city of Atlanta – a “Grady Baby”, which almost always means you were born Black and poor.

I found hope in five things:

• My School: Atlanta Public Schools (APS) which was led by leaders such as Dr. Benjamin E. Mays and Dr. Alonso Crim;

• My Role Models: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Atlanta’s first Black Mayor Maynard Jackson were APS alums like me;

• My Home: A city that was growing and successful. Atlanta is the home to CNN, the Atlanta Braves (the first pro sports team in the South), and the headquarters of Delta, thanks in part to the work of Mayor Maynard Jackson, who helped build Atlanta’s airport and make our city a gateway to the world;

• My Sport: Cascade Youth Organization, a part of Atlanta Parks and Recreation, gave me and hundreds of other kids a chance to play baseball. National leaders like Maynard Jackson, Andrew Young and Ralph Abernathy had relatives that played at the park as well, so it was common for me to see these giants at the park from time to time. My first baseball coach was Emmett Johnson who was Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education Chairman;

• My Church: I was born into Christianity and Elizabeth Baptist Church which was full of good people, many of them highly educated and bourgeois. Being bourgeois can be good or bad and it depends on your willingness to serve others.

Hope is a gift, but turning hope into reality is a journey. My journey began in school.

C.J. Stewart
Atlanta Public Schools today has three tiers of students. Tier 1 students are highly motivated and will graduate from high school regardless of their socioeconomic status. Tier 3's lack motivation and will most likely drop out of high school and have a high probability of being incarcerated and/or living a life of poverty regardless of their socioeconomic status. It is the Tier 2 students – the ones between the highest and the lowest, the ones that could end up going either way - that are often the most challenging to teach, coach and/or mentor.

I was a Tier 2 student.

My parents didn't want me to feel poor, so I was always dressed like rich kids. They made the sacrifices financially to make sure that we went on family vacations, wore nice clothes and attended social events like the Nutcracker.

As an elementary and middle school student within Atlanta Public Schools, I was wrestling with the constant desire to have sex. It was all over television. I was also getting good at using profanity to seem cool. I was willing to hang out with the "bad kids" in order to fit in. Everyone wants to belong and belonging to my church groups and the Boy Scouts just wasn't cool enough to me.

At my young age, I noticed that there were three types of people that enabled me to lean towards Tier 3.

1. White women
2. Black women
3. Black men

It is a raw generalization, but you have to remember, this is how a kid like me – like lots of kids like me - saw the world. How did they enable me to be cool? I’ll tell you:

White women were the best for me because they would always cut me the most slack. I felt that White women were just inherently nicer than Black women based on my interactions with them in person and from what I saw of them on television.

Black women, in contrast, were always super strict and stern. The older women were a part of the Civil Rights Movement and felt the need to empower young Black males, but often they did more enabling than empowering. Although they were stern, they didn't have it in their heart to let me fail, so I could always get my way even though I would get a tongue-lashing.

Black men were humble to a fault. They were often apologetic about their gifts and talents. They would give you a lot of "back in the day" talks that could last for hours. I would get away with being bad because they didn't have a plan of action to hold me accountable.

By definition, there is a fine line between enabling and empowering, but a vast difference in the path that each can lead to – a journey that is as different as a Tier 3 student is from a Tier 1.

C.J. Stewart

I have been the Chief Empowerment Officer for L.E.A.D. for 10 years and we partner with Atlanta Public Schools to empower an at-risk generation to lead and transform their city of Atlanta. LEAD Scouts The Counted Out. The over 300 student-athletes that we serve earn the opportunity to become empowered by LEAD with the ABC'S ...

• Attendance
• Behavior
• Curriculum (grades)
• Service

The sea of life is rough and challenging, and there are many sources of help that can “enable” our young men to tread water and survive. But we want to do so much more than just survive.

LEAD is a boat in the sea of life, a means of navigating that sea and empowering our young men to take their journey toward leadership. Through Standards, Expectations and Accountability (the S.E.A.), our student-athletes rise above the waves and move forward.

As a consequential leader in Atlanta, it is my prayer that Black Males being raised in poverty find a boat like ours, get on board, and take this most important journey of their lives. By holding Atlanta’s future leaders accountable, we are building a battalion of LEAD’s own version of Navy SEALS, empowering them to take charge and turn their own hopes into reality.


Friday, October 6, 2017


As they say, the third time’s the charm, and so it was for the Atlanta Police Department on August 19 at Georgia Tech’s Russ Chandler Baseball Stadium. APD officers played L.E.A.D. Ambassadors in the Third Annual Safe at Home Game and won this year after having lost to the Ambassadors the two previous years. The final score was APD 14, L.E.A.D. Ambassadors 4. No matter though, the L.E.A.D. Ambassadors are in a rebuilding year and are looking forward to a rematch in 2018. 

The real story, however, is not that APD won the game, but how APD officers and L.E.A.D. Ambassadors are changing the game of life in Atlanta’s inner-city communities, in which they live and work, through the game of baseball.

The Safe at Home Game is all in good fun, but with a profound purpose. It is a self-officiated game played at the end of a series of events that are designed to build rapport between Atlanta’s inner-city kids and inner-city and cops. Our work with APIVEO in creating the Safe at Home program has created opportunities for the Ambassadors and the police officers to interact on a level playing field. As a result, each group has new experiences with the other, perspectives change, and create hope for a better future.

Officer Fletcher – APD Officer

Officer Fletcher has come to know Atlanta’s inner-city youth through his daily patrol of inner-city neighborhoods. As a first-time participant in the Safe At Home program, he has gained a much-needed new perspective on Atlanta’s inner-city youth. Here’s what he had to say after the game:

I am a police officer for the city of Atlanta Police Department. Words cannot express the joy I had in playing in this year’s police vs youth game. I am one of those officers who patrol through a few of the lower income, inner-city neighborhoods on a daily basis. On a daily basis kids and adults yell vulgar language just at the mere presence of a police vehicle, and I can honestly say a lot of times it bothers me.
On many occasions, I have exited my patrol vehicle and attempted to interact and play sports with the youth. Often the youth refuse to play or an adult comes and tells them to go in the house -" we don't talk to police". This baseball game meant so much to me because during and after the game these young
men told me “thank you” for playing. They also told me I'm the coolest and funniest cop they had ever met. It meant a lot to me because I have two small sons who were able to come and watch the game, and see why daddy can't walk the next day because he is getting old and pulls a muscle every time he plays sports. The kids told me thank you a lot, but I am the one who should be thanking them and the organizations, L.E.A.D., Inc. and APIVEO, for putting this event together. I cannot wait for the next opportunity.

L.E.A.D. Ambassador Neco McClure says that “being able to play in the Safe At Home Game was a gift”, and L.E.A.D. Ambassador Antonio Pierce says he saw that the APD officers were “just like us”. Neco and Antonio also walked away from the experience with a different perspective on the officers they practiced with and played against, and they want others to have the same opportunity.

L.E.A.D. Ambassador Neco McClure

I thought there would have been umpires at the game, but turns out it was a self-officiated game. I liked that about the game because you gain respect for each other as you tell whether the person was out or not. I also liked that everyone got to play, and if you made mistakes it would be alright. This was my first year at the Safe At Home Game, and I loved how you got to be honest. Honesty is the key to the game. You don’t want to cheat in the game because you wouldn’t want anyone to lie about you getting thrown out or struck out.

The importance of the Safe At Home Game is to get inner-city kids and cops to come together and have a chance at playing a friendly game of baseball.
Photo by Jasmine Norwood
You’re not only playing a game of baseball, you are also getting to know each one of the police officers and learning about their childhood, and how childhood could make a difference in how you live further in life.

Being able to play in the Safe At Home Game was a gift for me. It exposed me to something better in life. It showed me a different way - how not to do the wrong thing, make bad decisions, and be behind bars when I could just be playing baseball, going to college, and have a chance to play in the major leagues.

I would definitely recommend bringing back the Safe At Home Game so that other people can see a different side to cops, and see how we all can come together as a team and build a better city and state.

L.E.A.D. Ambassador Antonio Pierce

“Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

What I learned from the Atlanta Police Department and Ambassadors experience, is that the police officers we met are a special group of men. They are just like us. They have a job just like us. I have known people to belittle cops because someone they know has committed a crime. What I know is that if you commit a crime you have to do the justified time.

I learned that APD men are just like us. They have been through some of the same things we are going
Photo by Jeff McPhail
through as most are retired baseball players. The APD men were well rounded, very outspoken and uplifting. They taught me a lot about my ability to play this game we love - baseball. They mentored me along the process. Some of the officers - I've been knowing for years - are so cool to hang around. I had fun practicing and fielding with the them. It was such a great experience. I want to have the Safe At Home Game ever year.

L.E.A.D. CEO CJ Stewart

I have personally learned a lot over the last three years of L.E.A.D.’s involvement with Safe at Home. For instance, we don’t put forth enough effort getting to know our police officers. We spend more time on, and put more effort into, learning about celebrities and their lives, than we do getting to know those whose job it is to protect us.

Additionally, I have participated in Zone 3 police rides - Zone 3 is the area around where Turner Field used to be. I witnessed APD officers heading into gunfire after an alert by Dispatch. My instinct, as a civilian, when I heard the same alert was to get as fa
r away from gunfire as possible. That experience made me question what would happen without a police presence in our neighborhoods. I imagine chaos.

I would be remiss not to mention the conversations I’ve had with our police officers’ wives over time. What stood out the most from those talks is that these officers have families, same as me, only I don’t put my life in danger like that on a daily basis.

My personal participation in the Safe At Home program has been humbling. I also think that through my participation, I've helped to shine a light on two groups in our community who get a bad reputation because of what a few people do. Through Safe At Home, I've been a part of highlighting what's good about Black boys and cops.

The relationship between APIVEO, Atlanta Police Foundation and L.E.A.D. is stronger now because of our work together on Safe at Home. That's a win for our Ambassadors, our officers and for Atlanta overall.

Together our voices will be heard as we develop Atlanta’s next generation of leaders. You can help. Visit to learn more.


Monday, September 18, 2017

Grit by Association

My wife, Kelli and I have been working over the last ten (10) years to empower Atlanta’s inner-city young black men to become leaders and to lead lives of significance. We have seen young men in our program grow and have great success. However, the underlying problems continue to exist that stifle our ability to significantly alter the narrative of young black men living in the inner-city communities of Atlanta in general. No amount of money or human resources will resolve these problems, change the narrative, or create a positive environment for growth and success until uninitiated adult mentors and failing Black male youth partner in “grit by association”, or are working with relentless determination toward a common goal from the same page of the playbook.

People create problems, and they have the ability to resolve them.

We have problems in the inner city of Atlanta that have been created by people over many years. Jim Crow laws played a big part in economic and social disparity among Blacks and Whites. Although Jim Crow laws no longer legally exist, the inequitable intentions can be seen in redlining, gentrification, negative rhetoric and aggression. They continue to negatively affect poor and Black communities.

For instance, in Atlanta, if you are born into poverty you have a 4% chance of making it out according to the Atlanta Metro Chamber of Commerce. Additionally, too many Black males in Atlanta drop out of high school, are unemployed, and go to jail as a result of the negative cycle of oppression heaped upon the Black community by Jim Crow, and later, laws.

Despite our abilities as problem solvers, these problems persist year after year.

Why haven’t these problems been resolved? It isn’t the lack of money or mentors coming out of non-profit charitable organizations. Georgia has one non-profit charitable organization for every 361 people. It is ranked in the top 1/3 of most charitable states overall. Georgia’s charitable organizations are generous with both their money and volunteers. Then what is the answer?

Resolution of the same old problems plaguing Atlanta - that stand in the way of our progress - will only be solved by educated empathetic people working together within the same context, and with the same grit, passion and purpose. More specifically, it will only work when mentors and mentees attain grit by association. For that to happen, each person first needs to find his or her context.

The responses to the following three questions establish that context and lead to understanding “why you exist”, “your purpose”:

1. Everyone is suffering with something. What are you suffering from?

2. There are endless amount of problems in the world. What world problem do you want to help solve?

3. Life is complex but doesn't have to be complicated. Why do you want to continue to live?

Participation in this exercise by the mentor and mentee is imperative to identify the commonality of purpose, or the association between them. Once established, acknowledged and understood, then each participant’s grit, or the relentless pursuit of the common purpose, becomes grit by association, and is more meaningful and stronger. Growth follows, and problem resolution becomes inevitable.

Solving Atlanta’s problems will not happen overnight, but they will be resolved overtime by taking conscious actions together toward the same goal. Lewis Carroll said “If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there.” I think the same holds true that: “If you and your partner want to end up together in the same place at the same time, you need to walk down the same road, in tandem, to the same destination.”


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Mound Moments

One of the most intriguing yet impactful moments in a baseball game happens when play is temporarily suspended and the manager walks out to the mound to check on the pitcher’s welfare. I call this suspenseful intervention a Mound Moment. As the manager and pitcher stand eye to eye, onlookers eagerly read body language in a desperate attempt to figure out what may happen. “Maybe it’s just a pep talk, maybe they’re talking strategy or maybe the pitcher is going to be relieved.” No matter the
outcome, one thing is certain— the manager is in complete control of the pitcher’s fate. Now that my playing days are behind me, my Mound Moments are a clear case of life imitating sport. From baseball diamonds and classrooms to dangerous street corners and living rooms, I’ve stood eye to eye with hundreds of black boys and had thousands of Mound Moments. The only difference is my discussions aren’t about balls and strikes, they’re about success and failure.

Black boys come up to bat with two strikes. Strike one is being Black. Strike two is being male. Stereotypes and cultural biases dramatically shrink Black boys margins for error. Because of their skin color, they’re often presumed guilty until proven innocent. Born into the 0 - 2 count, Black boys face enormous pressures that force them to defy nature and live their lives from the outside in. My purpose is to meet you at the mound and reveal the three steps necessary for Black boys to make it to the big leagues in life and baseball, despite immeasurable odds.

#1 Self-Confidence

Most inner-city Black boys grow up prematurely navigating experiences that make it nearly impossible for them to build self-confidence. This partially explains why they swing and miss the White-Is-Right pitch and consistently underperform when the stakes are highest. There’s an undeniable connection between socioeconomic status and the amount of trust one has for his own abilities and judgements. Since self-confidence is not inherited, the simple remedy for Black boys is to own their reality and use adversity as a tool for building confidence. The concept of learning from losses transforms their thinking and propels them to win. The height of self-confidence in baseball is striking out and expecting to hit a home run the next time you’re up to bat. The height of self-confidence in life is when your self-talk is stronger than everyone else’s talk.

#2 Self-Discipline

Once self-confidence is established, the next natural step is to take action. Knowing what needs to be done and failing to act is the equivalent of expecting to hit a home run, standing at the plate and never swinging your bat. Skill building in any undertaking requires a mix of action and discipline. Although the idea of self-discipline is simple, the execution is often crippling. In order to dispel the myth that Hope Is Enough, Black boys must confidently take uncomfortable and inconvenient actions that move them toward their desires. The secret to overcoming weakness and mastering self-discipline is to gain control of your feelings, prioritize your needs and resist any temptation to abandon your goals.

#3 Self-Awareness

The application of sustained self-confidence and self-discipline brings out subtle shifts in traits, behaviors and motivations. As Black boys realize they exist separately from their environment, confusion, complaints and excuses get “thrown out” and focus, gratitude and accountability get called up from the bull pen. Black boys newly found sense of self-awareness give them permission to explore their individuality and find comfort in their uniqueness. Ultimately, winning is redefined as mastery of self.

Success in life and baseball is both simple and fundamental. The height of your success is determined by the speed of your adjustments. The next time you’re desperately trying to read a manager’s body language at the mound, rest assured he’s either boosting confidence, sharpening discipline or raising awareness.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017


God has blessed me with focus and I am grateful. With focus, I can better identify and communicate to others what we need at our organization, L.E.A.D., to sustain and grow it. So, when people ask us what they can do to help I am able to communicate our needs effectively.

I found my focus partly by understanding a leadership framework that John Maxwell shared at a Leadercast event that I attended several years ago. The premise is to move something such as an idea or statement from simplistic to simple. To do that we need to make a simplistic idea or statement complicated by challenging and questioning it. When we do, we expand it and then drill down to the value. That makes an idea simple and more effective. John says taking your idea through the grid Simplistic > Complex > Simple is not easy but its effective. We have applied and continue to apply John’s framework to L.E.A.D.

For instance, when my wife, Kelli, and I started L.E.A.D. (Launch, Expose, Advise, Direct) ten years ago we wanted to help Black boys play baseball. There was a void in the inner city of Atlanta and we aimed to fill it. Then we realized that Atlanta had a bigger problem. High truancy, low graduation rates and poverty among inner-city Black youth to name a few. We

also suffered high incarceration rates among young Black men. We had to make a shift from what we originally intended - helping Black boys play baseball in Atlanta - to a place of focus that we maintain and protect today - empower an at-risk generation to lead and transform their city of Atlanta. We went from simplistic to simple as we asked questions and moved through the weeds. Out of the complexity, we found our L.E.A.D. philosophy - “leadership is developed by leading” - and our methodology - Pathway To Empowerment™.

John Maxwell’s process also provided us with the framework necessary to focus on creating an environment that nurtures successful relationships among L.E.A.D. participants, and with those who partner with us to help us lead. We are now celebrating L.E.A.D.’s 10th Anniversary. Our organization’s foundation is firmly set. We remain convicted in our mission, and L.E.A.D. Ambassadors are succeeding. We remain focused. We need you.

We need you to lead with us and we are ready for you. We’ve taken L.E.A.D. through John Maxwell’s grid, evaluated and drilled down to make things simple but effective. Through this focus, we’ve identified four things that you can do to help our organization empower the Ambassadors to lead and transform their city of Atlanta.


There is power in prayer. Please be in prayer for us daily throughout the year. Pray that L.E.A.D. seeks God daily and is obedient to His assignments. Pray that we be patient, discerning and forgiving of others. You can pray these prayers privately, or you can also send them to us via email. You can keep them anonymous or you can share your name. Prayers we receive by email are forwarded to a designated Ambassador who shares it with the other Ambassadors. We cannot emphasize enough the positive impact this show of support has on the Ambassadors and the organization as a whole. Click here to email us your prayer for us.


We all have a calling to fulfill on our lives. I believe we are called, generally speaking, to be the hands and feet of God on earth. It really helps us as an organization when we are in the presence of people who understand their own spiritual gifts and earthly talents. If that’s you, please reach out to us to discuss how we can work together.

If you are unsure about your gifts and talents, and would like to discover them try what I did. I discovered mine by answering these four questions:

What do you laugh about?
What do you worry about?
What do you cry about?
What do you dream about?

Your answers to these questions may help you identify your God given gifts and talent and lead you to find your purpose in life. You may also discover that you are a good fit for L.E.A.D. .


One of the best ways to help L.E.A.D. is by simply showing up to our games and cheering us on. We all know the power of money and we can always use it to further our mission, but there is so much power in encouragement. It speaks volumes to our Ambassadors when people they may know only in passing, or even those they may not know, take the time to show up and watch them compete. At least that’s what I experienced growing up playing baseball. As a child, I dreamed of playing pro-baseball in front of fans that were cheering me while, in a sense, as their hero, I was empowering them. I even practiced signing my autograph for hours as an inner-city Atlanta elementary school student so I’d be ready when the day came.

Our young Ambassadors are creating a new normal for themselves by participating in L.E.A.D.’s program, and they are succeeding. They are dreaming new dreams. They are whittling away at staggering statistics that had

them, too often, mired in nightmares of being incarcerated. Those night-mares are turning into dreams of high school and college graduation, and sustainable careers and families. 100% of L.E.A.D. Ambassadors graduate from high school. 95% of our Ambassadors attend college and 90% on scholarship. 5% of L.E.A.D. Ambassadors enlist in the military.

Your presence at our games and other events is a powerful message to the Ambassadors that the community supports them, and cares about them. We see “pep in their step” after games that are more fully attended. Click here to attend an upcoming L.E.A.D. game or event and show your support for L.E.A.D. Ambassadors.


L.E.A.D. is much more than a non-profit 501(c)3 organization. We are a Methodology and a Movement.

L.E.A.D. (Launch, Expose, Advise, Direct) is a place where mentors find it is safe, as do the mentees, to show themselves because they find that engaging with our Ambassadors is enlightening and empowering. I find this to be true each time I interact with them. I am able to be vulnerable and admit that I don't have all of the answers they may need as they work on self-empowerment. I can go even deeper with them, and let them know that sometimes, during low times, even I can fall short of motivating myself.

Further, I always have lots of questions for the Ambassadors. Since we’ve created a culture that promotes honesty, I can ask them questions and they can authentically respond with how they feel. The manner in which these discussions take place allows me to serve them in a way that they need instead of in a way that I think they need, and those interactions reinforce trust.

L.E.A.D. promotes honest discussion and nurtures trust among its mentors and mentees. We welcome mentors. To find out more about becoming a partner in mentorship click here. We also welcome financial donations to sustain our Methodology and Movement. To make a recurring financial donation click here.

We welcome you to come lead with us to fulfill our mission to empower an at-risk generation to lead and transform their city of Atlanta. You can be a prayer warrior for us, share your gifts and talents, show up at games and events, and make recurring donations. Use the following links to email us with any questions or comments you may have about signing on:

Click here to email us your prayer for us.
Click here to make a recurring financial donation.
Click here to attend an upcoming L.E.A.D. event.
Click here if you would like to share your gifts and talents with L.E.A.D.

We appreciate you, and look forward to leading with you!


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.