I recently had the amazing opportunity to attend my first Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Summit in Atlanta, GA, a three-day business event tailored to both established business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs. I was overly excited to attend the high-powered sessions on business topics. However, though in the midst of an entrepreneur’s event, I was most excited to attend the much needed and solution-focused Black Males Matter Town Hall.
Once I heard the grand jury came to a decision on whether or not they would indict Officer Wilson for the shooting death of Mike Brown, I had no desire to watch the announcement because I have seen this scenario play out before and had no expectation that it would be anything different this time around. But after a conscious conversation with one of my co-laborers in the community, though despaired, I decided to watch the announcement with a tablespoon of hope.
Like so many others around the country on the evening of November 4, 2014, I was glued to my TV screen flipping in between the different major news networks for the results of the 2014 midterm elections. As the news networks continued making their projections on the different major races, the more anxious I became, as the outcome appeared to become less and less desirable.
Village Blogger Kerline Jules Honors South Florida’s Emerging African-American Male Business & Community Leaders While Bringing Awareness to Local Boys and Men of Color Initiatives
Roughly two years ago, after recent gun violence incident in South Florida, a local community group hosted a much needed “Stop the Gun Violence” town hall. Victims of gun violence, local elected officials, community organizers, educators, concerned citizens and local celebrities attended the standing room only town hall. As a young leader passionate about the elevation of my community, town halls for me provide a platform bringing visibility to topics and an outlet for the community to express their thoughts and concerns.
Following a wave of violent crime in South Florida, State Rep. Shevrin Jones and Florida Senator Oscar Braynon II hosted a Choose Peace/Stop Violence community town hall meeting. It was at this meeting that I listened to a mother’s tragic story of the loss of her son to gun violence. This mother was all too familiar with violence in her community, as she had relocated to South Florida from one of Chicago’s crime saturated neighborhoods to provide a better living environment for her kids. She continued to discuss the importance of keeping our youth engaged in extracurricular activities, for it is in those idle moments that our youth fall into trouble. She wanted desperately to keep her son in after school activities; however, her finances could not sustain it. As she told the story, her son would later get involved with the wrong crowd and fall victim to a violent crime. Already moved to emotion, the mother then closed out her statement with something that pierced my heart, she asked if she had not been so poor and had the economic means to keep her son involved, would her son be alive today. The room was silent.
I was deeply heart broken when I heard the verdict of the George Zimmerman trial. So much so that I didn’t want talk about it, yet I could not get my mind off of the number of young black males that are shot, killed and buried every day in our communities. I could not get my mind off the number of gun violence massacres I hear about almost every day in my own backyard…in Miami Gardens, in Overtown, in Liberty City and so many other cities across the country.
In 2011, I had an opportunity to attend my first ever National Urban League Legislative Policy Conference and what a defining moment that experience was for me. The National Urban League, the nation’s oldest and largest direct services civil rights organization, provides their affiliates and their volunteer auxiliary, the National Urban League Young Professionals a platform to take a seat at the table with members of congress and petition the National Urban League’s agenda. There we were, 5 Urban League affiliates from around the State of Florida with their Young Professionals Chapter Presidents and members sitting at a table with Sen. William “Bill” Nelson and his staff pleading out our concerns about voter suppression, economic disparities in our communities, the decrease of funding for critical social programs and so forth.
As a proud graduate of a private institution, I understand too well the burden of student loan debt. I remember it like it was yesterday, it was an evening in Spring 2002 that I received my acceptance letter from the University of Miami, my top college choice! You could not have told me anything different, I KNEW that I was born to be a Miami Hurricane! I was ecstatic! Kerline Jules, the oldest child in the Jules family was going to college! I could not wait for this new exciting chapter of my life to begin. That was until the day I received my financial aid packet and realized that even with an incredible package, I still owed a balance. The full-time tuition at the University of Miami at the time was roughly about $32,000 a year, $7,000 for room and board and let’s not forget about textbooks. My excitement quickly dissolved into worry and then tears because coming from a low, single income household with three younger siblings, my parents could not afford to send me to college. What was I going to do?