July 25, 2018

By Kay Knox

The Resilience of Brotherhood Goes Viral

Over the last year, I have volunteered as a mentor with Year Up: an amazing, yearlong program that provides low-income young adults with a combination of skills-based learning, coursework eligible for college credit, corporate internships and tons of support.

The goal? Close the opportunity gap.

The Impact? Incredible! 90% of Year Up graduates are employed and/or enrolled in postsecondary education within four months of completing the program.

The current student I am mentoring is an impressive young man, who is not only excelling in Year Up, but has managed to add — working at Home Depot weekends and evenings, temporarily co-parenting a toddler-aged cousin until an out-of-state relative was ready to provide a permanent home, and joining the ranks of Phi Beta Sigma — over the last 6 months we have been working together. He is 21 yrs old, and his name is Jaylon Bond.

Jaylon’s choice to join the brotherhood of Phi Beta Sigma was inspired by his parents who are both long-standing members of black Greek letter organizations formed in the early 1900’s to support the educational success of African-American students. Pledging to the ‘Blue’ was a huge investment of time and energy — on top of already full days.

Jaylon invited me to the culmination ceremony, and it was an amazing experience. I knew very little about Phi Beta Sigma before attending, but left feeling like I knew exactly why Jaylon needed to join the brotherhood of Phi Beta Sigma.

Watching him be inducted, surrounded by a circle of black men of all ages, made it clear that Jaylon was building his ability to connect with the community, and to navigate the multitude of barriers and threats that face black men in the US today, with increased resilience. It is estimated that 1 in 3 black men today will serve some time in jail. As a Sigma man, he will move forward with the support, encouragement and accountability of his brothers — as he lives the Fraternity’s Motto: “Culture for Service and Service for Humanity”.

After the ceremony, as people filed out of the UW’s New Intellectual Hall, one of the new members initiated the call to his Sigma brothers, and the group began a call and step routine which I caught on video and posted on LinkedIn.

In my social media world, I’m surprised if a handful of people view or ‘like’ something I post. The video of the Jaylon’s new Phi Beta Sigma Brotherhood was viewed 13,857 times, liked 516 times, and 69 people commented. Based on my average social media stats, it went viral! Clearly, it resonated with people.

In this time of disruption, as our country struggles to really see the everyday, systemic oppression of people of color, most especially black men, this video was the perfect antidote (“medicine taken to counteract a particular poison”). It represents the power, connection, engagement and readiness of a group of professional, educated, passionate men who are devoting themselves to service every day, despite how the world perceives them and treats them.

In my view, the men of Phi Beta Sigma are building a lifetime of resilience to stay connected, to stay strong in the face of adversity, while striving to build a better world for everyone.

No wonder this went ‘viral’, it’s the perfect medicine or reframe we need — positive, healthy, caring black men helping other young black men excel — despite the everyday poison of racism.