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Food for Thought
The many appetites of young black men and boys scream to be fed.
Some get high-intensity nutrition like safety, mentorship, diet, and sports.
Jahliel Callahan is one of those boys who does. Jahliel points to another underfed appetite—education.
When we asked Jahliel how he felt about school, he was quick to say he “liked school a little bit,” but wished they would change the lessons.”
Asked to explain, Jahliel offered an example:
“In social studies, they just teach us about maps, not about the history of a region or its geography. It seems like a quick lesson but not important which makes it less fun or interesting."
Jahliel has more to say, on a few other subjects, but his appetite for education led me to revisit a work entitled Why the Academic Achievement Gap Is a Racist Idea by Ibram x Kendi.
In it, Kendi has a take on the sort of education and testing that puts black boys at a disadvantage.
It’s those disadvantages that our L.E.A.D. Center for Youth strives to attend, bringing living, coping, and thriving skills to young black boys, using baseball both as a metaphor and tool.
At L.E.A.D. we:
Launch student-athletes towards educational opportunities after converting raw talent into the skills required for entry into college athletic programs.
Expose teens to service and local enrichment activities to instill a sense of responsibility, belonging, and investment; key requirements for building a civically engaged individual.
Advise players, coaches, and parents on the process of effectively supporting dreams of playing baseball at the college level.
Direct young men towards their promise by using the historical journey of past African American legends as the road map.
We get there often by listening to the voices of these young men even as they speak in the "baseball-ese" lingo our programs encourage. In those ways, we're blessed with insights that apply elsewhere in their worlds.
These are selected ways Jahliel sees his world today, as a L.E.A.D Ambassador:
CJ: What would you be doing if the L.E.A.D. program did not exist?
Jahliel: If L.E.A.D. didn't exist, I would be sitting at home, not playing sports, and arguing with my little brothers. I think I would still be shy and to myself.
CJ: Ever been bullied? How did you react?
Jahliel: I got bullied by this one kid because he was always jealous of me and my reaction was to get revenge. But revenge never gets you anywhere, so I just told my parents and the principal.
CJ: What was your life like before we got together?
Jahliel: Life before I was spending time with my family mostly. I didn't have outside friends my age. I hung out with my cousins most of the time. I was never a sports kid but I did enjoy baseball. My mom worked at the Braves stadium where I was able to see a lot of the games for free. I was also very shy.
CJ: What's your weakest point? How are you fixing it?
Jahliel: My weakest points are controlling my feelings and I’m fixing it by being tougher.
CJ: What makes you happiest?
Jahliel: What makes me happy is when we win the game and we think [we got better at baseball].