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 REV. JONATHAN A. MASON SR.
Profession: Pastor, Northeast Baptist Church, Philadelphia; Owner, JAM Media Solutions L.L.C. (full-service advertising agency and radio ownership group)
One Word That Describes You: Tenacious
What does being one of the BE Modern Man 100 Honorees mean to you?
I am honored to be selected for this great honor. I have been a BE reader for years. Reading BE stories about successful black entrepreneurs that overcame obstacles and achieved their goals inspired me to work harder and dream bigger. Never did I think my name would actually appear in one of your publications. I am truly humbled.
What is your “Extraordinary Impact?”
For 20 years, I worked as a sales leader in the radio industry. I spent 17 of those years in New York City working for some of the largest stations in the country. In most cases, I was the only black male in a leadership role. Exceeding goals and expectations was not just an expectation, it was an obligation. I viewed my success as a way of opening doors for others. My teams were always the most diverse in the city. The collaborations that came as a result set sales records that still stand today.
I recently completed my term as the International President of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc. Phi Beta Sigma is a 104-year-old community service organization with over 150,000 members initiated. During my term, we made sure that Sigma was present and accounted for in critical matters that impacted our communities. We stood in protest over the death of Trayvon Martin. We traveled to Ferguson, Missouri, to rebuild black businesses after the death of Michael Brown. We paid for buses to travel to Staten Island to stand for Eric Garner. We met with President Obama and his team to execute strategies to combat gun violence, raise scholarship dollars, and promote healthy families in our communities. We built a technical and vocational school in Suhum, Ghana. We also placed a great focus on mentoring our next generation of leaders through our youth auxiliary group, the Sigma Beta Club. As a result of our social action based focus, membership numbers reached record levels and our IMPACT was felt across the globe!
I am the proud pastor of the Northeast Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I grew up there. My roots are there. My family is there and it is important to me that the community knows that we are there because we care about their well-being and their soul salvation. An area of primary focus for me is the young people of the Frankford community. We have developed programs that keep them off the streets and allow the church to serve as a safe haven. Our summer camps, weekly small talk sessions, Friday Fun Nights, monthly outings and weekly youth dinners help us to develop mentorship relationships that positively impact our youth. All we ask of them is to get excellent grades, obey their parents, and be a blessing to someone else when they are in a position to do so.
I’ve also been blessed to complete the construction of Camp New Joy. CNJ is a camp for at-risk youth located on 23 acres of land in Rustburg, Virginia. The goal is to bring young people there and allow them to see men and women that come from similar backgrounds and have been able to overcome all obstacles and win. We want to show them that they are to be defined by their character and not by their zip code. More information about this free camp can be found on our Facebook page, Camp New Joy or on our website, campnewjoy.org.
Lastly and most importantly, being a great father to my sons Jonathan and Jackson is essential. They have been entrusted to my care and their future is my priority. I can’t find the words to explain how blessed I am to have these two young kings in my life. To God be the glory!
What are you doing as a BEMM to help support black male achievement now or in the future?
I established Camp New Joy as a way to support black male achievement. Each week during the summer, we will bring 10 to 15 young men to the camp located in Rustburg, Virginia. They must leave their iPhones, iPads, and all other electronic gadgets at home. While at the camp they interact with volunteers that provide coaching sessions in the areas of conflict resolution, family values, economic wisdom, community service, and continuing education. They also have an opportunity to participate in team building exercises such as rope challenges, obstacle courses, and water sports. Rustburg is located in the mountains of Virginia. So, the planned activities along with the close connection to nature, provide for each camper with a unique experience that will change their lives. Through Northeast Baptist Church and my company, JAM Media Solutions, scholarships are provided to help our young people continue their education. We’ve also established a $25,000 endowment at my alma mater, Norfolk State University. I always tell the young people I come in contact with that the greatest gift they can give us is their college degree!
What are some examples of how you have turned struggle into success?
In junior high school, I averaged 250 detentions in a 182 day school year. Through ninth grade, I was suspended at least three times per year. In ninth grade, I was expelled from the public high school and transferred to an alternative school. The administrators informed my parents that I would not go to college and that I would need to learn a trade. My experience at the alternative school caused me to make a promise I kept! I told my parents if they would get me back into the public school system I would change my ways and obey the rules. Not only did I keep my promise, I ended up as a championship heavyweight wrestler and a member of the championship football team. I maintained a B+ average and received a full scholarship to college! I am so thankful that when the administrators closed the book on my future, God kept writing! I’m a living witness that anything is possible!
What is the best advice you have ever received?
I went to Norfolk State University on a football scholarship. My freshmen season was not stellar and my adjustment to the college environment was not smooth. I decided that I was not going to attend spring football practice and focus my energies on wrestling. My offensive line coach, the late Tom Morris, was my health teacher. He noticed I hadn’t been showing up to practice. He pulled me aside one day after class, looked me in the eyes and told me to finish the game! Wow. His words still ring in my ears to this day! I ended up as a three-year starter on the football team. Someone is struggling today and someone is thinking about giving up. Don’t do it. Finish the game! You’ll be blessed!
What advice you have for other men who want to make a difference?
Get started! There is enough need in our communities and all of us can make a difference. God did not provide you with gifts and talents for your own benefit. He expects us to be a blessing to others. Do not allow anyone to douse your flame or cause you to question your ability to make an impact. Learn to make your haters your motivators! Let’s go!
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.