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100 Black Men of Orange County Continues To Thrive Amid Anti-Black Sentiments and the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and anti-Black violence, 100 Black Men of Orange County has continued to carry out its mission of empowering and mentoring young Black men in OC.

“Our goal is get[ting] them prepared for adulthood but also helping them to develop to become contributing members of society,” 100 Black Men of Orange County President Doug Barry said.

100 Black Men’s Orange County chapter started in 1993, becoming one of over 100 chapters across the country. The founding president was Eugene Wheeler when the organization had just 28 members. Since then, 100 Black Men of Orange County has grown in numbers and is continuing to empower young Black men throughout OC.

Barry has been a part of the organization for 10 years. While he does not have any sons of his own, Barry said he felt he had much to contribute to young Black men.  

“The whole organization really has four initiatives that we work under: one of them is Mentoring, one of them is Health and Wellness, Economic Empowerment, and the last one is Education,” Barry said to the New University.

The mentoring program is the chapter’s primary focus. The curriculum runs from September through May where students are taught about topics such as self awareness, respect for others, African American history and financial literacy.

“We mentor young African American men from middle school through high school and our goal there is to really get them prepared for adulthood but also helping them to develop to become contributing members of society,” Barry said. 

The organization’s four initiatives are addressed throughout the program. 100 Black Men’s STEM program features a partnership with Microsoft while its Health and Wellness sector includes seminars to educate the public about common health issues seen in African Americans. The organization also partners with small Black businesses as part of its economic empowerment focus. 

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization shifted to a virtual medium for its mentoring program.  

“It’s hard to really get very close to someone when you’re just doing it on a computer. When you meet the person in person, meet their parents in person, you really get to know them and have a greater impact as far as our mentoring aspect of it,” Barry said.

However, the mentor-based organization has found ways to continue its success and inspire young Black men through programs, such as their financial literacy seminar over Zoom. 

“We had a program that just concluded with Wells Fargo that taught the students just basic financial processes about how checks work, credit, credit bureaus and how it can affect your life, teach them how to read stock markets and knowing what’s going on with the stock market,” Barry said.

The organization also encourages their students to attend and succeed in college. According to Barry, 95% of their students attend college and 90% of them graduate as part of their successful Passport to the Future program. 

In addition to their mentoring program, 100 Black Men of Orange County has held multiple seminars for their members and the public in response to the ongoing issue of police brutality against African Americans. 

“We’ve been on various seminars and sessions with the community so they can ask questions of us, what they can do to help the situation to improve things like that. So, we really [did] our work through the seminars we participate in and the panel discussions we’re participating in to really express our concerns about it,” Barry said. 

100 Black Men of Orange County has incorporated the issue of police brutality into their program with seminars and topics covering what to do and what not to do when interacting with police officers. 

“A couple of our members are former law enforcement officers so we had a big seminar really with our young people but it was for the parents and other members of our community as well talking about the do’s and don’ts of dealing with law enforcement. Because they were a part of law enforcement they can give kinda the mindset of the police officers but also telling us what we need to do to successfully interact with law enforcement,” Barry said.

The year 2020 witnessed uprisings across the country seeking justice for the death of George Floyd and for the shootings of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery among others. Barry says that education plays the largest role in addressing these social justice issues.

“Again, through our seminars and the education, educating the community in these areas is how we try to improve the situation,” Barry said. 

Autumn Martin is a City News Intern for the spring 2021 quarter. She can be reached at autumnjm@uci.edu.