Embrace Your Legacy: Become a Mentor for Black and Brown Youth

By: Roland Harmon, Partnership Co-President

As Black History Month draws to a close, we pause not just to reflect on the struggles and triumphs of the past and diaspora, but to ignite a flame of hope for the future.  For me, this month has always been a time of deep reflection, a time to honor the sacrifices of those who came before me and to celebrate the long-paved road of black and brown heritage.

Growing up, Black History Month was more than just a month on the calendar, it was a lifeline, a beacon of inspiration that guided me through the dark and bright passages of history and into the depths of my own identity as a black man.  Despite the lack of formal education on black history in schools, I was fortunate to have mentors and teachers who filled those gaps, imparting knowledge, pride, and a sense of belonging.  These mentors were within my church, community and family.

I remember the impact of Mr. John Pearson, my high school band director and mentor at Bassick High School in the late 80s.  In the midst of a world that often seemed indifferent to the struggles of black people, the war on drugs, mass incarceration, and the aids epidemic just to name a few, he saw potential where others saw obstacles.  His belief in me was steady, his guidance invaluable.  It was his encouragement that drove me to pursue my passion for music, leading me to Florida A&M University and setting me on a path of music discovery and growth.

Another mentor in my life was Mr. Joseph Wright, who was my “Big Brother” during my senior year in high school as I participated in the Bethel AME Church Beautillion of 1986-87.  Mr. Wright was not only a leader within the church community but also a guiding figure who emphasized the significance of supporting the success of others.  He modeled for me and many other young brothers the importance of reaching back to help, being of service, and seeking ways to alleviate the stress and difficulties that others may face on their journey to success.  His quiet and steady disposition goes beyond mere guidance; it’s a direct call to be concerned for others.  I recently got to spend some time with Mr. Wright last year at my grandmother’s funeral and more recently a few weeks ago when I visited my home church.  Now in his 80s, he’s in good health and spirits, still has that firm handshake, and is always asking how everyone else is doing.  Mr. Wright has an enduring presence.

As we celebrate Black History Month, I am reminded of the importance of mentoring in shaping the lives of black and brown youth.  Our history is not just a collection of facts and figures, it is a living, breathing testament to the resilience, strength, and beauty of our communities.  And, it is through mentoring that we pass on this legacy to the next generation.

Today, I call upon every black and brown leader, every community member, every individual who carries the torch of hope within them: become a mentor!

Your wisdom, your experiences, your guidance—they are needed now more than ever.

Imagine the impact we can have by opening doors, breaking down barriers, and lifting each other up. By sharing our knowledge, our stories, our struggles, we empower young people to dream boldly, to reach for the stars, to defy the odds stacked against them.

So let us not simply commemorate Black History Month but let us honor it by acting.  Let us commit to becoming mentors, let us commit to being the guiding lights that illuminate the path forward, let us commit that together, we can build a future where every black and brown youth knows their worth, their power, their potential.

Are you ready to make history? Join me in becoming a mentor today! Together, we will shape a world where every dream is within reach, and where our legacy endures for generations to come.

The Governor’s Prevention Partnership builds statewide capacity to prevent underage drinking and substance use and builds strategic alliances to promote the overall well-being of Connecticut’s future workforce.