On Monday, 10 "Community Fathers" will be recognized for their commitment and dedication to bettering Philadelphia.
Each Philadelphian will receive a BMe Leader Award, which includes a $10,000 grant for the winners to increase their community outreach efforts. BMe Community is a national network for around 12,000 men - predominantly African American, though open to people of all races and genders - who uplift the community, defying negative stereotypes.
"They care about the community," said Jeff Jones, community manager at BMe. "They are doing the work that helps people be better, and grow economically and socially. They're all authentic."
The 10 winners are parenting instructor Joel Austin; Mont Brown, hip-hop artist and founder of the Kick Back Community Festival; Otis Bullock, executive director of Diversified Community Services; author and entrepreneur Nehemiah Davis; kindergarten teacher Marvin Dutton; Gateway for Reentry leader Tracey Fisher; Liberty City LGBT Democratic Club board member Malcolm Kenyatta; Sulaiman Rahman, founder of the Urban Philly Professional Network; Wayne Rucker, an employee of the Mayor's Initiative PowerCorpsPHL; and Eric Worley, director of the sports-based Triple Threat Foundation.
The ceremony will take place at 7 p.m. at the African American History Museum, 701 Arch St.
Jones helped select this year's winners from applicants who responded to BMe's annual Call for Stories. The honorees have expanded BMe's Philadelphia network to 50 members.
This year's winners are among 43 men recognized in Akron, Ohio; Baltimore; Detroit; Philadelphia; and Pittsburgh. BMe is funded largely by the Knight Foundation, which supports civic innovators through its community and national initiatives program.
Despite the wide range of professional and community service interests of the award winners, Jones said all share leadership qualities and mentor children and young people in particular.
The BMe network is "vitally important," Rising Sons founder Alex Peay said. His community-building organization, which he started at 19, aims to improve the futures of young men through civic engagement. He was one of the first BMe Leader Award recipients, in 2012.
"There's guys you can rely on, who you can partner with and work with," Peay added. "It allowed me to be part of that network and strengthened my support system."
Since his involvement with BMe, Peay said, Rising Sons has become self-sustainable by working with larger organizations that hire his company to engage with local communities. Some of this year's Leader Award winners have started planning already.
"The first thing I'm doing is . . . a feed-the-community event," Fisher said. His organization, which supports those returning after release from prison, connects those individuals with the services they need to establish a successful life at home.
Rahman is excited to use his BMe award for efforts to extend a new Urban Philly Professional Network program that connects young people between 18 and 24 with older professionals for what he calls "economic empowerment."
"People look at black males as a liability, not an asset," Rahman said. "It's important across the board for . . . people to see the good things that are happening in our community."