by Cesca Janece Waterfield
“What they see is what they’ll be” is a motto that members of 100 Black Men Inc. keep in mind as the organization mentors, leads financial and investment literacy programs, awards scholarships, and operates leadership institutes in the interest of youth.
But for Raymond Lucas, a retired IBM executive, the adage resonates just a little differently. In 2004, the Baltimore, Maryland resident attended one of the group’s three annual conferences. “I had the opportunity to photograph one of their events. As I was processing a lot of the pictures, I knew this was something I needed to be part of,” he remembers. As the images came clear during development, so did Lucas’ motivation to join the organization. “I sought out the Maryland chapter,” he says. “I got active pretty quickly and in some leadership roles to hit the ground running to help some kids.”
100 Black Men Inc. is an organization of professional men who fund and work with youth in structured programs focusing on four areas: Mentoring, Education, Health & Wellness, and Economic Development. Some of their sponsors include Anheiser-Busch, GlaxoSmithKline, and Wal-Mart. They currently have more than 100 domestic chapters and four international chapters, including two in Birmingham and London, England, and one in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Nearby Hampton Roads has a thriving chapter, as well as the Baltimore area. While the historic group leads mentoring and educational efforts nationally, a chapter for 100 Black Men is nowhere to be found in Richmond.
While Richmond has other dedicated organizations with similar aims, members of 100 Black Men enthusiastically discuss their unique role. As its motto implies, they direct the bulk of their work to mentoring. “That’s basically the primary thing that the 100 does,” Lucas says. Their programs are designed to promote positive self identity, teach life, social and emotional skills, moral character, and work ethic. “You can do a million more studies, but the bottom line is mentoring works, because ‘What they see is what they’ll be.’ As an adult black male who spent so many years in corporate America, I really learned the power of mentoring in [a corporate] environment more so than as a young kid. I had really strong family around me to support me. I guess in a sense, they were all mentors. But as an adult male, mentoring became something that I understood to be extremely powerful right off the bat.”
The 100 not only offers traditional mentoring by working with schools, they develop additional opportunities. The 100 Leadership Development Institute instructs youth in a comprehensive program designed to cultivate individual leadership skills as well as those needed to strengthen a balanced community. They visit schools and fund scholarships, and are in the midst of a nationwide collaboration among chapters to promote mentoring.
“As much as a traditional one-on-one mentoring is needed, the reality is that the demand for mentors has clearly out numbered the supply. We’ve had to get creative. So we’ve developed strategies we call “Mentoring the 100 way, which basically consists of group mentoring or team mentoring when you have one mentor or several working with a fairly large group of kids.”
Lucas underscores the impact the organization can have on youth as well as the community at large, and he points out, “It’s not just black males, but we have programs that extend to all areas of the community. The 100 has what I might describe as the Obama mentality: A rising tide raises all boats. Whereas it’s important to help the African American community, we don’t exclude our services from anybody. If there’s a need there, and we can deliver, we’re happy to deliver it.”
The mentoring takes place even among members. “I also mentor some adults from a business perspective. I mentor a couple of Microsoft managers and a Verizon manager. Sometimes I get more out of it than they do,” Lucas admits. “It’s keeping me on my toes. I’m probably reading more things than I would ordinarily do. You grow from the preparation. There’s no doubt in my mind.”
Just as a conference sparked Lucas’ commitment, he believes it does the same for its younger participants. The 100 hosts leadership summits, training forums, and conferences each year. “The thing that I’m most excited is that lately these conferences have been very heavily attended by the youth that we support. I used to think three conferences was a lot for members to be bouncing around the country to attend. Lately, I’ve begun to see that all three of them are well worth it. One of the things we do at those national conferences is we have black history challenge where each chapter brings a team to compete.”
Where are Richmond’s 100? Right here, of course. Lucas says, “If you’re thinking about setting up a chapter, you really have to assess what your community needs are, to build a framework or a structure to complement the city or their resources in addressing specific problems. We make sure that we keep our members and our leaders on track that we exist for these youth. We’ve got a crisis right now. We have some challenges, and although I could sit here and acknowledge that we’re making progress, we still have so far to go.”