WASHINGTON, Aug. 18, 2015 – Earlier this month, something truly transformational occurred in oft-neglected far Southeast Washington. The Young Gentlemen’s Institute (YGI) tour paid a visit to DC’s R. I. S. E. Demonstration Center and touched the young lives of the over seventy-five 11- to 17-year-olds who attended their event.
Major recognition goes to Sadiq Ali, who kicked off the recent YGI event on a high-energy note. He and his dynamic team of young black professionals are to be commended for taking the time to touch the lives of African-American youth by spending a full day training the next generation of great leaders in our community.
Sadiq Ali founded Millionaire Manners Academy in 2014 after compiling an impressive record as a mentor, trainer and college educator. The academy offers a weekend-only leadership training program for young middle school and high school aged men.
Under the auspices of the academy, Ali launched the Young Gentlemen’s Institute (YGI) in 2015 as the organization’s personal and professional etiquette training program. It has quickly become the academy’s flagship program.
This year’s inaugural YGI conference tour started in April in Charlotte, N.C. It was followed by dates in Baltimore in June and with the recent August event here in D.C. The current tour will finish out the year in Prince George’s County this fall and will launch a second tour beginning in 2016 in Philadelphia.
During each tour event, the host city partners with local organizations to present a united front geared toward connecting young men with resources in their community that they may not have otherwise been aware of.
In D.C., the sponsors included Warees Majeed’s artistic management company Shotown, where he serves as chief operating officer, who took the lead in securing sponsorships from Walmart, which provided a community grant, and Target and KIND snack bars, who provided nutritional snacks for the participants.
Local event host Travis Ellis was responsible for bringing the Human Rights Campaign into the fold as an afternoon contributor to videotape the keynote speaker and the interaction between the participants and the Pen or Pencil educational consortium.
For Ali, “The real value is getting 10 young presenters in the same room to give the participants examples of what successful young black men look like. One of the over-arching outcomes and benefits of the weekend [is that the] Institute’s connecting the young men that participate with mentors, sponsors and resources like you.”
Travis Ellis was also one of the most impressive mentors and presenters at Saturday’s Institute event. Ellis is a youth advocate, educator and rehabilitation coach who, at the age of 26, shared his very personal experience in overcoming a diagnosis of severe brain damage as a result of drug abuse. Almost miraculously, he rose from the proverbial ashes of existing in a persistent vegetative state (PVS) at age 17 to become the dynamic “motivational mogul” that he is today.
Ellis has been with the Living Classrooms of the National Capitol Regional—founded in Baltimore over 30 years ago—for six of the eight years that the D.C. office has operated.
“My desire to inspire and share the message that it’s not too late to get your life on track,” he said. “Your life is not over; it’s just getting started. In 40 weeks, I’m telling you that I can transform your life.”
“I had an option to either be a presenter or facilitator,” Ellis said, but he asked Sadiq “if I could host the event. I’m a ‘youth enthusiast,’” he proclaimed.
“My life just began at 18, and I’m a teenager in spirit and energy,” continued Ellis. “I told Sadiq Ali that I will be more effective as a host and use my energy in spurts.”
“One thing that spoke to my spirit is when I understood what atonement meant,” he said. “I came from a dead situation, and [can now] move forward and touch and change lives that nobody else can. Kids don’t know how to communicate, and they are dealing with a lot of negative behavior.”
Indeed, as Ellis will attest, being a member of this YGI tour allows each presenter to bring his expertise to these deserving young men in our community.
For those who missed this recent D.C. tour stop: be sure to mark your calendars to leave room to attend YGI’s fall event in Prince George’s County. Get on board this powerful man power locomotive that just departed Union Station heading for the suburbs. And a special note: The organization always needs local sponsors, participants and protégés. They can be contacted at www.Millionaire-manners.com.
As powerful as the presentations were, this event wasn’t all about the adult mentors.
To the contrary, it was really all about the YGI protégés such as Colin Walker, Jakim Barreta, Lesole Muine, Nakhi Hicks, Abdur-Razziq “Zack” Robinson and Khaleem Washington.
These kids and their parents deserve plenty of credit for their efforts.
For those of you wondering why Colin Walker appears in three photos (including our header photo), wonder no more. It’s because this 11- year-old was quite impressive and mature for his age, attired in a grey business suit and yellow power tie.
He also got the “dress for success” memo, which was one of the directives for attendance, and he proved to be engaging, well-spoken and attentive.
Remember this young man’s name because in 10 or 15 years you are going to hear about him, in no small measure because his parents and the YGI mentors prepared him for this moment.
On a personal note, my reward as a journalist and participant came immediately after I posted pictures of the mentors and participants on my Facebook page.
On Aug. 10, Juanita Anderson replied to my post with the following message: “Keep up this fantastic mission that God has given you.”
All I could say was, “Thank you for the affirmation.”
But the real credit all goes to Sadiq Ali and his powerful Young Gentlemen’s Institute network of sponsors, mentors and friends. I’m just a griot writing the first draft of a historical movement of righteous men reclaiming their heritage and power to educate our own.”