The 'mobs' we haven't heard much about

Posted: August 11, 2011

By Donna Frisby-Greenwood

Lately the region has been transfixed by flash mobs in Center City, and with good reason. But what would happen if we all started paying more attention to the other "mobs" of black men and boys - the ones whose activism and service inspire and engage communities?

I'm talking, for instance, about the young people, primarily black and male, who gather to dance at Cookman United Methodist Church in North Philadelphia each week. Tyree Dumas, also known as Top Dollar of the Dollar Boyz, started out wanting to form the hottest dance troupe in Philadelphia. But then he realized his group's full potential, and now he helps young people find jobs and get the services they need.

There have also been "mobs" of young people meeting this summer with the Philadelphia Youth Commission. Led by the commission's young executive director, Jordan Harris, they've taken the time to discuss issues like violence, employment, education, and health, and how the Youth Commission can help them change their neighborhoods.

In addition, dozens of black men and boys have signed up or been nominated this week to tell their stories of strengthening their communities. It's part of BME (pronounced "be me"), a communitywide effort to engage, celebrate, and connect unsung heroes among the black men and boys of Philadelphia and Detroit, with support from the Knight Foundation and the Open Society Foundation.

Anthony Martin is one of them. A former sports marketing executive, Anthony started What It Takes, a program in which black professional men will "e-mentor" black boys. There's also Joshua Scott, a Penn State graduate who is volunteering his time to create a weekly newsletter for a local neighborhood organization. And then there's Greg Corbin, a schoolteacher who lifts young voices through the organization he founded, the Philadelphia Youth Poetry Movement.

Tyree, Jordan, Anthony, Josh, and Greg: They are the norm. And they are doing what they can, with what they have, to help their communities. These black men and boys make up the mobs we should be discussing and highlighting, so that they might inspire the few who are in need of guidance.

We're not advocating that anyone ignore the problems in our neighborhoods and communities. But we are determined to start paying attention to those who deserve recognition for what they do to keep us strong.

Ask yourself: Who are the black men and boys whose spirit and actions make your community stronger in big and small ways? Then nominate them at www.BMEChallenge.org, and help us flip the script.


Donna Frisby-Greenwood is program director for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in Philadelphia. She can be reached at greenwood@knightfoundation.org.

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