BE Modern Man: Meet "The Specialist" Aaron D. Harris - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise Magazine September/October 2018 Issue

(Image: Digital Memoirs Productions, LLC)

Name: Aaron D. Harris

Profession: Youth Development Specialist

Age: 35

One Word That Describes You: Resilient

Although he grew up without a father, Aaron D. Harris vowed that when he had his own children he would be the guiding force that was missing in his childhood. Today, he helps other young people without fathers.  Advocating and working with youth in the most challenging areas in and around Washington, D.C., Harris sees parts of himself in their eyes. “I would watch as some of these young men would walk around with anger and frustration in their hearts,” says Harris. “I remember what it was like to have that feeling of hopelessness. I had to constantly tell myself that if I just ‘hold the rope’ long enough, my situation can change.”

Keeping a ‘tight grip’ on the rope can be even more challenging for youth when educators, school administrators, and executives don’t have faith  in them. “I find myself having to learn to navigate through the politics of the work in order to serve those most in need. It is a challenge, but anything worth achieving is worth fighting for.”

For Harris, navigating through the politics meant getting to the ‘ground level’ so he can impact the lives of the individuals he serves. On a consistent basis he made it a priority to reach the youth where they are: in the streets. “Far too often we are behind our desks writing grants, or attending professional functions advocating for individuals who, in some cases, we barely know,” Harris tells BE Modern Man. “ I think the ‘decision makers’ in this world need to learn more about the individuals they are governing. It makes the work more human, and will make people think about the well-being of the people they serve, and not just about their bottom-line.”

The bottom-line is that our youth and young adults have to be prepared. Career readiness, leadership, and social navigation are a few of the areas we must address for success to be realized. “In this day and age it is important to be creative, resilient, steadfast, and willing to give back. Whether you are working for an organization or creating a business on your own, there will be challenges. A BE Modern Man must learn to navigate through glass-ceilings, job loss, financial challenges, discriminatory practices, and even failed attempts.”

‘Drinking the Kool-Aid’ is a phrase that Harris likes to use when referencing how some of our young men buy into mainstream media portrayals of black men. “Throughout history, media has shown much more negative portrayals of young black men than those that are uplifting and inspiring,” he says. For Harris, this has led to an all-or-nothing mentality, as it relates to career goals and life expectation. “Either you are a superstar athlete, multimillion-dollar selling rapper, or nothing at all. I have found that if properly exposed to positive images of black men from all different industries, our young men can develop different views about how to define success.”

Successfully advocating for youth in the most challenging neighborhoods in Washington, D.C. has not diminished Harris’ vow to be a great father. “To this day and forever, my two daughters will be the greatest accomplishments of my life.” Harris works hard to be an example to his children, and says that being a BE Modern Man is an incredible honor. “The inspiring innovation and leadership BE has shown me, as I search for financial wealth and economic independence,  has been invaluable, and has served as a constant reminder to keep pushing for ways to improve myself, my community, my industry, and my business.”

The BE Modern Man team commends Aaron D. Harris for his willingness to ‘get his hands dirty ‘in order to ensure our young people are exposed to positive male figures.

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