Last month, I had the privilege of meeting some pretty awesome individuals at a conference at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. Of the workshops that I attended, one in particular stood out to me the most. It was on leadership within the Black community, and to me, it marked a significant shift. I already had a strong idea on what it meant to be a leader within the community, but I was curious as to what others thought. That’s when I met Tyree. He’s a smart, educated, and accomplished individual that I met during the workshop and his thoughts intrigued me. I felt that it was important to capture his thoughts on the topic and to gain perspective on the idea of leadership, Black and beyond.
First, allow me to introduce our guest.
Tyree is a 25 year old Los Angeles native, who is recently pursuing his Masters in African-American studies at Temple University. He enjoys volunteerism and service. A recent graduate of California State University, Bakersfield, Tyree received his Bachelor’s Degree in Communications with an emphasis in Public Relations with a minor in African American Studies. He was a Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Scholar and worked as a Student Ambassador serving as master of ceremonies during orientations for audiences of up to 1,000 students. Very involved on campus, he was also involved in several theatrical productions, a Vice President of Black Men on Campus and has also served as a volunteer on weekends teaching computer literacy to at-risk youth, all while maintaining a 3.40 GPA. We’re impressed!
Do you identify as a Black leader? Why? I certainly identify myself as a Black leader. I’m someone who is extremely passionate about seeing my community changed from the inside out. I aspire to do that through my influence and education in the hope that it inspires others–especially the youth–to make decisions for positive change. I make concerted efforts to use my voice to advocate for initiatives and causes that directly impact our community. My Faith is one of my main driving forces as well as my five brothers and sisters.
Are there any specific events that caused you to include this identity? The events that have inspired me to include this identity is my acquisition of an education. When I was younger I always read of the greats Like [Martin Luther] King and [Malcolm] X, but I soon realized that they got to the places they were through the means of an education. It was there education coupled with their passion to serve those who were disenfranchised that I model. In recent years, as is have seen it, there have been few influential voices within our generation who have been able to command the same audience of our community. I feel like I possess the qualities to make an impact or at least a dent in the glass ceiling they did.
What are some important issues that are facing the Black community today? Among the many issues that face the black community (Joblessness, Gun Violence, and Education etc.), I feel there is one trait that seems to be interwoven into all of them: The Lack of Awareness of Self. Our communities have little to no historical intimacy. Especially outside of what textbooks have taught us. I know our history didn’t begin with shackles and chains. I am a believer that when one gains a knowledge of self it makes it impossible for the quality of life to stay the same.
Why do you think these issues haven’t be resolved? Do you identify as a Black leader? Why? I believe this issue of the knowledge of self hasn’t been resolved in our community because of the loss of solidarity and respect for our Elders. Having been raised by my Grandmother, I know this for a fact. I had the privilege of growing up and gleaning from her wisdom and learning of her trek with my Mother and her four brothers and sisters across the nation during the Great Migration from Savannah, Georgia to NYC and then to California to escape poverty and racism. Without those stories I’m not sure if I would be the same person. So, I’m a believer that without our elders it’s impossible to see our futures. Moreover, as a community we need to maintain and sustain a sense of solidarity. We, as African Americans are inherently communal and we have to go back to that. Our issue surfaced when we began to ignore our community and instead decide to buy into society’s emphasis of the “individual”. I believe the moment we as a community are able to place the success of our communities over our personal selves, we will then begin to see a shift in our praxis.
What are some things you’re doing to change that? Some of the things that I am doing to change are small, but I feel they are significant. Currently, I have my own Radio Show that I host here at Temple entitled “The Corner”. The Corner aka the intersection of two points, is where we discuss all things relevant to Urban America. An entertainment/discussion show centered on urban life, Diversity, Hip-Hop & Faith we carry conversations surrounding our community and issues that deal specifically to us, both on Temple’s Campus and the community abroad.
On the show we feature community headlines, conversations about relevant topics and critical analysis of the entertainment we consume (i.e. Beyoncé and her role as a Feminist etc.). We also spotlight people in the North Philadelphia community who are invested in changing the face of their community. We just had our third show and we discussed Nicki Minaj’s controversial use of Malcom X for her new song and whether Hip Hop is still a voice to the voiceless. Listen here.
Many would argue that there is a lack of communication and distrust between men and women in our community, which is causing some of the problems. Would you agree? Why? I would agree. One of the reasons being is because of the lack of the appreciation for self. It’s very simple: You can never admire a Queen if you’ve never been told that you, yourself, are a King. And vice versa. Conflict between Black men and women is counterproductive. We can’t afford to be divided along gender lines in a society where we’re watching the disintegration of the Black family.
Do you see the things getting better or worse in the future? I personally am very optimistic. I foresee many of the issues that face our community changing. However that change won’t come until we WANT to change it. No one can/will do it for us. In short: We have to write our story; we have to reclaim our narrative. For too long we’ve had it written for us. It’s our turn to write our own entry.
We couldn’t agree more with Tyree’s closing statements. What a positive message he’s putting out there, people. Keep in contact with Tyree via Twitter, YouTube, and his blog… Don’t forget to tune in every Saturday at 11am to catch “The Corner”: click here.
So what do you think, ladies and gents – Any thoughts on leadership, Black and beyond? Help keep the conversation going.