The Call to Action
In 2010 Wayne Devonish put out a call to men living in central Brooklyn to assist him with a renovation project that would increase the amount of public space in the central Brooklyn community. A well-known community activist and entrepreneur in central Brooklyn Wayne made it a point to reach out to men living in Brooklyn in emails and fliers specifically requesting that we come together to collaborate on that renovation project. Wayne believed then as he does now that despite what we read in the newspaper and see on television the legacy of being a man and particularly a man of color, was more than being under educated, underemployed, incarcerated and socially marginalized.
The Move to Organize
This message was received by many of us as an opportunity to work with other men like ourselves who didn’t just want to volunteer on one or two projects, but who wanted to make our presence felt consistently where we lived. We wanted to be seen as the solution and not the problem. As we volunteered together on projects like mentoring at Boys and Girls High School, cleaning local parks such Herbert Von King in Bed-Stuy, renovating apartments for those in need of homes, creating holiday events to provide food for those in transitional housing the group developed a common purpose. We talked more about how many men were doing good things and how little we heard about that. We talked about how statistics published about men of color could only provoke despair in our young men. These conversations and friendships led to the creation of the 501c3 non-profit 500 Men Making a Difference Inc.
The Common Purpose
The more we worked together the more our group became a refuge for men who lived in communities dealing with overwhelmingly negative images of who we are. Men that saw all the good that was being done and believed in all the good that we could do began to seek us out. Civic responsibility is about group participation and understanding how we relate to those around us. 500 Men Making a Difference will fulfill it’s mission by focusing on skills that support the social mobility of our brothers and promotes their civic responsibility. Group activities and projects relevant to the homes, blocks and neighborhoods that we live in incorporate the mentors and mentees that we work with. Our civic projects develop both competitive job skills, and an understanding of the critical institutions in our local communities.
The Common Belief
The wealth of knowledge that a man of color carries within himself about how to navigate the many social obstacles that can invalidate our contributions to society is precious to the young men now trying to make sense of their options. This knowledge proves that we are equipped to do more than survive, but thrive in our communities and to serve as examples of how to work together to accomplish common goals. The wealth in cultural heritage that we possess is a testament to overcoming these obstacles and that same strength will be brought to support the young men who seek a path to validation and social acceptance.
–Fernando Lorence, Vice Chairman of the Executive Board
500 Men Making a Difference Inc.