2019 – A Trip to the South

A Trip to the South

Greensboro Four (as they would soon be known) on the left. Rick and Rebecca in Nashville on the right.

Thanks to some good friends, Rebecca and I (Rick) were invited to spend a weekend in Nashville last month. It was a much needed break and a good reminder of why MUST exists. On February 1, 1960 four North Carolina A&T students (top left; Ezell Blair Jr., David Richmond, Franklin McCain and Joseph McNeil) sat down at a Woolworth’s counter. Their plan? Sit quietly and wait to be served. Blacks were not served at lunch counters. By February 5, 300 more local college students had joined in. Often the students would be yelled at and threatened by local customers. Onlookers would pour drinks over them, pelt them with food or squirt ketchup on their head and clothes (picture below). Angry whites tried to start fights. When a physical attack occurred the student would curl up into a ball on the floor and take the beating. If the local police arrested the row of demonstrators, another line of students would take the empty seats. These ‘sit ins’ spread throughout the south and were a powerful force in the civil rights movement. I often wonder if I would have had the courage to sit with them. Honestly, I do not know.

Jackson, Mississippi

Rebecca and I are sitting pictured (top upper right) at the Woolworth on 5th in Nashville. It was chilling to think of someone behind me with evil intent. ‘Whites Only’ signs were a common sight back then. While the signs have come down and laws have been passed, blacks still face many societal barriers. You as MUST supporters are choosing to ‘sit at the counter’ with them now. Your support allows those students who need the most help a chance at a bright future. MUST’s mentors, who are all college students, could have been one of those first four guys at the counter. Will you do us a favor? Will you personally teach this chapter of American history to your children, grandchildren, nephews and nieces? You are making lasting change happen for our youth and mentors.

FAST FACTS: U.S. incarcerates more African-American males than the entire prison populations (all races and genders) of Argentina, Canada, Finland, Germany, India, Japan and England combined.

Student Update

Left – Michael at the start of MUST. Right – Michael graduating from high school.

Michael is one of the original five guys from MUST cohort #1. During that first year Michael was in the foster care system and was eventually moved north of Everett (33 miles north of Seattle) and then to Lakewood (40 miles south of Seattle). MUST followed him as he moved from house to house. We were the only stable influence in his life. Michael was eventually adopted by a great family in Oregon. Michael’s MUST mentor was the only person representing Michael as he met his new parents. You as MUST supporters provided that. Michael has had some rough years, but his life is now headed in a good direction.

Rick knew Michael from the Boys & Girls Club. While at the club Michael’s grades were bad. Rick started asking Michael to show him his grades each week. After showing just a little faithful interest in Michael’s grades they began to quickly rise. It is because of Michael that MUST mentors consistently checks the grades of the youth in the program every week. Michael taught us that a little consistent interest and care can change the course of a life.


Michael taught us that a little consistent interest and care can change the course of a life.


Michael just graduated high school in Redmond, Oregon,(top right) with a good GPA. He plans to do one year of local community college and then transfer to Northern Arizona University to study kinesiology. He is the first in his family to go to college. Three of the original MUST youth have made it to college. You are helping guys like Michael forge new paths for themselves and their future sons and daughters.

The MUST Misson: MUST is dedicated to finding promising African American men in college and paying them to mentor African American youth who are in genuine danger of dropping out of high school. The younger watches the older for 4 years and begins to think, “If he can do it… so can I!”


The two words above are not a word scramble. They are not part of a scrabble game nor are they someone’s computer password. Nipsey Hussle was a rapper who was shot and killed recently. Nipsey was one of the good guys. He gave back to the community. He rapped about anti-violence and was a community activist. He stayed local and walked down the same streets he did before he was famous. His message was positive.

Microsoft Word tells us that relatability is not a word. It underlines the word with a red squiggly line. We beg to differ. Relatability is foundational to how MUST operates. Relatability is what makes our mentors so special. The youth connect with our mentors because they have been through the same things in life. The youth see that they have overcome and are in college. Relatability is one of the many reasons we hired Kelvin, our Area Director. He has the power to change the lives of youth and mentors because he understands them in a special way.


“Dedication, hard work plus patience.
The sum of all my sacrifice, I’m done waitin’”


MUST has more intentional Saturday meetings every quarter that teach our youth and mentors important life skills. During one of these meetings Kelvin used a quote from Nipsey Hussle to inspire dedication to their direction in life. “Dedication, hard work plus patience. The sum of all my sacrifice, I’m done waitin.’” When Nipsey died, one of the youth came to Kelvin and said he wanted to turn the direction of his life around. He was currently failing most of his classes. This youth remembered Kelvin quoting Nipsey at the meeting. It may be the thing that changes the direction of the young man’s life. All because of Kelvin’s… relatability. You, as donors, help make that happen!

2K Tournament and Stan and Lois' House

2K Tournament and Stan and Lois’ House


The Results:

After nearly 7 years of working with the most vulnerable youth MUST has produced outstanding results.

Estimated Social ROI: 6.11
Estimated Net Lifetime Benefit to Society: $6.8M
Black High School Graduation Rates: Seattle Public Schools: 71%  MUST: 75%
College Attendance: 61%

Kelvin’s Korner

Netflix has a powerful series called ‘When They See Us’. It’s about Central Park Five, a group of Young African-American teens who were wrongfully accused of rape and assault in 1989. The series debuted on May 31st and has already been viewed by 23 million accounts. It was executive produced by both Oprah Winfrey and Robert De Niro. I highly recommend it. Below is a poem I wrote in response to the series.

When They See Us by Kelvin Washington
I worry that even in my intention to do right, the pulse of negativity will
become my reality.

I am a Black boy marinating in my ancestor’s dreams
searching to discover my shackled roots, while facing an Emmett Till reality
only because the pigment of my skin portrays resilience
while dark history pulsates through my veins
carrying the burdens of Kharey Wise on my shoulders yet,
I am still here.

I come from a place the government calls Section 8 housing or the slums,
a place where bullets fly like birds, a place where kitchen ovens are used
for apartment heaters, a place where the church represents hope, while
dreams echo from helicopters searching for Mookie.
I come from a place where my survival depended on
my ability to deal with authorities not my ability to
deal with literacy yet,
I am still here.

I am a first generation college student, consistently breaking America’s
stereotypes daily
while chasing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. dream, for equity and equality for
all mankind.
I am concern that Black male teens are 21 times likely to be killed by cops
than White ones yet,
I am still here.

I want to be that unique gem that opens new possibilities for minority
I want to create a school where dreams and goals are not deferred, but
where dreams and goals are created, and manifested.
I want to create a space where kids understand they are individually
important to society, but
is this dream real, or just a dream deferred, regardless
I am still here.

I worry that even in my intention to do right, the pulse of negativity will
become my reality.

Kelvin (lower left) with some of the mentors.

Kelvin (lower left) with some of the mentors.

MUST QUOTES: “I believe that all of these kids are getting the extra, or in some cases, the only assistance in what a person needs to do to
be successful in their lives. It brings joy to my heart to see the positive influence that is being demonstrated by the mentors.” — Guardian of MUST Youth

Just the Facts, Please

In the previous two newsletters we showed how the incarceration rates for the U.S. increased dramatically in the 1980’s and that our current incarceration rate dwarfs other nations.

So who are we incarcerating? The graph above shows that the U.S. incarcerates more African-American males than the entire prison populations (all races and genders) of Argentina, Canada, Finland, Germany, India, Japan and England combined. African Americans make up 14% of the overall population, but 34% of the prison population. In her excellent book, The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander points out that the U.S. incarceration rate of black males is a higher incarceration rate than South Africa had at the height of apartheid. Incarcerated African-American males means youth are robbed of their fathers and the cycle continues. Fatherless children produce more obesity, juvenile justice involvement, gang involvement, mental health issues, poor school performance, poverty, homelessness and substance abuse.



Housing – Would you consider buying MUST a house or letting us take care of yours while our college students stay there? Housing is a constant and urgent need.

Cars – MUST is always on the lookout for used cars for our mentors. We need about three new (used) cars each year. You can make it a tax deductible gift!

Food – Some of our youth and college age guys struggle with hunger. Would you mail us some gift cards from Subway, Safeway or QFC?

Funding – Would you consider helping us meet our $150K fundraising goal this year for new funds?

Will you help us reach our $264K New Funds goal?

Izzy after high school graduation. Now on to college!

Izzy after high school graduation. Now on to college!

iFly to finish out the year.

iFly to finish out the year.


Bakari at iFly.

Bakari at iFly.

We sent a letter out at the beginning of May stating that MUST was in danger of losing its county funding because the county decided to redirect its ‘stopping the school-to-prison pipeline’ funds in order to serve Latinx and women of color. Those are great causes to support and we are very grateful for the county’s help these last three years. It is important to state that MUST did a great job for the county. We hit the goals they set for us and they had given us more money each of the last three years. They just decided to go in another direction with all of the funds designated toward stopping the school-to-prison pipeline.

The county did indeed stop funding MUST and many other organizations, but thanks to our ‘rainy day’ fund and some large and small one-time donations from generous individuals we have raised enough to grow a little this year. However, in order to make up for this funding gap for the long term we are raising $264,000 in new recurring funds between now and June 1, 2020. We have some solid leads toward replacing a lot of what we lost but $264,000 is a lot of money. We still need your help. Will you consider increasing your monthly or annual recurring donations? Is there someone you could introduce us to that might find joying in helping MUST continue to serve African-American males in the greatest danger of dropping out of high school? Thank you! Thank you! Thank you for helping us reach our goal last year. You are changing lives!

You can make donations directly to MUST!

Checks are payable to Mentoring Urban Students and Teens
EIN Tax ID: 47-3006113
4093 Letitia Ave S
Seattle, WA 98118