Heroes in the Hood

The Male Mogul Initiative (MMI) was birthed after a conversation I had with a student on the west side of Chicago. This student was a star basketball player, had an academic scholarship to go to college, and was well-respected amongst his peers. Despite all these great things, this student sold drugs to support his family. After that encounter, I realized that there are thousands of young men in this country who have the ambition, intelligence and leadership qualities to be successful entrepreneurs. The missing component is exposure and opportunity. The Male Mogul Initiative (MMI) seeks to provide marginalized youth with the resources they need to become successful.

MMI seeks to transform under resourced communities by offering youth and returning citizens mentoring, leadership and entrepreneurial training. Our students hold qualities of achieving economic freedom, possess leadership qualities, creativity and ambition. These men also share an interest in business. The selling point for potential participants is the opportunity to use their gifts and skill sets to create a business and or social movements with unlimited profit potential, improving the community in which they live, and financial freedom.

Our cohort this year has been phenomenal! Our goal was to transform the minds of 15 young men from having a “victim” mentality to a “victor” mentality. Some of these teens have experienced some traumatic life events this year such as being robbed at gunpoint, shot at while on their way home, and the loss of loved ones.  Despite these circumstances, they have been able to make the honor roll, gain admittance into college and gain employment. As we get older you figure out life is not the way it is supposed to be. It’s the way it is. The way you cope with it is what makes a difference. Facing difficulties is inevitable. Learning from them is optional.

In life, most of us need to change our perspective on how we handle adversity because perspective creates reality. John Maxwell in his book The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth talks about the Law of Pain.  Every problem introduces a person to himself. Success in life comes not from holding a good hand but playing a poor hand well. Instead of seeing problems in our lives and communities as obstacles, we need to see these problems as opportunities to make a difference and build our character.

It was after this realization that a group of 15 teenagers from the west side of Chicago created the Young Heroes clothing brand. Young Heroes seeks to change the negative stereotypes of how young minority men are viewed in Chicago through good works. Our teens have cleaned up their communities and have become positive role models and mentors to younger students. The people who make the most of bad experiences are the ones who find creative ways to meet them. Where there is no pain, there is no palm; where there is no thorns, there is no throne; where there is no gall, there is no glory; where there is no cross; there is no crown.  No matter what you have gone through in your life or what you are currently going through, you can grow from it.

Life is filled with good and bad

some of the good and bad I cannot control – that’s life.

Some of the good and bad will find me.

If I have a positive life stance, the good and bad will become better.

If I have a negative life stance, the good and bad will become worse.

Therefore, I choose a positive life stance.

By Walter Mendenhall

Walter completed his initial Urban weekend for men in 2013 and is currently enrolled in our Two-Year Transformational program. Having accomplished his lifelong dream of making it to the National Football League (NFL), Walter’s desire for mentoring and teaching young people prompted him to walk away from football to focus on pursuing his passion for teaching the next generation of leaders. He is currently a professor at Northeastern Illinois University (Leadership Development) and South Suburban College (Sociology), and a successful motivational speaker and mentor.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Walter Mendenhall