Nov 28, 2016
by Alex Peay
I remember getting home after voting on Election Day and putting on the TV to watch the votes come in. By the time I got to the channel, voting stations were still open so it was too early to make calls on any states. I found myself dozing off then waking up to see Hillary and Trump going neck to neck. If you know me, you know I love to eat, and since I was hungry, I had to make my plate! One hour went by Hillary was in the lead, another went by, Trump was in the lead. I think I put too much rice on my plate because I ended up falling asleep in the middle of the biggest Presidential Election of my generation since Obama and McCain in 2008! By the time I woke up, Trump had won, and I didn’t know how to react.
My heart started beating faster as I flashed back to images from Ava Duvernay’s Netflix documentary 13th which I watched five times. As those images turned into fears rolling down my spine, creeping down my legs and jumping into my heart, I did what I always do at times when I don’t have control of a situation, I prayed. As the Most High relaxed my nerves and washed my fears, I began to think how life is going to be without Obama. He was the first President I ever voted for so this was a brand new voting experience for me.
Still, I’m not worried. I feel confident about the future. Throughout my time with Cities United, I’ve met so many people around the country doing amazing work in their communities. I feel confident because I believe the solutions already exist. The seeds have been planted and the heat of the sun has now risen. Now it’s time for us to mobilize like a steady flow of water allowing us to grow together. Some of the ways I hope to continue to advance the work of Black Male Achievement include many familiar ideas that may make you nod your head and say mhmm.
Don’t just vote, get engaged: I’ve heard so many messages encouraging us to vote, which is good, but you see where it left us. We need to get engaged in government and politics like we do our cell phones and TV. We all pay taxes one way or another and that money pays for the system you see today. You don’t go to jail if you don’t pay your phone bill, but you sure will if you don’t pay those taxes! Learn who your representatives are and how government works on a state and local level. Local politicians have a direct influence on our communities. If a local representative doesn’t serve the community, get the community to vote them out the office and elect someone who will fight for the interests of the community
Bridge the generational gap: This is an urgent call for our elders who have fought over the years to build, share, teach and provide opportunities for the next generation, including the next generation of politicians. Throughout my time working with different generations I’ve learned that there are cultural differences among generations that need to be recognized, embraced and understood in order to build the path for future generations including my one year old daughter.
Do some real mentoring: I love the mentors who have helped me get me to where I am today, but there are a lot of so called “mentors” out there making the word overrated. As a young black man I’ve heard many older black men brag to others about being my mentor and molding me since I was in high school. First off all, I believe mentors should be chosen by the mentee, not by the mentor. Secondly, I moved around too much in my life to have anyone mold me. Finally, I don’t remember getting any advice, opportunities, constructive criticism or support from anyone in that bunch. Let’s understand what some call mentoring includes the skills, values and lessons necessary to stay on the streets not just get off of them.
One particular kind of mentoring I believe is important is capacity-building support for grassroots mentoring organizations that often have little or no guidance regarding operations but do great work with our youth. Let’s do less talking about mentoring and start doing more mentoring.
Use What We Got to Get What We Want: Now I may be young, but don’t get it twisted, I love me some old school music. Lyn Collins’ Think comes to mind because that’s exactly what we have to do. We have to utilize what’s existing to build the life our ancestors fought so hard for us to achieve. Like I said earlier, we are the seeds. The sun is hot right now, and we all need some water.
There’s an African Proverb that comes to mind. Ubuntu means “I am who I am because of who we all are”. We are in this together, and we need each other. The sense of confidence I felt after my prayer is because I believe in us. Let’s get to work America!
Alex Peay was born in Silver Spring, MD and grew up in New York City where he became interested in becoming a corporate attorney. In 2005, he attended Ursinus College majoring in Politics and receiving two minors in Media/ Communication and American Studies. During his sophomore year, Alex founded a discussion group called Rising Sons to build a sense of community amongst the black male population on campus. Peay’s work with Rising Sons at Ursinus opened up a summer internship with Pennsylvania’s Senator Robert P. Casey on Capitol Hill before his senior year.
By graduation, Alex was elected the Class of 2009 Commencement Speaker, winner of the Alumni Senior Award, the Theresa L. Urban Leadership Award and the Humanitarian Award. Due to the success and progress of Rising Son’s Alex refocused and changed his law school plans and decided to bring his organization to Philadelphia as a non-profit where he is dedicating his life to helping people ages 18 to 35 turn their passions into a profession through civic engagement.
Since Rising Sons was established in Philadelphia, Alex has also received the John S. & James L Knight Foundation’s Black Male Engagement Award, been named a United Way Philly Root’s Fellow, joined the Mayor’s Commission of African American Men, been voted an Echoing Green Fellow, received the Mayors’ Distinguished Alumni National Service Award and The Presidential Volunteer Service Award.
Alex has been featured in the Huffington Post, Daily News, CBS News, Black Enterprise, TvOne and his story was published in a book called Reach: 40 Black Men Speak on Living, Leading and Succeeding edited by NAACP President, Ben Jealous and Trabian Shorters, one of the founders of AmeriCrop and Founder/ CEO of BMe. Alex was honored by NBCBLK as one of the nation’s most talented innovators and game changers under the age of 28, as well as being named the Philadelphia Tribune’s 10 Most Influential under 40.
Alex was invited to share his thoughts as part of our monthly newsletter feature: Young Leader Voices.