Name: Stephen Powell
Profession: Chief Program Officer
One Word That Describes You: Blessed
What does being one of the BEMM 100 Men of Distinction mean to you?
Being one of the BEMM 100 Men of Distinction is a humbling honor that I do not take lightly. I don’t work in my community with a goal to receive honors and accolades, but I certainly appreciate being recognized for doing what I know I was divinely appointed to do. I sincerely thank BEMM for providing a platform where we can celebrate black male excellence. I must also send a special ‘shout out’ to Roberta Graves and Black Enterprise’s BE B.R.I.D.G.E. Foundation for their investment in underserved communities to provide access and opportunities to young men of color.
What are some examples of how you turned struggle into success?
Turning struggle into success requires a daily practices, seeing the world through a special lens and accepting that resilience is in my DNA. So when struggles or challenging situations pop up I’ll ask myself, ‘What was I supposed to learn from the situation and how can I be better or stronger?’ Through this lens, and perspective, I see everyone I meet as a welcomed cast member in the production of my life.
What is an important quality you look for in your relationships with others?
Humility, dependability, and loyalty. I love people who can celebrate the success of others and are loyal through thick and thin. In a fast-paced world where traditional values can sometimes get diluted, I always remind myself not to give away space in my life that should be earned, like friendship. Establishing and maintaining healthy relationships requires us to properly manage our relationship ecosystem and make adjustments when we need to do so. The friendships and bonds that I developed in high school and at Howard University set the standard, and I love and appreciate all my friends, mentors, teachers, teammates and coaches for their support and encouragement throughout my life.
What are some immediate projects you are working on?
My oversight of The National CARES Mentoring Movement’s programmatic work keeps me incredibly busy. Our organization is the national leader in recruiting and deploying black mentors and promoting culturally-competent, trauma-informed holistic well-being group-mentoring programs for children and the adults who parent and mentor them. Our consciousness-shifting program (that we are refining for replication throughout our affiliate network, The Rising: Elevating Education, Expectations and Self-Esteem) is dedicated to transforming the lives of the nation’s most harmed children—impoverished black children—by providing them with the emotional, social, spiritual and academic engagement and career-readiness support they must have to become self-sustaining and significant contributors to their families and communities.
Because our vision is to transform the African American experience entirely and not simply to create small oases of change, our group-mentoring programmatic work is unique in serving hundreds of children in each school, far more than is possible through traditional one-to-one mentoring. In addition to refining our Rising program for replication, I am also working with our amazing team to enhance our teen parenting and healthy relationships curriculum; provide support to our pilot University for Parents work-readiness initiative in Atlanta; continue providing technical assistance and training to select HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) hosting STEM mentoring camps throughout the country; and recruit and train mentors to participate in Wellness Mentor Circles for black males in the Oakland Unified School District, to support the launch of a Health and Healing strategy sponsored by the Campaign for Black Male Achievement.
What is the best advice you ever received?
From my late mother: ‘Keep God first in all that I do and always be mindful of the company that you keep. Your company dictates your future.’ From my mentor, Susan L. Taylor: ‘When in the business of healing our community we have to look past people’s behaviors and see them for their wounds.’ From my high school track coach: ‘Focus on the end result, place trust in your preparation, and run your own race.’ The advice replays in my head and spirit, daily.
What is some advice you have for other men who want to make a difference?
I would want other men to know that they are a gift, they are valued, and they are capable. They can make a difference if they get in what I call a ‘Proverbs 18:16 flow,’ a scripture that reminds me that our gifts will make room for us and place us in the presence of great men. Before we can do great work, we need to know and believe that greatness radiates from the inside out. And as men who are constantly marginalized and criminalized by society, we must be intentional about loving one another and affirming one another. We must be compassion ambassadors and conduits to demonstrate a corrective societal narrative that we are love, we are brilliance, and our lives matter. I would also add that when we make a difference at home, first, we essentially make a difference in our community.
How do you prep for an important business meeting and/or event?
Mediation and prayer, beforehand, for clarity of vision and the ability to provide a presentation that may inspire a shift in spirit and or a shift in consciousness. I also try to do as much research as I can about who is in the room or who is my audience. Finding common ground, early, is a great ice-breaker before exacting business or inspiring a group.
As a busy Modern Man, how do you unwind on vacation?
I love Caribbean vacations and vacations without busy agendas. I have two vacations that come to mind that I would call my favorites. The first vacation was a trip I took to St. Kitts and Nevis sixteen years ago to retrace my late father’s footsteps and reconnect with the paternal side of family. My father passed away when I was five and I lost contact with his side of the family by the time I was ten. I always knew that being rooted in my heritage and connected to it was an essential step for me to make an impactful mark in the world. Within four days on the island I was able to reconnect with my father’s family once I found out his childhood, thanks to a cab driver who attended grammar school with him. My second favorite vacation was a family vacation to Disney World with my wife and two daughters. I recognized during that amazingly fun trip, where I was able to recharge, that liberators need love and laughter, too!
If you could travel and stay anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
Egypt to see the pyramids. I’m simply amazed by the brilliance it took to create structures that have withstood the hands of time. Hawaii and Dubai are tied for second.
Anything else you’d like to say?
Congratulations to all of the BEMM 100 Men of Distinction honorees. I wish them much continued success and blessings in all that they do in their respective field of excellence. Thank you to Black Enterprise magazine for your content and information to help our community build wealth and disrupt systemic inter-generational poverty.
And for anyone interested in becoming a mentor or supporting the National CARES Mentoring Movement, please visit www.CaresMentoring.org and connect to a CARES affiliate in your local community.
It’s our normal to be extraordinary. Follow @blackenterprise and join the BE Modern Man conversation using #BEModernMan.