photo by gdelargy, http://www.flickr.com/photos/gdelargy/2151623663/
How many times has an African-American sought some direction or advice in terms of education, health care, economic development, or mentoring, and how many times has another person (whether African-American or not) responded perfunctorily, even deliberately, by suggesting that the person “in need” contact the local chapter of the 100 Black Men of America, Inc.?
Founded with its present name in 1986, the 100 Black Men has 116 chapters worldwide, throughout the U.S.A., in England, the Bahamas, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Senegal. 
The mission of “the 100”--as some members affectionately refer to it--is “to improve the quality of life within our communities and enhance educational and economic opportunities for all African Americans.”  My first encounter with the 100 Black Men came in 2006. Not having an actual ticket, I crashed a holiday party that the Las Vegas chapter was hosting at the Paris Hotel & Casino on the Strip.
Months prior to the party, a friend had suggested that I contact the 100 Black Men in order to spread word about and hopefully attract clients for my fledgling tutoring service, founded to help black boys. Unbeknownst to my friend, I did contact “the 100” by calling and e-mailing both the president and vice president of the local chapter.
A month or so later, the president left me a phone message. Though I promptly responded, the president never reached out again. Some time later, after learning that the 100 Black Men of Las Vegas, Inc. were having a fete, I decided to see if the gatekeepers would admit me without a ticket--apparently, it was too late to get one.
In a large, nondescript ballroom, scores of mostly middle-age black men and women, decked in wedding tuxedos and snug gowns, respectively, finished their dinners and hobnobbed with those who seemed like the oldest and dearest of friends. Dancing ensued to assorted R&B covers by a five-piece band. A woman (probably in her thirties), who said she worked at a charter school, took one of my brochures, promising to “be in touch.”
More recently, I attended the 24th Annual National Conference of the 100 Black Men of America, Inc. in Hollywood, Florida, as a chaperone and coach for the black history team, which represented the 100 Black Men of the Bay Area, Inc. in the national “African American History Challenge.”
While there, I attended the Chairman’s Award Luncheon (on June 18, 2010), where Chairman Albert E. Dotson Jr. issued “Executive Order 100.” With a bourgeois brand of fire and brimstone, Chairman Dotson exhorted each chapter to return to its respective city and to wage war against the social ills plaguing black men and boys: disproportionate incarceration rates, a 50-percent high school dropout rate, chronic unemployment, and black-on-black crime. 
As the fanfare of “mentoring across a lifetime” and of “a collaborative approach to community impact” sifted toward the unadorned ceiling, salvos of applause shot across the room.  And pockets of attendees stood in ovation.
Returning to the Bay Area, I molded the chairman’s executive order into “Live Black History,” a program of cultural education for black and other youth of Oakland.
In step with “Executive Order 100,” the proposal called on the 100 Black Men of the Bay Area to offer financial and strategic support for a 16-week multimedia curriculum aimed at developing the critical reading, writing, thinking, and speaking skills of students in grades 6-12, using black history as a topical focus. 
Mind you, the plan was far from arbitrary. The “African American History Challenge” was not only one of the oldest 100 Black Men programs, but also a staple of the annual national conference. And in 2011, that conference would be celebrating its silver anniversary in the Bay Area--San Francisco, to be exact.
Surely, “the 100” of the Bay was savvy enough to show leadership on Dotson’s executive order by taking advantage of any platform to reposition black history and its annual recognition. On such a platform, “mentoring across a lifetime,” “a collaborative approach to community impact,” and warring against the high school dropout rate dovetailed into an exemplar of action-based race pride that would delight Washington, Du Bois, Garvey, and other race men.
The chairman of the education committee for the 100 Black Men of the Bay Area, who hired me to coach his chapter’s “African American History Challenge” team, received the proposal. At first, his only concern was strategizing to secure the appropriate funding for it. Next, he could not read the proposal on his own, but needed me to “walk [him] through” it. Then, the chair was busy. After being busy, he had overbooked and needed to cancel our meeting. From that point on, Brother Chair never returned my phone calls or e-mails.
About two months later, I heard through the grapevine that Brothr Chair had been appointed the “czar” of black boys for the Oakland Unified School District. Once the official introduction of Brother Czar to the City of Oakland reached You Tube, there was no hope that the czar or the chair--the two being the same man in theory--would ever contact me.
Assuredly, a member of the national executive committee of the 100 Black Men of America, Inc. would recognize the intrinsic merit and opportunism of the proposal, especially since it aligned tightly with Chairman Dotson's “Executive Order 100.”
When the former Vice Chair of Programs returned from vacation and very promptly informed me that her new successor would be the person to contact regrading Chairman Dotson’s order, optimism blushed.
When the former Vice Chair stated that the executive committee was “still trying to get our arms around the Executive Order,” doubt about that committee’s vision, sincerity, and competence admired itself in the mirror. 
Ever steadfast, I wrote to Dr. Howard S. Rasheed, the new Senior Vice President of Programs, who was the proper contact and live, human portal to Chairman Dotson himself, the oracle who had delivered “Executive Order 100.” On July 13, 2010, I called Dr. Rasheed, and we spoke at some length. The doctor listened patiently, at times, even sympathetically to my educational initiative for 100 Black Men chapters nationwide.
As the conversation surpassed good intentions, Rasheed grew tentative. Suddenly, he declared that the national office had no monies available for any such initiative. Next, he suggested that I present the initiative to the 100 Black Men members who would be attending an upcoming regional conference. Then, the doctor remembered that the agenda for that regional conference was already full.
In his epilogue, Rasheed alluded to the fact that he could raise the idea “up the flagpole” at an upcoming meeting for executive committee members, yet interjected that he himself could not even wrangle pole time or approval for his own projects. 
When the conversation with Dr. Rasheed ended, I realized that Chairman Dotson’s “Executive Order 100” was both vain and impossible. The execution of any messaging from the national office to the local chapters was hamstrung by a lack of any bona fide concern about the Order itself. Concerning “a collaborative approach to community impact,” there appeared no precedent, template, or intuition about how to properly field, let alone consider, a serious inquiry with far-reaching implications, which did not originate within the boardroom walls of the 100 Black Men of America, Inc.
Based on observations during the national conference in Florida, “the 100” seemed well-poised to solicit and accept Fortune-500 donations to pay for elaborate national conferences, which included full-service buffets, marquee entertainment, and blue-sky imagery of black prosperity.
In hindsight, I understand that models of process for mentoring and educating large swaths of African-American boys nationwide are non-existent among the 100 Black Men as a bloc of some 116 chapters. The very structure for productive interfacing about education with professional talent and ideas, which are not already earmarked by corporate lucre, remains a dream on Mars for the 100 Black Men.
Far from reassuring, the conversation with Dr. Rasheed gave me the uncomfortable feeling that we were speaking of things improper or out of bounds because the national executive committee had not endorsed the conversation. In fact, there was an eerie absence of discursive room in our conversation. The doctor and I were bound by some premeditated, old-guard stasis.
The future ideal for the 100 Black Men seemed hopelessly stuck in a world where power and change stagnate at a center trimmed in silver or, better yet, gold. The irony here is that I am a black man whose very existence is defined along ever-widening margins of rust.
On November 28, 2010, I wrote to Mr. Michael J. Irby, President of the 100 Black Men of Greater Akron, Inc. in Ohio. The same day, Irby telephoned me (in Akron). I explained my reason for contacting him in terms of “Executive Order 100.” Irby’s failure to engage or even acknowledge the Order led me to doubt that he had ever even heard of it.
Instead, he mentioned his chapter’s Leadership Academy that serves both boys and girls who attend some of Akron’s elementary schools.  Accordingly, I asked Irby if the Akron chapter sought to reach more youth. I wanted to know if his chapter wished to promote black history among Akron youth by developing and sponsoring a team to participate in the national “African American History Challenge”?
With unabashed non sequitur, Irby mentioned that he was taking a group of youngsters to see the Cleveland Cavaliers vie against the Boston Celtics. Then, he asked me to expect his call before the end of the week in order to arrange a time for me to observe a session of his chapter's Leadership Academy and for us to talk shop. 
It is 2011; Black History Month is around the corner; I have returned to California from Akron, Ohio. President Michael J. Irby never called me; and around we go.
 “About Us,” The 100 Black Men of America, Inc., accessed January 27, 2011, http://www.100blackmen.org/about.asp.
 Albert E. Dotson Jr., “Chairman’s Address” (speech, 24th Annual National Conference of the 100 Black Men of America, Inc., Hollywood, FL, June 18, 2010).
 Corey Olds, “Live Black History: A Citywide Program of Cultural Education for Oakland-Bay Area Youth” (unpublished proposal, 2010).
 Charmaine Gatlin, e-mail message to writer, July 7, 2010.
 Howard S. Rasheed, personal communication, July 13, 2010.
 “100 BMOGA Leadership Academy,” 100 Black Men of Greater Akron, Inc., accessed January 27, 2011, http://www.100bmoga.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=52&Itemid=58.
 Michael J. Irby, personal communication, November 28, 2010.
Editor's Note: This piece reflects an individual opinion and is not a reported story from Oakland Local. Oakland Local invites community residents to share their views about events and issues in Oakland. For guidelines, see: http://oaklandlocal.com/tos