Magazine article New African

More Than 100 Black Men. (the Interview: Diaspora)

Magazine article New African

More Than 100 Black Men. (the Interview: Diaspora)

Article excerpt

Since its establishment in 1963 as a non-profit organisation, the 100 Black Men of America Inc (100 BMOA) has dedicated itself to the advancement of the African-American youth and the development of leaders of tomorrow.

With headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, 100 BMOA has 93 chapters worldwide, including five "international" chapters in the UK, Jamaica, Africa and the Caribbean. In 38 years, the organisation has impacted the lives of more than 120,000 children.

Its notable members include the secretary of state, Colin Powell; the former ambassador to the UN, Andrew Young; and the actors Bill Cosby and Denzel Washington. Last month, Thomas W. Dortch Jr, the 100 BMOA chairman, himself an author, granted this interview to our correspondent, Keisha Toms.

NA: You have been committed to the advancement of African-Americans for quite some time. What prompted you to become involved in both national and global issues that impact the lives of the African-descended people?

Dortch: My mentors guided me. When I was young, my father and all his business associates were very active in the community. I grew up in a segregated community in North Georgia. I was in the last graduating class of the old segregated high school.

Because of the commitment from adults and my parents, they refused to let me even think that I was inferior, or that I could not achieve. That foundation from my community, from my village, gave me the impetus to go on and achieve and do anything I wanted to do.

When I was in school I would get these tattered books and scratched up desks, but that didn't stop me from learning. And so I look at that experience, that journey to where I am today, if I can do it coming from those situations, I know that our young people today can do it.

Sure there are all kinds of other challenges such as health issues and racism. But racism was even more acceptable when I was growing up and it didn't stop us. My passion is to make sure that generations today and in the future have access to education and other things.

I have got a 15-year-old son at home. I don't want someone to stop him from progressing because of the colour of his skin, because he happens to be a black male.

I know that our young people are talented, and that they can achieve. My goal is to ensure that the generations we help, will have the same future as I did. We must understand that if we succeed, it's going to be because we did our part, not because someone owed it to us.

The days of expecting people to pay a debt they might have owed us ... we better write it off as a bad debt, and go ahead and create our own wealth, create our own jobs and our own destinies because nobody can care for us better than we can.

My responsibility is to use my talents and skills to help people, because that's the legacy I can leave. You can make all the money in the world, but at sometime or another somebody is going to get it. The one thing I am sure of is the joy I get from helping kids and helping my community, nobody can take that away from me.

NA: Could you tell us more about the Leon H. Sullivan Summit you have expanded to Africa?

[Reverend Leon H. Sullivan was the founder of the Sullivan Principles, which became a blueprint for ending apartheid in South Africa and an international standard for human rights. He also founded the Opportunities Industrialisation Centres of America (OIC) and OIC International in 1969, a skills training programme devised to train people of all races, ages and genders. The OIC is now one of the world's largest nonprofit training organisations. This year's Sullivan Summit should have been held in Ahuja, Nigeria, from 26-30 November, but was postponed because of the 11 September events. The summit brings American corporations, business leaders, and African heads of state together to discuss the political, economic, educational and social development of Africa. …

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