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 HARRISON GRIGSBY, M. Ed.
Profession: Professor / Musician
One Word That Describes You: Authentic
What does being one of the BE Modern Man 100 Honorees mean to you?
This prestigious acknowledgment is a compass for me that says I’m heading toward the right direction of service and commitment to creating opportunities for others. I am truly honored and grateful as a product of the city of Providence, Rhode Island.
What is your “Extraordinary Impact?”
I believe that in order to effectively engage my students and community, it’s imperative that I am at my 100% authentic self. There are too many implicit and explicit messages that tell people of color that in order to succeed you have to lose the cultural experiences and values that define you. 2018 was the year I decided that I am enough to lead and be extraordinary.
What are you doing as a BEMM to help support black male achievement now or in the future?
As an educator, I am well aware that I am a part of the 2% black male teacher pool. I know how necessary and impactful optics can be. This statistic is my burning fuel to intentionally create spaces that nourish and encourage young black men to recognize their existing excellence and see themselves in roles that extend beyond stereotyped narratives. Whether it’s hip-hop, classroom experience, or my About That Life program, my goal is to introduce new ideas and black male references that make any and everything my students want plausible.
What are some examples of how you have turned struggle into success?
Acceptance is key during the struggle. The ones that don’t reach their goals are the ones who resist or try to circumvent the struggle. There’s a falsehood that suggests struggle and success are exclusive. Once you identify what you’re willing to struggle for you’re on par to win. I’ve struggled to attain my master’s degree. I’ve struggled to share my art and music. It’s been worth it to get to this point.
What is an important quality you look for in your relationships with others?
I think a strong moral ground and shared values are what I look for in any relationship. In this era of likes and vanity, you have to be willing to stand in your truth and not succumb to comparing yourself to others or appeasing others at the expense of yourself.
What are some immediate projects you are working on?
I’m excited about a few things. I am currently working on the launch of FLYi, which stands for Financial Literacy Youth Initiative that will engage and empower inner-city youth. I also secured a 12-week artist residency with the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services to bring my hip-hop program to committed youth.
What is the best advice you ever received?
The best advice I received is to be insanely curious.
What advice you have for other men who want to make a difference?
I don’t want to sound like a Disney special but it’s important to know yourself and align yourself with those who will nurture and support your beliefs. There are policies, people, and systems that will combat your ambition with competing beliefs about yourself and what you’re capable of. Blur the lines between commitment and delusion in relation to your goals. Be so committed to the process of making a difference that it appears to be a delusion to others.
How do you prep for an important business meeting and/or event?
The lineup or fresh cut is a high priority because it builds the confidence to walk in any room and be efficient. If I’m facilitating the meeting I make sure I try to be the first to arrive and have my talking points ready.
As a busy Modern Man, how do you unwind on vacation?
My favorite experience was when I went backpacking through Europe with a group of strangers. It was a life-changing experience. It showed me how small the world is and I made some lifelong friends during the trip. Before that trip, I placed so much value on the most trivial things in life. Ever since Europe, I’d say I’m more of a minimalist and realize I don’t need much to be fulfilled.
If you could travel and stay anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
Outside of PVD (Providence), I would love to go to Africa and visit my native countries Liberia and Sierra Leone. When I was a kid, my mother and I were denied entry due to the unrest so we ended up staying in Senegal. It would be dope to connect with where I come from and get a better sense of self.
Anything else you’d like to say?
As black sophistication continues to rise, black patience will diminish. We ain’t got time to wait for dominant cultures and systems to validate our greatness. Our time is now.
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.