Archive for the ‘Giving Back’ Category


My 2014 Summer Classes

July 2, 2014

When I first thought about this summer, I was caught between doing what I did last year or doing something new. The academic year was so busy for me that I didn’t have the time to sit and do the research for the new classes I had in mind. When I had time off during Regents Week, I took a much needed break. During most breaks in the academic year, I was usually went away for something work related (ie. conferences, counselor trips).

Once I was fully rested during Regents Week, I cracked down on researching materials for the classes. It was so down to the wire that I almost considered just doing the classes I did last year. But I didn’t give up because I felt these new classes were as important as what I did before. So, I’m glad to share with you all the syllabuses. Feel free to follow along and engage!

The Daily Poverty Show
In this class, students will explore the issue of poverty using clips from The Daily Show, articles and other video sources.

Attendance: 15%
Discussion: 40%
Notes: 15%
Leading Discussion: 30%

Week 1
June 30th: Class Warfare—warren-buffett-vs–wealthy-conservatives—the-poor-s-free-ride-is-over

July 1st: Welfare Test and Health Care—knoxville–tennessee-edition

July 2nd: The Welfare Abusers–a-waste-odyssey

July 3rd: The Wage Fight—fast-food—minimum-wage—the-poverty-line
Homework: Joseph E. Stiglitz’s “Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%” in May 2011’s Vanity Fair

Week 2
July 7th: Inequality for All showing (Netflix)

July 8th: Continuation of Inequality for All

July 9th: Growth or Lack Thereof
Neil Irwin’s “Growth Has Been Good for Decades. So Why Hasn’t Poverty Declined?” in The New York Times
Homework: Trip Gabriel’s “50 Years Into the War on Poverty, Hardship Hits Back” in The New York Times

July 10th: The Great Society vs. Now

Week 3
July 14th: Out of Touch—power-of-love

July 15th: Politics Over Life—-taker–states

July 16th: Cutting Life Lines

July 17th: Homelessness in Another Light

Week 4
July 21st: A Place at the Table showing (Netflix)

July 22nd: Food Insecurity
Continuation of A Place at the Table

July 23rd: History or Poverty

July 24th: The Poorest City in America

Week 5
Students’ Choice

Building a Complete Me
In this class, male students will explore topics that relate to their growth in discussions using videos and articles.

Attendance: 15%
Discussion: 40%
Notes: 15%
Leading Discussion: 30%

#1 Rule: What is Said by Another Student Stays in the Room

Week 1: Defining Manhood
June 30th: Barack & Curtis

July 1st: What It Means to Be a Man (Presentation)

July 2nd: Violence and the Media
Tough Guise – Violence Media and the Crisis in Masculinity

July 3rd: Free Talk

Week 2: Loving Yourself
July 7th: “The Importance of Male Self-Love”

July 8th: “Increase Your Self-Esteem”

July 9th: “The Skill of Self Confidence”

July 10th: Free Talk

Week 3: Having Swag and Productive Friendships/Relationships
July 14th: Changing and Creating Your Own Style

July 15th: Being Honest and Giving Respect
Matt Walsh’s “Dear single dudes: it’s time to man up”

July 16th: What is a Friend?
Fredric Neuman’s “What to Expect From a Friend”

July 17th: Free Talk (Setting Limits)

Week 4: Fathers
July 21st: Nothing but a Man showing

July 22nd: Continuation of Nothing but a Man

July 23rd: Smoke Signals showing

July 24th: Continuation of Smoke Signals

Week 5
Student’s Choice


#CDF40 and Skidmore YouTube Feature

September 30, 2013

Back in March, Skidmore College, where I graduated from, profiled me. Tonight is the Children’s Defense fund’s 40th Anniversary event. Leading up to it, CDF profiled 40 young people that has been involved with the organization. I was one of the people profiled. Skidmore and CDF has played huge roles in my life. I thank God for where I am today.


Flatiron Hot! News Article

August 23, 2013
The book cover

The book cover

Flatiron Hot News Article

Check out this article featuring my mentee and I talking about our life experiences and book.


My Summer Classes

July 2, 2013

In being apart of Pace University’s Liberty Partnerships Program, I’m teaching three classes in the combined Summer Program with Upward Bound. If you happen to keep tabs on me, I’ve taught activism classes for two years during the academic year with Upward Bound. This is my first time teaching in the Summer. I wanted to do something fun that had depth. One class deals with college admissions definitions. The other two are called “Superheroes in Media” and “The Philosophy of Rap.” The discussion in these two classes that I created has been great so far. Check out the syllabi for them below!

Superheroes in the Media
In this class, students will watch TV shows and movie clips containing the portrayal of superheros. The discussion topics are racism and sexism.

Attendance: 5%
Participation: 30%
Notes: 15%
Discussion Leading: 50%

Ground Rules
-What is said in here stays in here
-There is no such thing as a stupid thought
-One person speaking at a time
Breaking these rules will result in an automatic failure or grade reduction

Week 1: Adult Diversity Friends Part 1
July 1st: Justice League Season 1 Episode 4 “In Blackest Night”
July 2nd: Justice League Season 1 Episode 17 “Fury”
July 3rd: Justice League Unlimited Season 2 Episode 9 “Grudge Match”

Week 2: Adult Diversity Friends Part 2
July 8th: The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes Season 1 Episode 9 “Living Legend”
July 9th: The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes Season 1 Episode 11 “Panther’s Quest”
July 10th: The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes Season 1 Episode 12 “Gamma Word, Part 1”
July 11th: The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes Season 2 Episode 2 “Alone Against A.I.M.”

Week 3: Black Power and Being the Sidekick
July 15th: Black Panther Episode 1
July 16th: Black Panther Episode 3
July 17th: Black Panther Episode 5
July 18th: Iron Man Season 2 Episode 9 “The Armed Wars”
War Machine vs. Iron Man in Iron Man 2

Week 4: Young Diversity Friends
July 22nd: Young Justice Season 1 Episode 1 “Independence Day”
Young Justice Season 1 Episode 2 “Fireworks”
July 23rd: Young Justice Season 1 Episode 13 “Alpha Male”
July 24th: Young Justice Season 2 Episode 7 “Depths”
July 25th: Young Justice Season 2 Episode 14 “Runaways”

Week 5: July 29th to August 1st: Students’ Choice
Students get together to lead discussions based off their own materials such as TV shows, Movies or Comics.

The Philosophy of Rap
In this class, students will watch TV shows, documentaries, and analysis messages in rap music and videos. The discussion topics are racism, sexism, homophobia, politics and growing up in poverty.

Attendance: 5%
Participation: 30%
Notes: 15%
Discussion Leading: 50%

Ground Rules
-What is said in here stays in here
-There is no such thing as a stupid thought
-One person speaking at a time
Breaking these rules will result in an automatic failure or grade reduction

Week 1: Where are the Ladies?
July 1st: Back in the Day
Lauryn Hill’s “Everything Is Everything” from The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
Lauryn Hill’s “Doo-Wop (That Thing)” from The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

July 2nd: Before the Pop
Nicki Minaj’s “Autobiography”
Nicki Minaj’s “I’m the Best” from Pink Friday

July 3rd: Others Out There
Iggy Azalea’s “Murda Bizness” Feat. T.I. from Glory
Jean Grae’s “My Story” from Jeanius

Week 2: Kendrick Lamar’s View from the Streets
July 8th: Being Own Self
Kendrick Lamar’s “Vanity Slaves” from Kendrick Lamar EP
Kendrick Lamar’s “Faith” Feat. BJ the Chicago Kid & Punch from Kendrick Lamar EP

July 9th: Growing into Self
Kendrick Lamar’s “Average Joe” from O(verly) D(edicated)
Kendrick Lamar’s “Cut You Off {To Grow Closer}” from O(verly) D(edicated)

July 10th: Defining Self and Struggling to Stay Self
Kendrick Lamar’s “No Makeup” Feat. Colin Munroe from Section.80
Kendrick Lamar’s “HiiiPOWER” from Section.80
Kendrick Lamar’s Verse from Drake’s “Buried Alive” from Take Care

July 11th: On Top Being Self
Kendrick Lamar’s “Swimming Pools (Drink)” from good kid, m.A.A.d city
Extended Version
Kendrick Lamar’s “I’m Dying of Thirst” from good kid, m.A.A.d city
Kendrick Lamar’s “Real” Feat. Anna Wise from good kid, m.A.A.d city

Week 3: Lupe Fiasco’s World View
July 15th: Real from the Start

Lupe Fiasco’s “Real” Feat. Sarah Green from Food & Liquor
Lupe Fiasco’s “American Terrorist” Feat. Matthew Santos from Food & Liquor

July 16th: On a Deeper Level
Lupe Fiasco’s “Gotta Eat” from The Cool
Lupe Fiasco’s “Dumb It Down” from The Cool

July 17th: Never Breaking
Lupe Fiasco’s “Word I Never Said” Feat. Skylar Grey from Lasers
Lupe Fiasco’s “All Black Everything” from Lasers

July 18th: Going Higher
Lupe Fiasco’s “Around My Way [Freedom Ain’t Free]” from Food and Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Part 1
Lupe Fiasco’s “Bitch Bad” from Food and Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Part 1

Week 4: Social Issues in Rap
July 22nd: Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes viewing

July 23rd: Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes Discussion

July 24th: The N-Word
The Boondocks Season 2 Episode 11 “The S-Word”
Julian Curry’s “Niggers Niggas & Niggaz”
Sha Stimuli’s “The N-Word Song” from Hip Hop Dock-Trine 2 (The Saga Continues) [Hall Of Justus Edition]

July 25th: Homophobia
The Boondocks Season 2 Episode 13 “Story of Gangstalicious (Part 2)”
The Advocate’s “Homophobia in Hip-Hop”

Week 5: July 29th to August 1st: Students’ Choice
Students get together to lead discussions based off their own materials such as documentaries, TV shows, music videos or audio.


“The Point of Life”

June 26, 2013

Today, I gave the Keynote Speech at George Westinghouse High School’s graduation. Above is the video. Below is the full text as prepared. I graduated from the school in 2005. This is my most important, greatest and shortest speech I’ve given so far. I’m so thankful and honored for the opportunity. Eight years ago, I never thought I would be where I am today. I’m so glad that I got to see my former guidance counselor and favorite teacher. This speech was two months in the making. With the mindset of what would I like to know in high school that I know now, I wrote the first draft the night that I heard I was selected. I revised and practiced it since then. Now, the full text:

Beating the odds may seem like a strange concept at first. But, it is indeed a phrase with a powerful meaning. It means to overcome a challenge or struggle. Believe it or not, all of us have odds we must overcome.

I grew up in a home where my parents fought each other very often. I grew up in a home where my parents were more focused on their packs of beer than my education and doings. I grew up in a home where I didn’t let myself be full, so my siblings can be full. Since my parents weren’t invested in my siblings, I had to be there for them too. While going to Westinghouse, I realized that the life of being on Public Assistance and living in the projects in East New York isn’t a good life at all. Being in Pace University’s Upward Bound Program in the tenth grade made me realize that education was my only way out.

Upon graduating Westinghouse, where I saw half of my class disappear since the ninth grade, I got into Skidmore College’s Higher Education Opportunity Program. At Skidmore, I’ve seen how things were better on the other side. I developed leadership skills in creating a Hip Hop Culture club called Hip Hop Alliance, where we talked about racism, sexism, and homophobia and successfully pushed for a Hip Hop Culture class. I learned more about myself, new heroes and poverty in my major American Studies. I met two mentors in college who pushed me to give back even more.

Listening to them, I became a mentor to two middle school students who were Hispanic. After I graduated from college, without loans, I became a mentor to a Black high school student. In being a mentor to these boys, I shared my life story and knowledge of the world with them. From there, I started teaching activism classes in the same Upward Bound Program I was in. I also became the co-chair of the Youth Ministry at my church in East New York.

In doing all of this, I started speaking to young people like you about progressing in the world and the evils of poverty at various events. At the same time, I came out with a book with my recent mentee promoting mentoring and giving advice to young people called Different Families, Still Brothers. Now, I help students like you get into colleges like Skidmore for Pace University’s Liberty Partnerships Program at the High School of Economics and Finance.

Want to know the crazy part of my story? When I went to Westinghouse, I couldn’t speak at all. I stuttered a lot. Barely anyone understood me. I was shy. This struggle made me cry at night. I started to come out of my shyness when I volunteered in various things like Open School Night and founded a Video Game Club where I put on tournaments. I fully came out of my shell in college with the encouragement of my best friend Mike Thomas. I was never able to express my story verbally into I took acting classes and hosted a radio show in college. Now, the boy who was scared to talk to people is helping people get to the next level. Now, the boy who thought he didn’t have a voice is showing you how golden his voice is.

All of you graduates have beaten a set of odds, but I’m here to tell you all that this is just the beginning. You are going to be beating the odds all your life, from college to graduate school to career to raising a family. The toughest obstacle to overcome is your own self. There will be times where you will ask yourself: “why me?” There will be times where you ask yourself: “what’s the point?” There will be times where you feel like giving up. But, you must remember these words President Obama once said, “Being defeated is a temporary condition. Giving up is what makes it permanent.”

We are our worst enemy. We must fight ourselves. It can be done. If you have a dream, believe in yourself, work hard towards making that dream a reality, you will achieve it. Muhammad Ali once said, “Even the greatest have to suffer sometime.” All of you are great, indeed. Don’t let your suffering ever stop you. Let it push you to new heights!

And when you reach those heights, don’t forget when you came from. Don’t forget that there are brothers and sisters who suffer the same things you have suffered. The point of life is not to become rich. Becoming rich creates a sense of selfishness for most people. You can’t take it all with you when you pass away. It won’t bring you happiness.

The point of life is to overcome the odds and build others up to do the same. This is what will bring you happiness. This will bring a sense of fulfillment in your life.

You never know, one day you can be up here speaking to your alma mater too. If there is anything I can help you with, feel free to reach out to me via email, Facebook or Twitter. I wish you all the best in whatever you do. Stay strong. Keep it pushing. Peace be on to you all, brothers and sisters. God bless!


Helping Our Poor Youth Change the Face of the World

April 25, 2013

Without Pace University’s Upward Bound Program, I wouldn’t be here. The program literally saved my life. Before I joined the program in the summer between the ninth and tenth grade, I didn’t know college existed. I thought high school was the end of it all. My parents never finished high school. I didn’t know anyone who went to college. No one spoke to me about it. Upward Bound helped me strengthen my academics in high school and exposed me to schools like Skidmore College, which I ended up graduating from.

Unfortunately, every poor child can’t be in an Upward Bound Program or some kind of college prep program. Every year, these programs lose funding or get cut completely. Even without the cuts, every student can’t be reached. Most high school students, especially in New York City, only have access to one college advisor. One person can’t give one on one attention to the hundreds of seniors and juniors. One person can’t expose that many students to schools like Skidmore.

David Leonhardt’s New York Times article called “Better Colleges Failing to Lure Talented Poor” cites a study conducted by a Harvard professor and a Stanford professor: “Only 34 percent of high-achieving high school seniors in the bottom fourth of income distribution attended any one of the country’s 238 most selective colleges.” To make matters even worst, Third Way cited a survey called National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1979 and 1997 stating that of the poor born between 1979 and 1982, 29% got into college and 9% graduated (Page 41).

But there is hope! A study done by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities states that first generation students, who are usually poor, are more likely to graduate from private institutions than public ones. To expand on that more, the U.S. Department of Education cites that students in general are more likely to graduate from private nonprofits than other schools (Figure 45-2). This is because these schools have the resources to help students succeed.

Despite these positive numbers, families still think schools like Skidmore cost too much. My family was one of them. But this simply isn’t true. David Leonhardt published another article in the New York Times called “A Simple Way to Send Poor Kids to Top Colleges” citing a study on exposing poor students to schools like Skidmore. In it, Leonhardt states that “Selective colleges frequently cost less for low-income students than local colleges, because the selective ones have the resources to offer bigger scholarships.”

This is true for where I went. I was admitted Early Decision to Skidmore’s Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP). I was offered a package from Skidmore/HEOP that would have left me with only $8,000 in loans. Since I had outside scholarships totaling about $6,000 and became a Resident Assistant (RA) in my senior year, I graduated from Skidmore with no loans.

New York State’s HEOP is a program many poor students in the state aren’t aware of. If students aren’t from the state, many states have similar programs. These programs ensure poor students graduate. Even if schools like Skidmore don’t have a program like HEOP or a student doesn’t get into HEOP, they still have the resources to help a student attend and graduate from their school.

There are schools out there that still give great financial aid packages to high performing and hard working poor students with leadership skills. But since there is a lack of knowledge, it is up to us to expose these schools to students. Those of us who graduated from these kinds of schools have to change the conversation. I was able to do that with my mentee, Gaetan Lamy.

Before Gaetan and I put out a book called Different Families, Still Brothers, we were just a mentor/mentee pair in the iMentor program trying to figure each other out. He had a limited view of what a private college was and didn’t know what HEOP was. He had his heart set on CUNY’s Baruch College. Throughout the first year of our pair, which was his junior year, I exposed him to schools like Skidmore and HEOP. I believe every hardworking poor student should get the chance to experience going away to a private school.

When it came to applying, he applied to some of the schools I exposed him to and took other people’s suggestions. In the end, he got into Long Island University’s HEOP. He’s in good hands. But now, he’s even thinking about moving on to a better school like some of the away schools we discussed.

In that experience with Gaetan, I learned how much I could do with my knowledge of the college admissions process and schools like Skidmore. All of us from these kind of schools have this same knowledge to offer. All of us can be mentors. We can do it with a program such as iMentor or on our own.

Let’s change the conversation! Let’s change the face of government which usually consists of those from Ivy League schools and privileged backgrounds. Let’s change the faces of doctors, lawyers, pastors, business owners and teachers operating in poor neighborhoods to reflect more upon those they serve. If all of us do our part, we can change the face of the world.


A Word on Independence

December 31, 2012

Oh how sweet!

The internet is the greatest invention ever. Who would’ve thought there would be something that connects people across the globe in the matter of seconds? When I video chatted with a friend overseas back in college, I was in awe how it was possible. When I was doing a radio show in college, I couldn’t believe that the podcast downloads and listens mostly came from overseas. It was more than the amount of people who listened locally on the FM dial. And I didn’t really do that much promotion. When I started doing mixtapes, I was amazed with the numbers I were getting. Just getting 100 listens was awesome to me.

With the internet, pretty much everything is possible. Anyone came put out music via iTunes or Amazon and not need a label behind them. How amazing is that? When I was playing with the idea of putting out a book, I was worried about not having a publisher put it out. That worry stopped me from even writing a book. When I heard Activist Kevin Powell put out his latest book on, I knew it was possible to get my voice out there without being at the mercy of a publisher whom might not even care about what I have to say. The only thing that worried me was putting the money together to self-publish. That worry froze me because I didn’t have it like that.

Then I met the woman of my dreams who told me about self-publishing on Amazon and I told to myself, “wow, I could put out a book for next to nothing real soon.” The internet amazed me again. There was nothing stopping me now. I talked to my mentee about publishing our emails because they were so rich with content. Content people needed to read! It wasn’t right to keep it just to ourselves. I took a month to edit it, hit up a Fivver user (two, really because the first guy messed up and disappeared) to format for Kindle and then linked with an old friend to do the cover for a reasonable price.

My whole idea of the book was just to get it out there. I’m not trying to make money off it. In fact, I’m nowhere near breaking even. I mean the price is set the lowest I could put it on Amazon while still getting a good share. I had the idea of eventually putting the book out on, but then I came across a wonderful machine in the Central branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. I tell you the internet keeps amazing me! I took some time to get everything right for a final print, including going back to my designer friend to do a back cover.

So now, I’m happy to announce that my book with my mentee Different Families, Still Brothers is now available worldwide in paperback! If you can’t find your location, you can find it here or even have the book shipped to you. Spread the word! Thank you for the support! Remember, you don’t need to be at the mercy of someone to fulfill your dreams. May God reveal Himself to, bless, bring peace to, and install righteousness in you in the New Year.