Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Why is Denzel Campbell such a great L.E.A.D. Mentor?

Several weeks ago I posted a blog entitled "Your 3-Step Guide to being an Effective L.E.A.D. Mentor". I wrote the blog to help prospective mentors understand our mindset as an organization. Stewardship is one of our core values and we define it as a protection of beliefs as well as people.

Denzel Campbell is featured in this blog. He's a L.E.A.D. Ambassador alum, a graduate of the University of South Carolina-Beaufort and also an employee at Aerotek.

He's a great L.E.A.D. mentor because he is a present, he understands how to be present as well as a partner.

Being A Present

C.J.: What do you worry about?

Denzel: I worry about letting others down and not living up to expectations. I care a lot about the people close to me and I want to continue to impress them while inspiring them as well. Always a topic of my mind for me.

C.J.: What do you cry about?

Denzel: My family, life’s hurdles, and my relationship with my girlfriend Courtney. It takes a lot out of me sometimes knowing I’m away and not able to see my family every day. Life’s hurdles can just come from left and right and I have to rely on my own decisions and the help of my girlfriend to figure things out at times. I know I have others to rely on for sure but when you’re young it seems like it’s you vs the world.

C.J.: What do you dream about?

Denzel: I dream about that big house on a lot of land and having enough money to take care of my family. I want to help them out in reasonable ways and also experience life’s luxuries and places I’ve never traveled. This world is so amazing and baseball allowed me to take it all in on and off the field.

C.J.: Why does God have you on earth?

Denzel: My purpose is to impact others in positive ways and spread the word through Christ. My attitude, where I come from, and the tone in my voice has given others motivation to strive for greatness. Regardless of what obstacles are in front of you, no matter your name, color, or sports preference, it’s possible to create success if giving an opportunity while believing in yourself. With faith, strong work ethic and through god I’m able to pass this message along to others.

C.J.: What world problem do you want to solve?

Denzel: Social inclusion. Our community efforts and day to day actions must correlate in a positive manner that benefits not only yourself but those involved as well. Regardless of differences, it takes everyone working together to get beyond those hurdles. It’s the only way everyone can prosper and we as a country can get to a better place. It takes time for sure but we must chip away.

C.J.: What is your calling in life from God?

Denzel: To service my community wherever I am and help place great people in the careers that will reward their long term goals. L.E.A.D. taught me life lessons, instilled a game plan in me, and gave me the keys to opportunities I thought would never exist. Baseball just made everything better. From there I obtained a job with Aerotek which allows me to help others in their careers like those who helped me from the beginning. The path God has given me continues to include heart and giving.

Being Present

C.J.: Where do you research your favorite articles and/or blogs?

Denzel: I like the main local news outlets online or sports websites. Something that’s on my phone while I’m on the go. ESPN, Bleacher Report, WTOC, or Fox News apps mainly. On Facebook and Twitter I can follow my favorite people as well to keep up with the day to day activities and helpful ideas.

C.J.: Where do you research your favorite inspirational video content?

Denzel: YouTube, Twitter, Facebook. You can keep track of your favorite outlets on mobile devices and computers.

C.J.: What's your favorite quote?

Denzel: Jim Bouton “You see, you spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball and it turns out it was the other way around all the time.”

C.J.: What are some creative and virtual ways that you can mentor boys without being in their physical presence?

Denzel: I like to use video messaging, texts, or conference calls to pass along any message possible. It’s an easy setup and a lot of people can be involved with a good game plan.

Left to right: C.J. Stewart, Desmond Stegall, and Denzel Campbell

Being A Partner

C.J.: How do you define humility?

Denzel: Enjoy the wins in life but always remember where it started and the hard work it takes to continue growth in whatever you are achieving.

C.J.: What is your spiritual gift?

Denzel: Giving (Romans)

C.J.: What is your earthly talent?

Denzel: Guiding people in their careers and daily life. Passing along what was given to me for someone else to experience.

C.J.: What's more important, to be perfect or intentional? 

Denzel: Intentional. I feel these are actions based on a thought or decision you have made. It’s what you believe in as well. Good or bad it can affect you in the long term and how you learn from it could affect others as well.

C.J.: What do you have to give?

Denzel: My time and experiences from day one throughout my life. Money is one thing but being able to resonate with those same shoes you once filled means a lot more. C.J.: Why should a mentor follow you?

Denzel: I try to be myself and trust in the things I believe in and what makes me happy. I know working hard and giving back will lead to better things for those involved. I‘ve made mistakes as well but none I regret because I understand more about myself and life today. Give that message to someone else and being a friend can spread good vibes.


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

At 30,000 Feet

Today was a special day for L.E.A.D. (Launch, Expose, Advise, Direct). We presented L.E.A.D. to Major League Baseball Players Association at their headquarters in New York.

L.E.A.D. Ambassador Vernard Kennedy (V.K.) is a senior at New Schools at Carver (Atlanta Public Schools) and he joined Kelli Stewart (L.E.A.D.'s Executive Director) and I today as the closer. It was his first flight and here is his reflection from today.

30,000 Feet - Establishing the Vision and Making Decisions

In The Clouds - Place of Protection of the Vision and Provision

On The Ground - Place of Growth and Harvest

Vernard's 30,000 foot aerial view

Why were you chosen to present to Major League Baseball Players Association along with Coach Kelli and Coach C.J.?

V.K.: I feel that I was chosen because I am an example of the process of becoming a L.E.A.D. Ambassador. I represent the future leadership of L.E.A.D. I have been in the organization since the 6th grade at Sylvan Hills Middle School (Atlanta Public Schools). I am also great at representing the organization and telling others about the organization.

How did it feel mentally to cruise on a plane at 30,000 feet?

V.K.: I was nervous at first but as the ride went along, I felt stable and safe.

How did it feel physically to cruise on a plane at 30,000 feet?

V.K.: At first it felt like I was on a roller coaster. The feeling was exciting and scary at the same time.

How did you view the world from 30,000 feet?

V.K.: I tried to compare it to Georgia and I realized that there are more places that I can travel outside of Atlanta.

What surprised you the most during the presentation to Major League Baseball Players Association?

V.K.: What surprised me in the meeting was the collective power that the people amongst me had.

How has your Atlanta Public Schools (APS) educational experience prepared you for the presentation to Major League Baseball Players Association?

V.K.: APS has prepared me by giving me opportunities to tell my life story. I am comfortable with telling my life story and proud to share it with new people without feeling ashamed.

How has your L.E.A.D. experience prepared you for the presentation to Major League Baseball Players Association?

V.K.: L.E.A.D. prepared me to also tell my story without being ashamed. L.E.A.D. has also prepared me because it gave me the context to speak with clarity in the meeting.

What world problem do you want to solve?

V.K.: I want to solve poverty in the inner cities throughout America because there is a lot of unnoticed talent in inner cities. As an inner city Atlanta teenage Black male, I feel that I get overlooked because of negative bias against me because of my skin color.

What college do you plan to attend fall 2017?

V.K.: I plan to attend Kennesaw State University. However, if I get the Posse Scholarship, I will be attending Texas A&M.

What major do you plan to pursue in college?

V.K.: I want to study business and marketing.

How has your experience at MLB in New York prepared you to lead in Atlanta for the remainder of 2016?

V.K.: The experience taught me to continue to focus on being successful and significant. Success is based on what you get and significance is based on what you give. Meeting with Mr. Dave Winfield was amazing. He reminded me that there is always someone watching you. He said that it may not be now or two years from now but that I will be rewarded for my commitment to excellence.

Mr. Dave Winfield and Vernard Kennedy

With respect to the leadership within L.E.A.D. using Coach C.J. (CEO), Coach Kelli (Executive Director), Coach Kevin Young (Program Director) and you (L.E.A.D. Ambassador), who's positioned at 30,000 Feet, In The Clouds and On The Ground and why?

V.K.: Coach C.J. serves at 30,000 feet because he has the most responsibility. Coach Kelli is in the clouds because her responsibilities allow her to pass her influence down unto the ground level. Coach Young is on the ground because he is actually involved with all of the student-athletes of L.E.A.D. the most. I have a lot of respect for Coach Young.

What do you need to do to get 30,000 Feet for L.E.A.D.?

V.K.: I need to have results to show that I'm are the right person for high level situations. I'm well on my way. Last year, was selected for the the 21st Century Leaders (21CL) 20 under 20. Now I have the power to nominate a L.E.A.D. Ambassador for the 2017 21CL 20u20. I have more power than Coach C.J. in this situation because I have received the award and he hasn't.

Omar Minaya, Kevin McGuinness, Vernard Kennedy, C.J. Stewart, Kelli Stewart, Jeffrey Hammonds, and Dave Winfield


Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Dividends of Poverty

There is a narrative that’s touted in the media and other propaganda on the daily that black boys living in America’s inner-city’s are violent and stupid. Here in Atlanta, we even have the data to support this narrative:

· Many of our inner-city neighborhoods have been rated the most dangerous of America’s inner-cities,

· Youth from three Atlanta zip codes – 30310, 30315, 30318 – grow up to comprise 80% of Georgia’s prison population.

· Black boys in Atlanta have about a 40% chance of graduating at all or on time.

When I hear this narrative – it pisses me off because the naysayers are also talking about me.

Although I partner with Atlanta Public Schools (APS) through my non-profit organization L.E.A.D., Inc. (Launch, Expose, Advise, Direct) and through my Rotary Club of Atlanta West End, this isn’t my first encounter with APS. My very first time inside of an APS school was as a seed in my mother’s womb. She started off at Doug, but when she got pregnant with me, she had to go to night school at Washington to finish her education. I was born at Grady Hospital and during my early years we lived in Hollywood Brooks. She also received some educational and career support from The Job Corps, right on Westlake Avenue. Ironically, when I was a little boy in the day care there, I had no idea that one of the ladies who I saw everyday was the aunt of my wife who I wouldn’t meet until some 15 years or so later.

I say all this to tell you, my Brothers, that I am you. I was on food stamps, TANF, Medicaid and WIC; all of those daily tell-tale reminders that you were born at the bottom and you have absolutely no shot of making it out of the gutter. After all, one of the most alarming stats on poverty in Atlanta today is that only about 4% of children born into poverty will ever make it out, so my being born into a family on the poverty rung of life was surely a death sentence – or so it seemed.

C.J. Stewart speaking to Atlanta Public Schools students at Turner Field.
My purpose in sharing this message with you is to reveal the hidden treasures, the dividends, that poverty paid out to me.

GRIT = Strength of Character

Know: Grit is strength of character. It's not based on talent. It's about getting difficult things done even when you don't have the knowledge and resources to do it. Grit is about possessing passion and perseverance. Your passion is found in your suffering. Pinpoint what makes you mad as hell and there is where you’ll find your life’s mission.

Feel: I want you to feel confident when approaching life challenges. You have grit because you are still standing despite your life's challenges. You are still standing in the face of things that would have already destroyed others folks. Remember, you are still standing.

Believe: The world has lots of problems and I need you to believe that you can solve them. You certainly can’t solve them all, but you can solve at least one. The world needs you because your grit allows you to get difficult things done and not quit when things get tough.

Do: I want you to be keenly aware of adversity, run to it and then conquer it like only you can.


Know: Discernment is the ability to judge well. Even if you weren’t born with it, growing up in poverty develops this gift in you like no other situation can. Knowing who to trust and who to leave alone can save your life and the lives of those around you. Discernment; it's a powerful weapon that you possess.

Feel: I want you to trust your gut. Discernment is one of those tricky gifts that sometimes doesn’t come with empirical evidence; sometimes it’s just a feeling you have in your gut. Learn to listen and trust this voice. In my life experience, I grew to find out that this feeling was the Holy Spirit speaking to me and guiding me before I was even thinking about being a follower of Christ.

Believe: I want you to believe that you can use your spiritual gift of discernment to navigate life's experience to make your life better and the lives of others better.

Do: Poor people are often taken advantage of because it's assumed that we don't know better and can't do better. I want you to protect the poor. You can do this; you must do this. As you progress in life and become financially secure, don’t forget the poor.


Know: Great men born in this great city of Atlanta have paved the way for you to become a living legend. We couldn’t chosen a better city in the world to be born in – especially when it comes to poverty. Immerse yourself in the rich history of black people in Atlanta and abroad – their legacies will fuel yours.

Feel: I want you to feel self confident in the fact that you can solve problems because men born in Atlanta and educated in Atlanta Public Schools such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Vernon Jordan, Mayor Maynard Jackson and Coach C.J. Stewart have solved and are solving problems.

Believe: I want you to believe that God has you on earth for this moment. You are a living legend and your legacy will live beyond you. Take care of it daily; use your grit and discernment to protect it.

Do: I want you to start living like you have the power to solve world problems. There are millions of people that will benefit from your contributions to the world that may never get the opportunity to say thank you to you. Do not believe what the world says about you. Make them believe differently. Write a new narrative.

A message to the young ladies: Please know that as I write this blog that I have you in my heart. As the father of the two beautiful little black girls, the leadership and mentoring work I do with black boys is so that my daughters know what a confident, strong and productive young man looks like. I need your prayers as I work with our young men, so they can be great community leaders, husbands and fathers for you.

Coach C.J. Stewart and three of Atlanta's most valuable assets. Photo by Audra Starr.