The other day I spoke with Trabian Shorters, who has wrapped up his time as a fellow at the Pahara-Aspen Fellowship, the prestigious, invitation-only two-year program of the Aspen Institute, the educational and policy studies organization.
Shorters, founder and CEO of BMe Community, an organization reframing the narrative around black men, was selected for the honor in 2015. Although not an educator, Shorters recognizes how essential schools and education are to community building.
BMe has been experiencing great growth, Shorters says, which he’s found “pleasantly surprising.” When he started BMe, advocates and other progressive thinkers tried to persuade him to focus on the problems black men face—not on black men as assets, as BMe does.
But the asset focus has taken off.
“We’ve started the BMe Public Voices Fellowship, which trains men to be public voices,” Shorters says. “Did you know that 90% of op-ed writers are white upper-class men? There’s a uniformity of who’s shaping our public opinion.”
“My two years at Aspen were eye-opening,” Shorters told me. “It was interesting to see leaders that were scared motionless.”
As part of the Aspen Global Leadership Network, Shorters was in a cohort with international and domestic leaders in business, government, and the nonprofit sector, including education.
But Shorters says it was stunning to see how even people in power can be, in a sense, powerless.
“I learned a lot about morals, ethics, the canon of Western thought—which was all incredible,” Shorters says. “But we’re living in a historic moment now. I met leaders who didn’t know how to engage, who didn’t want to lose favor with their funders, who had authority but no real commitment.”
Shorters also noted how people who run public school districts put their own children in private school—certainly telling. He concludes that, though many of these people “care,” there are limits to their caring. “They’re trying to manage the conditions so they don’t affect other people,” he says.
The organization’s focus is black men, but men of all races can be part of it. Women too.
For more about BMe Community, visit its website.