Friday, July 30, 2010

Another level

It's time to take L.E.A.D. to another level. Tuesday night, I walked L.E.A.D. into a packed room of Atlanta's distinguished. I, along with 19 other colleagues, were introduced as the 2010 Atlanta Business League Men of Influence.

The ABL was established in 1933 as an affiliate of the National Business League which was founded by Dr. Booker T. Washington.

Past Honorees include Hank Aaron, Ambassador Andrew Young, Maynard Jackson, Benjamin Elihah Mays and Nathaniel Bronner Sr. just to name a few. My 2010 class honored Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, President of Atlanta City Council Caesar Mitchell, Dennis Boyden of AT&T and my cousin Leon Goodrum who is the 1st black owner of a McDonald's in Atlanta.

L.E.A.D. has mattered in the eyes of many for 3 years but we have now moved to another level. A new level of respect. Respect that was earned by the sacrifice of many who came before me and for those that fight with us to save the lives Atlanta's precious assets, our youth.

As I stood at the podium last night and gave my name and said that "I am the proud founder and CEO of L.E.A.D., Inc. (Launch, Expose, Advise and Direct),” I officially put the city on notice that we are here and I need the support from my new colleagues who also represent the best of Atlanta.

With this newly earned respect comes many more responsibilities. Let's go even higher.

Monday, July 26, 2010

L.E.A.D. Community Day in East Point

On Saturday, July 31st, L.E.A.D. will be hosting its 1st Annual Community Day in East Point. Through the support of South Fulton Medical Center and Hope-Beckham PR, L.E.A.D. will bring the community together for some fun activities, medical health screenings and BASEBALL!

I remember, competing as a youth in football, basketball and baseball in East Point. I even pitched a no hitter against the Tri-Cities Bulldogs. Those were the days. I was young and prayed to God that I could fulfill all of my hopes and dreams of being a successful citizen when I became an adult.

Over a decade later, I’m back in East Point as the CEO and founder of L.E.A.D. The name of the city is the same but the community sure isn’t.

Back in my day, community leaders were everywhere helping young men like me stay on track. It seemed like there was at least one mentor in the community for every young man that wanted one. Those elders aren’t around anymore, God bless them. Businesses were successful in the community because the community supported them. Now, some of those businesses of old are boarded up or being robbed by preteen boys. Back then, all the girls were trying to graduate from high school with the highest GPA and then excel at UGA. Now I see a community of teenage pregnancy. I remember East Point like yesterday when Outkast came out with its first hit that encouraged my high school graduating class to reach for the stars. Now, teenagers don’t want to listen to their lyrics because they don’t curse enough.

With L.E.A.D. now in the community, there is a sharing of information that promotes college attendance. There is development of skills on and off the baseball field for young men that provides access to college scholarship opportunities. There is a helping hand to the hard working parents that want to see their son achieve his dreams and return to lead his community. There is an additional presence of positive men in the community to show young women how they should be treated with respect. The teachers that are striving everyday to reach their students now have additional support to expose them to new opportunities beyond the Eastside. There will be an increase of noise in the streets but not coming from cars blasting music. We are cracking a lot of bats and cheering loud and proud for a new generation of Leaders led by a spirit of past legends.

A community is as strong as its leaders. Who is leading the East Point community now? Where does the East Point community want to be a decade from now?

L.E.A.D. may not be able to solve the problems that exist in East Point but we sure can be a part of the solution.

Talk and walk

Of no control of my own, I was a 1976 Grady baby and didn't have the privilege to hear Dr. Martin Luther King speak. The great things that I learned about Dr. King came from stories passed down, audio and visual aids.

What I notice about Dr. King that made him such a profound leader is that he literally did more walking than he did talking. He was a verb and not a noun. He spoke to crowd from the pulpit and delivered his vision but early the next morning, you could find him leading that crowd down a road or change. Change that made this country a stronger one.

Dr. King was a visionary as well as a leader. You can have the vision but you have to walk the walk. Today's definition of a leader is totally different than the past. I hear a lot of good visions but there is no follow up. No deliverables. So many chiefs, but no real leaders. No action.
The Civil Rights Movement was lead by Atlanta's own Dr. Martin Luther King. He was a doer and not just a visionary. He had one mouth but his words were carried out with two hands and two feet.

L.E.A.D. vows to do more walking than talking. We invite you go for a walk with us and talk about the future of Atlanta.

The end of this journey is a cycle of educated and civic-minded workforce coming out of Atlanta into the world with a heart of service.

I ask you to walk alongside me in making education relevant by introducing career opportunities. Exposure to a world beyond the one that they currently live in is priceless. We like to talk about careers and not just jobs. What is your occupation?

I ask you to walk alongside me to show the Leaders that we serve how to be a productive citizen. We tell them that citizenship is more than waking up every day and living in the community. Your community advances by you making it better. At times, this is a difficult because when they open their eyes, they are back in the same harsh reality. We need to expose them to the best communities, people and families that this city has to offer. Are you the doors for our Leaders?

I ask you to walk alongside of me as we show our Leaders that service can begin at any age and you don't have to be rich to make a difference. You can't promote leadership without service. Our Leaders serve the city of Atlanta at least once a month. We could always use some extra hands.

I wish that we could travel this journey with love alone but it is going to take financial resources because eventually our shoes are going to wear out. We are going to get hungry. We have to rest in a safe place. What are you able and willing to invest in your city?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The formula that works

The high school drop out rate for black males across the country gives the appearance that they don't have an interest in education. Some may think they aren’t smart, but I think it’s because there’s something missing; something that’s not keeping them connected and interested. Something is keeping them connected and interested, however, in crime and avoiding education.

Our country spends millions of dollars on the incarceration of young black males; even to the point that municipalities use the third grade reading scores of young, black male students to determine how many jails and prisons to build. Really? Isn’t that sad that in America we’ve figured out a way to determine whether a child is a complete loss to society by the third grade?

In Atlanta, L.E.A.D. has created a way to make sure that every child we serve is an asset to society. With 83% of our young men earning college baseball scholarships opportunities and 100% of them going to college, we’ve created a system that uses baseball as a tool to save those who society deems lost, unsalvageable, and without value.

Why baseball? Because in baseball you succeed by failing and making adjustments; and if you continue to practice and persevere, you can become consistently better over time. There’s no instant gratification in baseball and the same is true for life. Anything that comes too quick won’t last.

So what is the formula for success? I can’t speak for everywhere else, but here in Atlanta it’s:

• L.E.A.D. (Athletics, Academics, Service, Exposure) + Inner City Youth = Success!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

L.E.A.D. or Leave

Being the CEO and founder of an organization is an important title but at the end of the day, it is hard work. Leadership requires patience and sacrifice. Both attributes are a virtue.

The strength of L.E.A.D. goes beyond CJ Stewart as the CEO and founder.

Every morning I am faced with a choice to lead or leave. I choose to lead every morning. Everyday isn't easy but I realize that God has me on earth for a reason and I have families and communities counting on me to lead in Atlanta.

There are five things that encourage me to lead L.E.A.D.

*My faith in God
*My family
*My board
*My supporters including friends volunteers
*My love for Atlanta and our assets (young adults)

My pastor always says that "you are only leading if someone is following."

The road that we travel won't always be easy but with patience, sacrifice and prayer, L.E.A.D. will continue to lead.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Preparing for rain

In one scene of the movie "Facing Your Giants", one of the actors talked about farmers who were experiencing financial hardship because of a lack of rain and it's adverse effect on crop production. There were two farmers feeling the pressure. One of the farmers decided that he would continue to take care of the field in preparation for rain. He had faith that God would eventually send the rain. The rain will come but will your field be ready?

L.E.A.D. is preparing for rain. In three years, we have done some amazing things, often with limited resources. Nonetheless, we have been blessed in more ways than we could have imagined. What will the next 10 years look like for L.E.A.D.? The future is bright but we must continue to prepare for rain.

Yesterday it was announced in my city that the MLB Civil Rights game will have a new home for the 2011 and 2012 season right here in Atlanta. This game developed to show how baseball was right at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement. During that time, over 25% of MLB players were African American. In 2010, less than 10% are African American. The L.E.A.D. model has a proven track record of success in Atlanta. Success that equals more African American young men effectively competing in baseball. Success that has yielded 100% of our Ambassadors attending college. Communities are being transformed as a result of our model. After 2012, the Civil Rights game will relocate to another city but the L.E.A.D. model can follow.

I really feel that this game will provide much needed exposure to L.E.A.D. and our success of ushering in a pipeline of L.E.A.D. certified leaders into colleges and the workforce.

The sky is the limit for L.E.A.D. but we must keep preparing for rain!