BE Modern Man is an integrative program that honors the essence, image, and accomplishments of today’s man of color. With features of today’s leaders, executives, creatives, students, politicians, entrepreneurs, professionals, and agents of change—these men share the common thread of creating a new normal while setting the bar in tech, art, philanthropy, business, and beyond. The BE Modern Man is making a positive impact, his way, and has a story to tell.
BE MODERN MAN ARMANDO BRASWELL
Profession: Ballet Dancer, Teacher, Choreographer, Director of the Braswell Arts Center, Founder of Interview En L’air Online Arts Journal
One Word That Describes You: Positive
What does being one of the BE Modern Man 100 Honorees mean to you?
This is the first time I have been given a such an official “honor” since college. It absolutely means a lot to me to be recognized for the work I’ve done and the work I am doing now. I do feel very honored to be named among some incredible individuals; but mostly it makes me slow down, take a deep breath, and think about the reasons why I am doing what I do and the impact that it can and will have on the future.
What is your “Extraordinary Impact?”
Growing up in the NYC foster care system has given me a passion for social work. My first was Interview En L’air, an online arts platform I started in 2012, featuring insights from dance-inspired artists. It has grown over the years to include over 150 interviews of my own and over 30 guest writers and has become an important resource for dancers all over the world. Our biggest impact yet is the “Braswell Arts Center” an arts space in Basel, Switzerland, that I have created with my wife and partner, Lisa Braswell and a big team behind us. Not only do we have a citywide popular dance program for adults of all levels and all body types, but we also have a kids arts program called “BAC Kids” and team up with sponsors and institutions to offer financial aid to underprivileged kids. We also have an artistic residency program offering development opportunities for artists who just need a break.
What are you doing as a BEMM to help support black male achievement now or in the future?
As a young boy growing up in Brooklyn, I felt saved by the arts, by dance specifically. It kept me off the streets. It was something I was good at. Performing was challenging but rewarding and full of lessons. I never forgot that feeling. I would say I am trying to create the ultimate programs to help people like me; a pipeline for underprivileged kids to excel. Yes, I am black. Yes, a lot of underprivileged kids are black. I know I am not a huge organization, but I still feel like I can make a difference as big as LeBron’s.
(Photo; Kostas Maros Photography)
What are some examples of how you have turned struggle into success?
Unfortunately, growing up in the NYC foster care system provided many struggles for me and my twin sister. We switched houses and families. We had a few bad experiences and abusive ones too. Too many to dig out for the magazine but we stuck it out at every turn. The biggest struggle was when our house burned down in the middle of my high school years. We had no insurance and we were immediately homeless. We had to live in hotels and in a shelter. I was mugged multiple times on my way home from school and beat up. My grades were suffering; I was not in a good place. But I decided it would be better to sleep on my friend’s couches, and focus on dance rather than to stay where I was. That was a hard thing to not choose the plan and path my family was deciding to stick too. To go out on my own and do my own thing at such a young age was hard but rewarding.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
“It’s not how much you have, it’s how little you need.” —Alphonse Poulin. “Look at yourself.” —Michelle Benash. “Just live.” —Lisa Braswell. The art is in applying these in the right moment.
What advice do you have for other men who want to make a difference?
I still feel like I have a lot to learn. But I can say this: Get organized, stop making excuses for why you can’t do something and read the answers to the question above.
It’s our normal to be extraordinary. Follow @BEModernMan and join the conversation using #BEModernMan.
Come celebrate the BE Modern Man 100 Men of Distinction at the 2nd Annual Black Men XCEL, Aug. 29–Sept. 2, 2018, at PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.