Lexington program highlights educational successes of Black high school graduates

·3 min read
Taylor Six /tsix@herald-leader.com

Sunday was a day to recognize excellence among 18 graduating 2022 seniors of the Black Male Working Academy (BMWA) in Lexington with their academic signing event.

The Black Male Working Academy is a privately funded program that promotes excellence in Black youths. The program was created by Roszalyn Akins in 2005 to educate, motivate and activate potential.

According to Akins, the academic signing day was the “brainchild” of Dr. Roger Cleveland, BMWA chairman, who said the scholars deserved recognition for their greatness in pursuing higher education.

“We are always ready to sign anything that deals with athletics – I am a former college athlete, so I am good with athletics – but these young men since fourth grade have been in this program focusing on academics,” Cleveland said.

Akins agreed, and said the event was one of celebration, and highlighting the decision to further one’s education was just as important, and should be recognized as much as a decision to play sports.

“We are in basketball country,” Akins said. “Everyone flips out when a young man says he is coming to the University of Kentucky to play basketball. I need that same enthusiasm and folks to flip out when a young man says, ‘I am going to college at Howard University,’ or Tennessee State University or the University of Kentucky.

“If you don’t believe this is a time of celebration, then you haven’t been reading your newspaper or watching your television,” she continued. “Because anytime you see 18 young African American males who are candidates for greatness, who are on their way to college or the military, we need to celebrate our community.”

In celebration along with food and song, the crowd at The Campbell House heard from Sadiqa Reynolds, president and CEO of the Urban League of Louisville.

She spoke and recognized the 2022 senior class, and commended them for how much the 18 scholars overcame the past two years in surviving the pandemic, as well as civil unrest in the wake of the death of Breonna Taylor.

“I hope these parents and families understand what these young men have had to overcome to be here,” Reynolds said. “We take these things for granted. This world was not built for successful Black men, this world is not built for Black boys who believe in themselves. This world is not meant to see you survive, thrive and be your best. This world is not built for Black excellence.

“And yet, we are constantly providing Black excellence. And here we have again 18 examples of young men who have overcome all kinds of odds.”

One-by-one the young men came up to the podium and announced where they would continue their education, and placed a collegiate ball cap on their head to signify their decision.

Myan Emberton announced his plans to attend the University of Louisville. He shared he was also thankful to BMWA for one of his favorite memories.

“One of my favorite memories is my acknowledgment of self worth,” Emberton said. “That acknowledgment happened through this program, through the teachers, and the other young men in my class.”

Graduate Justin Graves, who plans to attend Eastern Kentucky University, said his favorite memory was when the counselor came and spoke to him about attending EKU.

“He explained to me all of the things I could be doing at Eastern,” he shared.

Many other scholar graduates shared memories of dancing at “beautillion,” a rite of passage celebration, going on trips, and hearing from motivational speakers. Each man received scholarships. The first round of scholarships provided were through the efforts of Bishop Carter, who gathered 33 scholarship sponsors for this year’s seniors.

The 2022 BMWA Scholar Graduates include Jathan Briscoe, Leon Cooper Jr., Joseph Edmonds Jr., Myan Emberton, Derrick Franklin, Jamarion Gaines, Justin Graves, Zyan Harris, Riley Hayden, Joshua Hocker, Tylin Israel, Anthony Jackson Jr., Carter James, Caden Johnson, Malik Mulder, Dorian Riddick, Aiden Roberts, and Tomias Rushin.

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