The Buncombe County page in this month’s Urban News has a story that I wrote in collaboration with Lisa Eby about a new group for Black male professionals that is forming. Click here for a PDF, here’s the text: 

Local community leaders Keynon Lake and Joe Greene recently announced that they will be working with Buncombe County, Hood Talk, and other local organizations to create a group for Black male professionals that will offer support and the opportunity for action.

“Our first step will be to reach out into the community to find out how many African American males are working in a professional setting.” says Lake, founder of the My Daddy Taught Me That (MDTMT) program. “We want to get a lot of information so we can provide support and camaraderie.”

This work comes out of an observation from the WNC Diversity Engagement Coalition that attendance at their professional development series is almost exclusively female in each of the classes they have offered. The central question is: how do we engage better with Black male professionals in our community to give them support and lift their efforts toward professional development? Given the connections built through Hood Talk, this effort will give insight into the unique challenges faced by Black professionals in Buncombe County.

joe-greene-by-micah-mackenzie

Joe Greene. Photo by Micah Mackenzie.

This work becomes even more important as we recognize that the trend in the future growth of the Black population in Buncombe County is slightly negative. The input from this group will help inform how we can make Buncombe County a welcoming and supportive place for people of color and, in particular, Black professionals. As Greene, who is a business owner and volunteer for MDTMT, states, “As black men, we are overlooked, underappreciated, and lack support.”

While being aware of the challenges, Lake and Greene are focused on how creating a group for black male professionals can tip the scale towards better outcomes by offloading negative factors while on-loading positive ones.

“We will try and break down the barriers, and even if barriers remain, the key is to be able to uplift one another, to have a place where you can feel safe, feel valued, to be able to be with people who are experiencing the same thing you are experiencing,” says Lake. “And to move from there to not only help with the healing, but to put an action plan in place so we can grow, and build and have our full talents realized in our community.”

As Greene puts it, “We are outnumbered, so we need to form some kind of unity. To show ourselves some direction, and show the youth some direction. We will enlighten ourselves and encourage ourselves.”

“We are primarily interested in the relationships it’s going to build,” says Lake. “To bring more folks together, to work more closely together, to build a network of strong men, to build community and shape Asheville and Buncombe County as a whole.”

Lake says, “Having positive males is critical. It’s one of the things my program is built on, when you have positive males, things tend to function better. Not a slap in the face to any women, but you need to have positive males in the families and in the community as a whole to be sure the entire family and community can be uplifted.

In terms of how the group will function, Lake and Greene say that will be determined by the participants. “Right now Joe and I are in the beginning stages of planning this,” Lake explains. “We will be getting the men at the table, presenting the idea behind the group, and then we will let it shape itself. Everyone will have a voice as to how to build this thing.”

To find out more about how to get involved in this initiative, contact Keynon Lake via mydaddytaughtmethat.org or 582-2261.