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 Jerell Blakeley
Profession: Organizer, Educator, and Politician
One Word That Describes You: Tenacity
What does being one of the BE Modern Man 100 Honorees mean to you?
I am honored to be one of the BE Modern Man 100 Honorees. As a long time admirer of BE Publisher Earl Graves and BE, this recognition is evidence that I am doing what the Creator intends for me to do by focusing on service and giving to my community.
What is your “Extraordinary Impact?”
Our country can never reach its highest potential without dramatic changes to the condition of our cities, young people, and public schools. As a recently elected Trenton city councilman-at-large, a part-time lecturer at the Rutgers University School of Management and Labor Relations, and the senior campaign organizer of the Healthy Schools Now coalition at the NJ Work Environment Council, I have committed my life and career to using education to transform the conditions of my hometown, shape young people’s minds, and fight for better public school facilities in urban communities in New Jersey.
What are you doing as a BEMM to help support black male achievement now or in the future?
As a former educator at my high school alma mater, I relish the opportunity to mentor young black men from my hometown and show them the power of higher education. It’s nothing like saying to a student that is yearning for better that I came from the same place you are from and here is the pathway to making your life what you want it to be. We have an obligation as BEMM to share our experiences with young people and it’s incumbent upon all of us to help guide their steps to success. I have a number of former students that I encouraged to attend HBCUs and I am proud of their successful matriculation at distinguished institutions like Lincoln University of Pennsylvania and Shaw University.
What are some examples of how you turned struggle into success?
When you have struggled or are struggling, it is very easy to be bitter and resentful. Some folks can be cruel to aspiring young people and attempt to crush their aspirations, hopes, and dreams. I have turned struggle into success by being better and not bitter, learning the power of forgiveness, paying my success forward by serving others, having a laser-like focus on realizing my potential, and ignoring distractions.
What is an important quality you look for in your relationships with others?
The most important quality that I look for in relationships with others is trust. Without trust, every other quality is diminished.
What are some immediate projects you are working on?
I am working on creating several public events for my new role as a Trenton city councilman-at-large, including the creation of an annual fair for youth community resources and monthly community forums. I am looking forward to expanding my scope of work to do more direct community organizing in the 31 NJ SDA districts in my role as the Senior Campaign Organizer of the Healthy Schools Now coalition at the NJ Work Environment Council.
What is the best advice you ever received?
As an intern at The White House Initiative on HBCUs, while attending Howard University, the office’s executive director Dr. Leonard L. Haynes III shared with me a set of five principles for success that he coined the Five Fs: Focus, Finish, Follow Up, Follow Through and Faith. It’s the best advice I’ve ever received. Every successful career has elements of the Five Fs and my career has been blessed with all five. A close runner-up, given to me by Congresswoman Bonnie Watson-Coleman’s Chief of Staff James Gee, is to be prepared for the opportunity you can’t see.
What is some advice you have for other men who want to make a difference?
Be humble! Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less. When you focus on serving, giving and sharing your gifts with the world, you will be blessed in ways you can’t imagine. The reverse is true as well: when you are arrogant and only focus on yourself, your capacity for transformational change on a broad scale will be diminished.
How do you prep for an important business meeting and/or event?
I believe in being prepared. Before an important business meeting and/or event, I go over my agenda and the desired takeaways that I hope to garner from the meeting.
As a busy Modern Man, how do you unwind on vacation?
That’s one area where I need to do better in! I’m so busy grinding that I don’t go on many vacations. However, I always enjoy a nice weekend getaway to the beach with a good autobiography and some good music.
If you could travel and stay anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
A few years ago, I spent a week in Cape Town, South Africa. I was blown away by the beauty of the country, fascinated by its history, and charmed by its culture. I’m looking forward to spending more time there.
Anything else you’d like to say?
The seed you water is the flower that blooms.
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.