We had a great time celebrating our young people at the “first-ever” BGCMR LIVE! event last week, and if LIVE! was your “first-ever” Club event, allow us to formally welcome you to the family. It was an unforgettable night, but we understand some moments may have been mysterious.
Here’s the scoop on a few.
We unveiled new elements last Thursday, but if you felt like guests were experiencing some déjà vu, you’re not wrong. BGCMR LIVE! is a new event, but the concept of gathering to celebrate our outstanding young people isn’t. For years, we hosted the Distinguished Leadership Awards Dinner (a.k.a. DLA), where we formally recognized our Youth of the Year and, for many years, invited a well known guest speaker to share their life experience. It was a great event, created by our own Harry Pollard and the Parker, Pollard, Wilton & Peaden law firm, though fairly exclusive, and served as a fundraising gala. As with most galas, there was an overwhelming desire to be perfect.
But the Club isn’t about being perfect. It’s about showing up and getting better each time you do. We love so much about the Club. As you heard, especially in Todd’s story, it’s a place of respect, listening and fun. So we decided to make an event where you could become part of our culture. An event that could be shared and experienced by everyone who believes in progress. Whether you’ve known us for decades or seconds, we want you to experience hope with us.
And there you have it. The “First-Ever” BGCMR LIVE! event was born – and it certainly won’t be the last.
Um… #GeekedUpChallenge? “Black Excellence” rhymes?
Earlier this year, college students across America began posting videos that featured groups of young people delivering “free-style” raps. The content varied, but the trend was to rap about illegal substances, sexual promiscuity and other activities that provide notoriety through “street-cred”.
When the challenge made its way to VCU, three young black men decided to change the trend. Instead of negative activities, they wrote about their majors: biology, chemistry and engineering. They called themselves “Black Excellence” and decided that their bright futures provided all the “street-cred” they need.
Our kids, along with other teens living in Richmond and Petersburg, felt inspired by “Black Excellence” and their decision to shift the conversation. Our kids (and our emcee) wrote their own #GeekedUpChallenge rhyme and centered it on their vision for America’s youth and their own personal accomplishments. We’re proud of our kids for finding inspiration in all the right places and doing their part to spread positive messages for their generation.
So, that opening line …“hosting again”?
Tevonte Grant is a current MLK Club staff member, Club alum and 2010 BGCMR Youth of the Year. He also won the Virginia title that year. Ever since he’s been a go-to source of inspiration for our staff and our members. Tevonte has participated in maybe as many annual events as Todd has. He started as an event guest, then a Junior Youth of the Year in 2008 and continued as an attempted emcee two years ago. But, that was the year we were snowed out and so last year, to fulfill our promise to him, we invited him back to emcee. He’s a bit of a BGCMR celebrity (which is why we got a kick out of Tasha’s opening joke) and a great example of how the YOY title can benefit our kids’ future.
The fact is, many alumni and especially our Youth of the Year find their way back to us. Tasha Moore, this year’s host, has been to the last three annual events where she reconnected with staff and alumni. It was there that she discovered a new way to be active at the Club, and she continues to support our mission by introducing young people in the Northside neighborhood to our Capital One Club in Providence Park.
Whether our alumni are interning at the administrative offices, hosting an event or raising money to support the Club, they find purpose with us. We’re working to identify more opportunities for Youth of the Year and alumni to stay involved in a meaningful way – a way that supports their own personal growth. But we admit, BGCMR LIVE! (and its former title DLA) will always be an exciting time to run into these young leaders and see what they’ve been up to.
Many of the YOY pieces referenced the Club protecting them – what do they mean? Why didn’t you talk about that?
BGCMR LIVE! is about hope coming to life. It’s our look into the future and a reflection of the work we do together. But, in order to celebrate good progress, you have to have an understanding of where we start.
For young people living in Richmond and Petersburg, life is about survival. In the East End alone, where two of our five Clubs are located, over 3,500 young people live in poverty. Our kids use words like “hustle” and “grind” to describe daily activities like going to school or finding and preparing meals for themselves and siblings. For many, words like success are replaced with “making it”, instilling in them a short-sighted vision for the future.
The Clubs have always been a safe-haven from the outside world and a place where expectations remain high. This night should be no different. Our kids and their families are all too familiar with the challenges within their neighborhoods and so we shield them from the harsh realities and put a spotlight on their high achievements.
Many of our supporters will tell you that the best way to understand how great our kids’ achievements really are is to come and visit. In an hour to 90 minutes we can share a perspective on our region’s history and introduce you to our neighborhoods in a safe way.