Name: Ritney Castine
Profession: Managing Director, Community and Youth Engagement-Truth Initiative
One Word That Describes You: Intentional
How HE Ordinarily Impacts: As a drug-free advocate, Ritney Castine’s professional mission has been devoted to fighting against tobacco products, mobilizing community engagement, and implementing youth activism across the country. Targeting such a specific demographic, Castine’s dedication to influencing the next generation of dreamers and doers to live a life of importance and clarity is what being a BE Modern Man is all about.
What does being one of the BEMM 100 Men of Distinction mean to you?
This serves both as affirmation and motivation that doing the right things the right way can yield some pretty amazing benefits. More than anything I am extremely humbled to even be associated with such an esteemed group of positive and productive men of color. Finally, this encourages me to continue to push and stretch myself to further benefit the communities and causes I care about the most.
What are you doing as an Ambassador to help support black male achievement now or in the future?
One of the things I’m most proud of is always being able to operate within my humanity. Whether I’m in a work-related environment or a casual setting, my main goal is to try to help others chart out their next big thing. I always seek out ways to celebrate and uplift others, particularly black teens and young adults. From tutoring and proofreading papers, to helping identify and navigate a transition to college or the workforce, I intentionally dedicate one hour per day to help someone else discover their potential. Also I have several guys I mentor, which is essentially me doing more listening than talking and providing an extra layer of consistency and positivity in their lives.
What are some examples of how you turned struggle into success?
I grew up in rural South Louisiana in a town of 600. It’s a great place with great people, but access and opportunity was and remains slim. It’s so easy to be comfortable in a setting where you know everyone, and everyone knows and loves you. There’s also a bit of an attraction to being a big fish in a small pond. Essentially, I always believed that I needed to make big moves to do big things. Living one hour away attending college initially seemed big but wasn’t enough. So, I worked full time while in college full time, then ultimately left Louisiana for Washington, D.C. Being in a new, big, fast, progressive city challenged me, and I often wondered if I was cut out for it. I went through several periods of uncertainty and isolation. Ultimately, I got planted, established relationships, landed a great job, and found my wife—so it appears that gamble worked out in my favor.
What is an important quality you look for in your relationships with others?
Transparency is something I truly value. It seems as though today’s culture emphasizes an unnecessary competitiveness which in turns makes it difficult to be fully open to others. You get more when you show more, so open up!
What are some immediate projects you are working on?
My biggest current project is preparing for a summer launch of Imagine Greater Inc., a new venture to strengthen the capacity of small and community-based nonprofit organizations. I’m tapping into my skills in program design, facilitation, and project planning and matching them with my wife’s meetings and events planning skills to help churches and community based nonprofits make a maximum impact in the communities they serve. This excites me because I know how important these groups are in building stronger communities and families. They have lots of untapped potential that I want to help them explore so they can in turn do even more good.
What is the best advice you ever received?
Shut up and listen.
What is some advice you have for other men who want to make a difference?
Be true to yourself and just go for it. The world needs to hear your story, and they can benefit from what you have to offer. You don’t have to do it any other way than your way.
How do you prep for an important business meeting and/or event?
In this instance, the internet is my biggest resource. When dealing with external individuals and organizations I research meeting participants in advance via LinkedIn and try to familiarize myself with their respective organizations. This includes visiting the company’s websites as well as looking for anything noteworthy from news sources within the past six months. And, if I’m not able to create or provide input to the agenda, I always create my own agenda—literally sketched out bullet points that force me to think about what I’d like to get accomplished by the end of the meeting or event. If it’s more of an event than a meeting, I think in threes: I nail down three talking points and try to build a relationship with three people before leaving. Finally, I tend to schedule a follow-up conversation over coffee or cocktails to demonstrate my interest and provide any necessary updates.
As a busy Modern Man, how do you unwind on vacation?
My best vacation was a 10-day trip that took my then-fiancée and I, along with another couple, to London, Paris, and Amsterdam. It was lots of great food and wine, mixed with plenty of moving and walking. I enjoyed being unplugged, not being bound to a strict schedule, and not shaving for a few days. Most of all, I appreciated being able to have guided walking tours that took us to several little known but culturally rich spots.
If you could travel and stay anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I’ve been wanting to travel to Bali for quite some time now, and will be going there later this fall. It’s a beautiful place with so much of what I want to see all in one place—volcanoes, historic temples, great beaches, with incredible food.
Anything else you’d like to say?
I applaud BE for creating this very important space to honor and celebrate men of color.
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 first-ever Black Men XCEL Summit, Aug. 30 – Sept. 3, at the PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.