Black History Month – Call Me MISTER Book Released
A few years ago…I had the privilege of working with the Call Me MISTER program to document and tell their story. It was the 10th Anniversary and they wanted to bring 10 years of progress to their supporters during this celebration.
I met Dr. Jones as the Executive Director of Call Me MISTER and as we embarked on a journey to document the progress…I grew to truly see the struggle beyond the classroom.
The goal of the Call Me MISTER program is to educate and empower young black men to become elementary school teachers here in SC. Why? To provide role models for young children…to help elementary children see black men in this leadership role. What a BIG idea…especially for South Carolina.
During this production process…I dug deep into my soul and was challenged to see whether I was truly open to this movement. As a white male, I do not think we can truly feel, see, hear, and comprehend the struggles of the black community. We think we are not “prejudice” but what I learned to realize is prejudice has nothing to do with this movement.
I did not see this until I met Mr. Harvey Gantt. Mr. Gantt was the first black male to be admitted to Clemson University. I worked wit his daughter Sonya Gantt at WCNC-TV in Charlotte.
It was a Saturday during the Summer of 2010. We were about to embark on the production of this project when I was asked to attend a weekend summit. All the “MISTER’s” from around the state were coming to Clemson University’s Tillman Hall to listen to Mr. Harvey Gantt speak.
As I walked into the auditorium in Tillman, I noticed I was the only white individual attending this packed house event. Not wanting to bring attention to my minority status…I found a seat in the back. As I sat and listened to the first black man to attend Clemson…I began to see his viewpoint. As the only white person in the room…his words felt like they were darts shooting across the room for only me to feel. And after his powerful remarks…something happened that brought context to the day.
Dr. Jones stood up and announced our documentary project. He shared the vision to tell this story and that it would be shared in a few months during the 10th Anniversary Summit at BMW in September 2010. Then he asked the team to stand-up to be recognized. As he called out each name…applause followed. Then my name was announced as the person who would help lead this initiative. Since I was sitting in the back…it took a second for Dr. Jones to find me amongst 800 plus in the room.
Then…he spotted me. For the first time, I felt the true meaning of the work *minority*. Dr. Jones told everyone to clap for me…the only white male in the room who has agreed to help produce this story. I think Dr. Jones knew that my perspective was crucial to help truly capture and share this story, especially given my minority status and viewpoint.
Almost three years later…I still do not think I truly grasp the core of the struggle. But I do think I see this movement through an ever shifting lens. Now, they have released their book call “Call Me MISTER.” Dr. Jones gave me a signed copy, one that I will cherish for a lifetime. I was in the meeting when they first talked about writing this book.
I hope you watch the interview above. It was great to catch-up with Dr. Jones…as a reminder of their story, their progress, and their continuing struggle to bring voice to their mission. We need more black males as role models. From the public school system to collegiate and professional coaching…we need more black males in the public as leaders…as role models. To watch the videos we produced that summer, here is a link to read more: www.callmemister.clemson.edu.
*Images from SCETV website and Amazon.com.