In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Men of Courage event was held at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum in Baltimore. Ford Motor Company, Baltimore Gas and Electric Company and 100 Black Men of America brought together Black men ranging in age from 17 to 70 for a day of mentoring and planning for the future.
During the day-long forum, men from varied backgrounds discussed their experiences as professionals, husbands, fathers and leaders with the ultimate goal of changing the perception of Black men in America through inter-generational storytelling. Throughout the interactive program, participants worked together to create vision boards and build action plans to illustrate their commitment to positive change.
As part of this initiative, Ford is also sponsoring a national contest of inspirational stories and will announce a winner at the Ford Freedom Awards in May. Ford Fund, the philanthropic arm of Ford, is also developing a free online curriculum and teaching guide for junior and secondary high school students that profiles 20 prominent African American men.
“The Men of Courage is incredibly powerful. We’re trying to change negative perceptions that people have about African American men. Henry Ford was all about making the world a better place and in the end, that’s what this is all about,” said Burt Jordan, Ford vice president of Global Vehicle and Powertrain Purchasing & Supplier Diversity.
For Jordan, hosting the event at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum was personally significant. He noted, “Lewis inspired me to get a finance degree and to learn about wealth creation.”
In addition to financial health and future planning, personal transformation was among the major themes discussed throughout the day. Author Shaka Senghor spoke to the group about overcoming life-changing mistakes. He spent 19 years in prison for murder and is now a writer, mentor and speaker whose motivational Ted Talk has more than 1.2 million views.
“Men of Courage is important because the media doesn’t always portray us in a great light and we need to work together to change that. It’s important to get together and talk about things like entrepreneurship, family and fatherhood,” he said.
Men of Courage was piloted last year in Detroit and Ford is continuing to collaborate with Detroit figures like former Mayor Dave Bing and recording artist Big Sean to expand the program to communities across the country. In 2016, the program will reach communities in Atlanta and Washington, DC.