Edwin Buggage Editor-in-Chief, Data News Weekly
Inspiration For the Next Generation
News narratives regarding Black males in the City of New Orleans tend to often focus too much on the negative and not the positive things that are happening where young men are achieving excellence. This is on full display at Edna Karr High School in New Orleans that is part of the Inspire NOLA Charter School Network, where their boys track and field teams are becoming champions both on and off the field. This year the team dominated the relays, taking first places in the 4×100, 4×200 and 4×400 races.
Data News Weekly had the privilege to speak to Karr’s School Leader, Latoye A. Brown, Track Coach Errin Singleton, along with several members of the various relay teams and their parents, who shared their recipe for success. It is something that can hopefully inspire and change the narrative surrounding Black males in New Orleans and provide models of success to be replicated.
What Does It Take to Become a Champion?
Edna Karr, located on the Westbank of New Orleans has for many years been a school that produces graduates that are showcasing the best of young people reaching their full potential. This is something that runs counter to mainstream news outlets that seem focused on presenting the worse images of Black males. While these are in some instances a reality for some, many more are doing the best they can to pursue excellence. This is on full display at Karr, where champions are being made every day.
What is it that’s being done with these young men that is making them successful? Ra’hji Dennis, who is one of the standouts on the team gives insight into their success, “When you are running a relay you bond like brothers. We count on each other; working together to reach our goals as a team. This year we were able to do that, and we hope to continue to be more successful next track season.”
One of the newest members on the team Bryson Osborne II, who transferred from Lusher remarks, “At first there were some obstacles, and as a team it took some time. There were some bumps in the road, but when it came down to it, we were able to get it done as a team. We saw the bigger goal and rose together as a team to become champions this year.”
Being a success is about identifying something you love and working hard to become better at it. It takes dedication, focus and people around you that will help your vision come to fruition. “I found something I loved and invested the time in it and got better. I think it is important for young people to find something they love and invest the time in getting better at it. It is also important that people around you support you while you are pursuing your goals. This is what my mom and others have done,” says Markel Myles, while sitting with his mother Bea, who is a registered nurse, and placing all her efforts investing in her son’s success.
Sports is something that has many things about it that can be used off the field. Teamwork, the importance of practice, discipline, good sportsmanship, discipline, and most importantly character. This is something Edna Karr’s Track Coach Errin Singleton is trying to instill in the members of his team. “It’s all about character in my mind, what are you doing when no one is watching,” says Singleton, using a saying that’s repeated by several on his team that guides their mission to greatness.
Competing in sports can induce both the stress and pressure of performing at a high level; Coach Singleton, works with his team encouraging them and giving them the tools to become winners. It is something he says is necessary to win not just in sports, but in life. “I tell my guys all the time to enjoy the moment, do not get frustrated, and you will be successful. I also challenge them to be their best; and to always work to do what is best for them and the team. It is something I think that can help all of them do whatever it is they want to do on the next level.”
Success On and Off the Field
In addition to being great on the field, many of them are stellar students, “I work as hard in the classroom as I do on the track. I also have plans to attend college after high school,” remarks Bryson Osborne II.
His father, Bryson Osborne I, was a former athlete, but feels education is the most important thing in his son’s life. “For me, him academically excelling is much more important. He started out at Lusher, and we moved him over to Karr because his ability exceeded what they had to offer in Athletics. One of the coaches from Karr reached out to us about Bryson. I thought it was a good fit, he is getting better at sports than he was at his previous school and continuing to excel in his academic work as well.”
Jeremy Geary Sr., father of Jeremy Geary Jr., is an Assistant Principal at Warren Easton High School. He says describing what ingredients are necessary to assist in young people becoming high achievers. “The first thing we need to do regarding our young people is to change their mindset. Also, teach them how to you carry themselves. In addition, to teaching character and how to deal with adversity in their lives. It is my belief when you learn to master these things, then it is easily transferrable into academics and extracurricular activities where anyone can be successful in school and in life.”
Bea Myles, mother of Markel Myles also stresses the importance of education, “We encourage him. We make sure he does his best at everything he does. We work together to make sure his grades are good, because it is all a team effort.”
It Takes a Village
There is an African Proverb that states, “It takes a village to raise a child.” This is truly the case with the young men on the Karr’s Track relay team. “Markel Myles is a village child, without the village I don’t know where I would be,” states his mother, Bea Myles. “I am extremely thankful to the men in the community and people in the neighborhood looking out for him when I am at work. Shout out to all the coaches. They have put a great deal of work into Markel, both in school and out of school. They have been a great sense of support; we need the village.”
Markel echoes his mother’s sentiment saying, “Everyone needs a village and people to support them. We all need someone to uplift us and be there to help us get to the next level and reach our greatness.”
His teammate Jeremy Geary Jr., also notes the importance of mentors and being around positive people, “Having the right people around you are key to success. It is something that’s helped me stay focused on my goals of being a good student in my academic work as well as an athlete. Also, if I had to say something to people my age, I would say, set goals for yourself and put in the necessary work and you can accomplish anything in life.”
“Helping to nurture the best that is in our young people is the responsibility of all community members. We must demand accountability from our entire community if our children are to become the best versions of themselves,” says Coach Singleton, who believes if the community were more intentional in this way, there we would see less crime and violence among young men in New Orleans.
Black Male Excellence: Changing the Narrative
To achieve excellence, a great support system is necessary. The young men in this story understands this fully. “There are so many people who are there for me in every way. My mom, dad and grandpa are giving me all I need to thrive. They are always in my corner,” says Bryson Osborne II.
Hearing those heartfelt words coming from his son, Bryson Osborne I, says, “It makes me feel good because I grew up in a single parent home without my father. It was important for me to be there for my son, but I remind him that it’s not just me, but the support of his mother Tiffany S. Crusto, and his grandfather, Alvin Crusto, who always saying he’s his biggest fan. When I fall short financially, he’s always there. He also has the support of his uncle Geric Osborne, who pays for his cryotherapy. He has a support network that’s much stronger than what I had. I really believe it is the whole network that makes Bryson who he is.”
Changing the narrative requires making different and better choices. This is something these young men are doing to stay on the right track. Harkening back to the words of Coach Singleton, Ra’hji Dennis says, “It is about doing the right thing when no one is looking and putting in the time to do things other won’t. Additionally, you are going to work while other people are sleeping, pushing harder and harder because you want to be better than everybody else. This is a mentality you must have to be great.”
The common thread that connects these young men is to have strong men in their lives as well as support from many others. It is because of this they are on the right track. Robert Dennis’ words are prescriptive for a community that seeks to change the narrative around young Black males. “As a father I made a vow to do whatever it takes to make sure my children have everything they need to be successful. That my children would not have to do things like break the law and become a negative statistic. I have four boys and I’ve raised five. I feel today you can do anything you want to do if you are doing the right thing. Putting God first, you have no obstacles, you look at them as speed bumps and keep it moving.”