When I was a kid, the only time I saw someone in a suit was on Easter Sunday or at a wedding. The professionals that I knew were all on TV and none of them looked like me. When I dreamt of my career, the attire was nowhere in sight; I only thought about the temporary fulfillment of having an esteemed career.
For most of my childhood, I lived in Miami, Florida. As a kid, my idols were athletes and the neighborhood street hustlers. They had all the money and popularity, and they were the ones that gave back to the community. I never saw doctors, lawyers, or engineers come to inner-city schools to mentor students or to donate money and supplies to schools. Although Miami was rampant with these professionals, they were not represented in my community.
When you grow up in an impoverished, drug-stricken, and/or violent area, the goal is to “Get Out,” like Chris Washington, and never come back. You want to climb the socioeconomic ladder and provide a better life for yourself. Working hard and achieving success are not just normal ways of life; they are means of survival. The same goes for Chris. Getting out of the Armitage’s home (Rose’s family’s home) was not something he wanted to do; he had to do it to survive. The difference between Chris and everyone that grew up in an urban area is we must get out, but we must also return.
Embarking on a new journey is refreshing. You have the opportunity to go to a new college or start a new job, move to a different city, and create new experiences. The best part of it all is being able to take everything you learned on that journey and share it with your community. To me, success is not just about money, awards, and/or titles. True success is being able to positively impact someone’s life other than your own. It can be as simple as introducing a concept, a career, or a new way of thinking to someone who would not have had the exposure to these ideals.
As a Black man, I have a moral obligation to give back to my community. I have a fiduciary responsibility to return to my community and other communities that resemble my home environment to be a catalyst for change. Being a professional athlete or an entertainer is phenomenal, but the odds of becoming one is less than one percent. Our children can become and have a better chance of becoming doctors, lawyers, social workers, accountants, or postal workers. The average Corporate American, blue collar employee, and entrepreneur must give back and represent themselves in urban communities.
Giving back is as simple as going to a school or neighborhood center once a month to mentor a student, donating supplies or money, or simply going to schools and speaking to students about your experiences. You can find a way to give back and make communities and the lives of others better. In addition, most employers, if not all, will support your initiatives and commitments to service.
To everyone who is reading this article, regardless of your race or socioeconomic status, I challenge you to give back to low-income communities and mentor students from these underserved areas. We must teach our kids that being an athlete is not their only option to “’Get Out’ the hood.” There are many fulfilling careers that provide upward mobility and wearing formalwear outside of church or a wedding should be mundane to our kids. “Do not just strive to ‘Get Out.’ Aim to gather everything you can about the world and return to expose our kids to the opportunities and bright futures that await them.”
Original article by Jerome Jay can be found: