by Ariele Vaccaro
The Milwaukee Courier
District 15 Alderman Russell Stamper throws his arms over the shoulders of two young men taking part in “300 Strong”. Photo courtesy of Universal Companies.
Washington Park looked like a sea of gold on Saturday, Sept. 26, as Black male youth in matching gold t-shirts reading “300 Strong” spent the day enjoying each other’s talents and getting to know one another.
Other than their t-shirts, the some 400 young men that showed up to the 300 Strong gathering had something in common. They all belonged to different community organizations with strikingly similar goals.
The event took place to unveil a new initiative called the Black Male Collaborative, a band of grassroots organizations, nonprofits, and businesses all aiming to unite and strengthen Black men in Milwaukee.
Among participating organizations were Running Rebels, Universal Companies, the Boys and Girls Club, Center for Youth Engagement, and We Got This. When the groups begin to work together in October, they plan to help their members to take advantage of their collective services.
“It doesn’t make sense for us to be operating in silos,” said Ptosha Davis, communications manager for Universal Companies. She noted that some of the organizations are serving the same young men.
The collaborative isn’t getting together just to share programming, however.
“We just want black boys to see black men coming together and coming together on their behalf,” Davis said.
The young men watched as their counterparts from other organizations performed poetry, dance, and played music.
They enjoyed a meal for free and learned about what they would be able to do as members of the newly formed collaborative.
According to Davis, 300 Strong implies the strength that Milwaukee’s African American men have in numbers. However, Davis wants to see that number grow as the Black Male Collaborative becomes a well-known Milwaukee entity.
The theme of the event, according to Universal Companies CEO Rahim Islam, was functional unity. He wants to see community organizations work together to make progress toward a common goal.
Saturday was just a taste what that will look like in the months to come, as Black Male Collaborative continues to solidify.
During the event, former Milwaukee firefighter Oshi Adelabu and Co. Supervisor Supreme Moore Omokunde performed a libations ceremony.
Speakers included spoken word poet Kwabena Antoine Nixon, Minister William Muhammad, and others.
We Got This founder Andre Lee Ellis hosted the afternoon.