The way young leaders and business owners are treated in Daytona Beach is disgusting. We are marginalized, neglected and treated as societal outcasts. As a young Black man, I’m already carrying a backpack full of stereotypes and microaggressions on my back on the daily. Nothing makes it worse than when your own people attempt to silence you and make you feel invisible.
So many people have asked why young people don’t attend city engagement and official meetings. The truth? Because we are not accepted. We are treated as if what we have to say is miniscule and as if our existence is just for going to parties and buying clothes.
Could you imagine growing up and having to constantly turn the other cheek to racist White people in order to make it, and now watch a new generation demand their seat at the table by any means necessary? The new leaders have arrived, and it’s time to stop hating and start embracing.
The main reason I launched my non-profit Community Healing Project, Inc., was because there were about 10 people in this city who were speaking the same message I was. People who were interested in Black empowerment, Black education, African spirituality, world history, and just being as Black as possible.
A modern-day Marcus Garvey-style UNIA (Universal Negro Improvement Association), my plan was to join all the conscious and militant minds of the city and have a community resource available to everyone in Volusia County. My goal was to unite an elite group of young Black people who promoted Black businesses, helped fight injustice and truly and genuinely cared about Black communities.
Organization moves forward
Eventually with the help of some mentors, we decided to turn it into a nonprofit so we could impact more people and get help from the government at the same time. Due to the hard work we put in, we began receiving support from around the world from Uganda to Moscow – even news outlets and tv shows.
Little did I know that there were organizations in this very city who were speaking out against the idea of potential donors and sponsors collaborating with me and my team on essential community programs such as entrepreneurship courses, street and park cleanups, health walks, and even our events for the children. These organizations claim to truly care about this city but because of personal issues, they decide not to help with the work. Therein lies the problem.
There have even been some community leaders who have gone as far as going to elected officials and begging them not to support my organization and our mission. There are organizations and leaders in this city who I’ve personally reached out to help create initiatives for the city as well as launching programs. I was declined countless times because they didn’t want to look “too Black or too radical.”
My organization was completely shunned by the powers that be here in town. Maybe the issue isn’t that we don’t wanna collaborate. It might be because when we try, we get shut down and shut out.
In August 2017, my team hosted a “Remembrance Walk” for the memory and family of Shakyri Willis, a mental health patient who was shot and killed by a Daytona Beach Police Department officer, as well as other victims of police brutality and gun violence.
A representative for of one of the oldest and most respected Black organizations – not only in town but in the world – made it her duty to “make sure I tell the people their organization had nothing to do with this peace rally.” Ironically, this same organization’s entire message is about the advancement of colored people, apparently.
So when we talk about young people not wanting to be involved or not caring about the community, it’s just not true. We are here; we just don’t get the respect or support we truly need.
Luckily because I’m creative, I’ve found other ways to promote my organization outside of this city and its elite society club where it’s all about clout and climbing to the top.
Whether your noticed or not, there is a new school of talent that is brewing and ready to explode in Daytona Beach. The gap between the older Baby Boomers and Generations X and Z has become more transparent than ever.
Now is the time to embrace the new energy that is entering the political and business world here in town. We are coming, and we are going to fight for justice by any means necessary.
You never know, one of these social media-addicted “know it all” Millennials may just be your next mayor.
Rell Black is an award-winning activist, blogger and the founder of Community Healing Project Inc.