This morning as children across the nation began their journeys back into developing their minds Roosevelt Elementary School to welcome the children to their first day. Principal Sharonda Alleyne and many of her stuff where elated at the idea and pleased beyond recognition on the smiles that came across the children’s face.they were treated to something unexpected but undoubtedly sufficient. Several black men ranging from various ages and walks of life had gather into the halls.
What took place next was part of a movement brought on by Commissioner Cory Neering. The call of action inspire a group of diverse males to come together cheering and giving the youth “Hi-Five” as they begin the school year. A project community activist/leader Ricky Aiken would later go on to explain.
Ricky Aiken, founder Inner City Innovators was one of the many men who accepted the call. Being a product of this very environment, growing up with a troublesome past in Dunbar Village. Aiken stands as a testimony to Tupac’s ‘A Rose that Grew from the Concrete’. Aiken has a very strong sense of investment in his community. So it was only fitting that he spearhead the project taking place in Roosevelt Elementary School where he once upon a time attended.
We spoke to Ricky about what took place, the future goal and more.
Exhibit Treal: How do you feel today went?
being here… I think that’s a powerful message. Because when you take all the stereotypes in the media about us… It’s on us to get back out there and do some PR among ourselves. That means showing up at schools, speaking to kids… whatever we got to do to change the narrative about Black Men in America I think we to be about doing.”
Exhibit Treal: What inspired this today?
Ricky Aiken: “Commissioner Cory Neering has a project called “Ties That Bind” where he builds relationships with older gentlemen and the younger generation to give them skills needed to grow into adulthood. So this is just an extension of that. We wanted to get into the schools and really impact the young people on their way in.”
Exhibit Treal: How do you think this impacted the youth? If you were a child; how do you think this would have impacted you?
Ricky Aiken: “If I was a kid growing up and I look up and I see all these successful men waiting for me at my school to great me, it would’ve sent me a very powerful message about myself. I’ll see that I don’t have to settle to be a drug dealer or a gang-banger, but that I could be an artist like my man JaFleu or I can be a community activist like myself… there are so many other things I could be. There was a quote that I saw that I liked and it said that ‘Our children will be what they see”. So I’m proud that they saw us".
Ricky Aiken: “This group, I call ‘The Faithful Few’. You’d of thought we had 100 men in that hallway but there was just 12 of us. Next year man, I want to see this halls decked with 50 to 100 guys waiting to introduce and greet our students because there’s power in numbers man. If those kids felt good about us greeting them, imagine if we had a whole army of guys with us. So I want this to grow and become revolutionary. I want it to a new school year tradition that we start in the black community.”
Exhibit Treal: What message would you like to leave with the people?
Ricky Aiken: "My number one slogan is this ‘Be the change we want to see in our community. And ifyou see something that’s not right, you have to standup and do something about it. Be the solution to the problems we face as a people. I want to challenge you. Find your lane and get going. That’s all it takes to be a change in our community.”