YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – On a January afternoon at The Federal restaurant in downtown Youngstown, five black men — ages 30 to 37 — talked about their Youngstown home.
They hope that through their outreach, they can improve the place where they live.
Former football star Maurice Clarett is the most recognizable name in this group which calls itself “Leaders of the New.” Clarett also runs The Red Zone, which specializes in addiction and mental health.
Keland Logan runs The Colony, focused on building the community; while Brandon Perry runs City Kids Care, Charles ChipBanks Colvin has a music and entertainment company and Julius Oliver is a city councilman.
“When there’s a commonality between everybody, common sense just says, ‘Hey, let’s get together and do something,'” Clarett said.
“In Youngstown, we never see black men come together. The whole thing is black men always doing something to harm each other or anything like that, so we just wanted to bring a group of leaders together and start something,” Perry added.
The focus for Leaders of the New is the city as a whole but especially the kids.
“I think, being black, if you’re honest with yourself, the only way you make a change is if you really attack the youth. Once you’re an adult, I think your mind is kind of set on how you view the world,” Clarett said.
“We’re trying to give these next generation kids a platform that says you can affect this city, so the youth activity that you grew up in as a kid, that was wrong. For the next generation, you could turn that totally around and be the change in Youngstown,” Oliver said.
Leaders of the New has been around for a year, and Clarett said social media makes it easier to reach out.
“Common sense says, ‘Hey, let’s just get together and do something, and I think organically, everybody just kind of came together,” he said.
Once everyone saw what everyone else was doing, it was just a matter of linking up, and Oliver drove them there.
“Everyone was doing such grand things on their own, so he just said, ‘Imagine what we can do if we work together… and that’s how it kind of happened,” Colvin said.
Their first big event was last winter — an overnight event for city kids at the YMCA. Perry said more than 800 kids came out — much more than the event could take in.
“So we had a good problem, but it was a problem,” he said.
They also organized 100 men who showed up and supported the students as they walked into the Youngstown City Schools on the first day.
The men of Leaders of the New also support Youngstown City Schools CEO Krish Mohip’s plan to change the schools and wish that the school board would move past fighting House Bill 70 and instead use those efforts to help the kids.
“If it’s going to impact the community in a positive way, then you grab it with both hands and do all that you can,” Logan said.
The group has no president, there is no board of directors, no charter and no real form of organization. Clarett said for it to move forward, that may have to change.
“We’ve started something. It’s cool, but how can you organize these efforts to strategically over a period of time, make these things last? And, I think we can do a better job of that,” Clarett said.
“If it’s something that needs to get done, and the community wants it done, we can facilitate and try and come in and move the parts and get things done,” Colvin said.